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White House and DOT Roll Out New Supply Chain Data-Sharing Plan

March 30, 2022
The White House and the Department of Transportation just introduced a new initiative meant to break down the data silos that often exist among key players in supply chain management.

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As the world’s supply chains continue to experience disruption due to the pandemic, labor shortages, transportation snarls and the Russia-Ukraine conflict (among other forces), governments worldwide are putting new measures in place to help unwind some of the stoppages and shortages that have emerged over the last two years.

The U.S.’ latest effort is called Freight Logistics Optimization Works, or “FLOW,” and it aims to help improve supply chain data flow across trading partners as their goods make their way from the point of raw material to final delivery—and all points in between. A joint effort between the Biden Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), FLOW is an information-sharing initiative to pilot key freight information exchange between parts of the goods movement supply chain.

“Recent supply chain disruptions have raised national awareness of the need for improved information exchange. The lack of digital infrastructure and transparency makes supply chains brittle and unable to adapt when faced with a shock,” Homeland Security Today reports.

“The goods movement chain is almost entirely privately operated and spans shipping lines, ports, terminal operators, truckers, railroads, warehouses, and cargo owners such as retailers,” it continues. And while these different entities may have made strides in digitizing their own internal operations, they don’t always readily exchange information with one another.

Who’s Involved?

According to a White House briefing on the topic, FLOW’s 18 initial participants include private businesses, warehousing, and logistics companies and ports. Working together with the Administration, they’ll develop “a proof-of-concept information exchange to ease supply chain congestion, speed up the movement of goods, and ultimately cut costs for American consumers,” the White House states.

Led by the DOT, the initial phase of the new FLOW initiative aims to produce a proof-of-concept freight information exchange by the end of the summer. The other initial participants include the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the Georgia Ports Authority; two ocean carriers; two terminal operators; companies like Albertsons, True Value and Target; and various transportation, logistics and warehousing providers. 

Creating a Secure National Data Exchange

The White House says that the voluntary initiative will create a secure national exchange for freight information that’s available to participants who share data focused on supply chain operational improvement. Within one month of the FLOW launch, DOT will launch a web page to gauge industry interest in participation and data sharing for a potential long-term FLOW effort.

"We look forward to helping drive this important initiative forward,” the Port of Los Angeles’ Executive Director Gene Seroka said at a recent DOT briefing. “This nationwide supply chain data visibility effort will support system resiliency, improve our trade competitiveness and empower American businesses to get products to market with greater consistency and reduced cost."

Mario Cordero, executive director at the Port of Long Beach, added that developing common data standards to facilitate freight movement is an important part of truly bringing the transportation industry into the 21st Century. “The Biden-Harris Administration is playing an important role in clearing obstacles,” he added, “for much needed coordination across the supply chain to make goods movement more efficient.”

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.