GFS Expertise & Data Unlock key Insights to Drive Innovation

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Global Freight Services (GFS) is a logistics and transportation provider, affiliated to Li & Fung, a leading 118-year-old global supply chain services company. 

Digital transformation has redefined company priorities, with logistics taking on a bigger strategic role in the supply chain, and quality data is now more important than ever. 

“A decade ago, if you walked into any freight forwarding office, you’d be faced with a mountain of folders, and papers everywhere,” says Remi Lavergne, Head of IT & Compliance at GFS. Today, systems are more and more integrated, and we operate paperless.

Lavergne joined GFS 18 months ago as Head of Information Technology, and has been instrumental in helping the business digitally reinvent itself across its many services. The company’s areas of expertise include air freight, sea freight, road transportation, and brokerage, and with time, data analysis and business solutions are becoming increasingly important.

It also provides container freight station (CFS) warehouses. These specialise in the consolidation of cargo, whereby less-than-container-loads shipments are taken to a CFS to be consolidated into a container with other cargo.“We operate a global network of 46 offices in 15 countries closely connected with forwarding agents,” says Lavergne. “We always go the extra mile to ensure our customers’ consignments are transported strategically and cost-effectively. 

“On top of our main services, GFS leverages advanced technology and real-time tracking systems to enhance visibility and control over shipments, ensuring timely and secure deliveries.”

Intelligent shipping planning services

GFS also offers advanced supply chain solutions, such as order and vendor management and has developed a control tower platform for its customers to track the movement of products starting from the purchase-order stage, and also to store all digital documents for compliance and billing.

“With our intelligent shipping planning expertise and capabilities, we can offer different options and adapt quickly to change,” Lavergne explains.

He adds: “Our system is integrated with around 1,500 Li & Fung vendors, but not exclusively. We have a visibility platform that gives customers real-time status updates from purchase order acceptance to the final delivery in the distribution centre.” 

Technology and data are also helping GFS optimise predictions and manage contracts, space allocation and rates.

“Building the dynamic between systems and synchronising reliable data has always been our biggest challenge,” he says, adding: “You need real-time information to make the right decisions and to inform clients if alternative action is necessary, but you also need to be able to make sense of millions of data points. It took us some time to synchronise multiple data sources for each business scenario, but I have a great team, and together we have found the right formulas.”

Network-Based Control Tower

Lavergne continues: “As GFS seeks to achieve greater results, the control tower needs to be able to deliver real-time data and be connected to multiple parties. That way, GFS has access to data from all relevant parties that meet the customer criteria and can synchronise it into a single version that reflects GFS’s expertise. The real-time data generated provides clear visibility, reliable decision-making and powerful optimization that considers all relevant factors.

With such foundation, GFS control tower provides powerful benefits:  

Visibility beyond four walls by connecting trading partners and providing that “real-time visibility” that every business leader needs 

Agility to respond to any business change 

Rapid on-boarding and activation of partners within the network, which creates a unique ecosystem and generates value from day one and it gets better. 

A network control tower is capable of much more. With practice, we start to detect issues at an early stage, and it is giving us time to address before they become major and costly problems. This is what GFS is calling Operation Excellence.

With a network control tower you eliminate static, stale data and assumptions, running instead on real-time execution data. GFS uses actual, dynamically computed lead times. 

Network-based control towers not only offer improved performance based on real-time, network-wide data, they are also easier to deploy. GFS can implement faster while realising more value from the comprehensive visibility, optimisation, and collaboration that a network-based control tower provides.  

A collaborative platform is essential to extending visibility and control while engaging our trading partners and ultimately delivering superior results. 

Solid data ‘makes for efficient services’

“Once you are interconnected with the right systems and partners, and you rely on an extremely solid database, your service is more efficient,” says Lavergne.

As for AI, he says the company uses this to “accurately predict ETAs” – and also to “avoid using paperwork”, as referenced earlier. He says AI will become more and more important, sharing that it has already been helping make logistics more sustainable. 

“Some customers are asking about CO2 emission reports, and AI is helping us propose the best options at the booking stage,” Lavergne explains. “AI requires a lot of testing and a lot of verification. None of the AI projects at GFS would have been possible without high data-quality.”

BlueCargo a strategic partner

Logistics, says Lavergne, is “a fascinating job because you meet passionate people with brilliant ideas all the time”.

He adds: “A few days ago, I was attending Manifest 2024 in Las Vegas where I met so many talented companies. BlueCargo is one of them.” They collect data from ports and terminals, something Lavergne says “has been a tremendous help and a real eye opener for us”.

He adds: “BlueCargo gives us complete visibility in terminals in North America, and a powerful control on detention, and demurrage.”

With the information, GFS can organise and control all the transactions from the inside and avoid a lot of claims and millions of detention and demurrage charges.”

He says that BlueCargo co-founders Alexandra Griffon and Laura Theveniau “have been very supportive extending the solution to our GFS port-to-port customers”. 

“From cutting-edge technology and data comes so much inspiration and innovation. Visibility now means so much more than container tracking. Visibility is a three-dimensional map, which includes data around geolocation, carbon emissions and, most importantly, freight costing. 

“Li & Fung and GFS are actively working on an ESG plan to reduce carbon emissions, and we need certified data to make the best decisions. GFS selected another strategic data provider to assess and understand these parameters and we are sharing what we know with our clients.”

In the world of technology, everything always comes down to data, this is especially true for the logistics industry in 2024.

Lavergne says: “As a logistics service provider, I want to help my clients find the best route at the best cost, with the lowest carbon emissions.”  

GFS also has a strong relationship with Windward, a business that provides ocean data for the government sector and ocean-related container insurance claims. They can track all irregularities and boat pattern changes. They have all the complementary data we needed, and we engaged in a win-win collaboration, with a lot of insights.

Automated dashboards flag problems

Lavergne says automated dashboards are a key benefit of becoming a data-driven company. 

“Focusing on meaningful data leads to operational excellence,” Lavergne says. On a daily basis, GFS solutions mitigate the ill-effects of disruption by using quality data to “manage exceptions”, says Lavergne. 

He adds: “Disruption has always been a way of life for logistics providers. We can’t stop it, but we can help our customers find alternative solutions.” 

One example of this, he says, was during the pandemic when customers needed help with implementing ecommerce solutions. 

“Today, we have another unprecedented situation with the Red Sea and the Panama Canal, the world’s two most important waterways,” says Lavergne. “When rates are going crazy, there is always a work-around solution – intermodal, or multimodal. It is possible, for example, to drop goods to Dubai and then find inland transportations back to Egypt. Or you can go by sea to the West coast of the US, and then by rail. But this relies, more than anything else, on our staff, the real operational expertise”. 

In summary, Lavergne says that logistics has always been about “being able to thrive on challenges”. In an ever-changing and disruptive market, he says GFS’s experienced team “can tailor the best services to suit customer needs, ensuring goods move seamlessly.”

Having been in logistics for nearly a quarter of a century, disruption is nothing new, and experience is everything for Lavergne. 

When asked to peer into his crystal ball and glimpse the future, Lavergne says everything has changed compared to his first role in logistics 23 years ago: “I started my career at the beginning of the Internet in the 90s. We saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War but we did not see danger coming until 9/11.”

“Today, though, we see where major threats are coming from,” he adds. “Our future relies on climate change, but also migration, water and new technology. This should help us to predict and respond with better action plans.” 

Although, Lavergne does harbour concern at the direction AI might take: “Technology could be a disaster”. AI and social media combined have the potential to damage mankind. We need to promote more education to understand and harness new technology.

“In this competitive industry, the future for GFS looks bright,” he says. “We have an expert team dedicated to serving our customers. We have volume that make us a strong team with competitive rates. We have intelligent data and cutting-edge technology that allows us to move at the speed of global trade. GFS is ready for a paradigm shift towards greater harmony.”

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