The Biden administration is ramping up a program that aims to give a real-time picture of U.S. supply chains through the exchange of company data.
Fifty-three companies representing the end-to-end supply chain are now part of the Department of Transportation’s Freight Logistics Optimization Works. FLOW participants share shipment data on a daily or weekly basis that is then used to create a tool measuring container demand and fluidity.
New FLOW members include retail giants Costco and Walmart, in addition to railroad Union Pacific. The program is also expected to expand to additional ports, Celeste Drake, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said at a forum last week.
As FLOW has continued to grow, Drake said the program’s goal has evolved from “answering the very simple question of ‘Where's my stuff?’ to ‘How do we create a forward looking integrated picture of the supply chain condition in the US?’”
The tool aggregates anonymized data from members, which, depending on the company, can include information on terminal slots, chassis, warehouse space and even shipper purchase orders or bookings. As a result, FLOW participants can see “which shipments are coming into which ports as much as three months ahead of time,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at last week’s forum.
The program is expected to grow even further, and the Biden admin’s fiscal 2024 budget request includes $5.3 million to scale the tool and respond to industry interest.
FLOW, first announced last March, came in response to the pandemic-fueled supply chain meltdown where a lack of visibility into operations contributed to shortages, ship backups and other delays. While congestion has largely eased, Buttigieg said FLOW will be essential to help navigate the next big disruption.
“Hopefully COVID is the last pandemic of its kind that we will see in our lifetimes,” Buttigieg said. “But we know that it won't be the last serious supply chain shock.”