The New Supply Chain FLOW Initiative

The U.S. supply chain has had to overcome some massive hurdles in the past few years. A global pandemic, employee shortages, and congestion at major ports and waterways have resulted in supply shortages in many industries. The Biden administration is attempting to address these challenges by forming the Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) initiative. FLOW is an information-sharing initiative that includes members from the public and private sectors that focus on improving communication and the digital infrastructure of the supply chain.

Goals

The goal of the FLOW initiative is to develop a proof-of-concept information exchange to alleviate supply chain congestion and improve delivery efficiency. By creating a digital infrastructure to share clear, accurate, and reliable information. FLOW will be designed to provide updates throughout the supply chain. Providing more visibility to companies throughout the shipping process eliminates or reduces unnecessary wait times for ship operators and drivers who are held back at ports, rail yards, and warehouses. FLOW is expected to have a proof of concept by the end of summer 2022.

Members

The first phase of the FLOW initiative consists of 18 participants from different stages of the supply chain. This includes private businesses, warehousing and logistics companies, port authorities, ocean carriers, and more. The FLOW initiative will open to more participants in the future. FLOW will be coordinated by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

The members of FLOW at this initial phase include:

Port Authorities

  • Port of Long Beach
  • Port of Los Angeles
  • Georgia Ports Authority

Ocean Carriers

  • CMA CGM
  • MSC

Terminal Operators

  • Fenix Marine Terminal
  • Global Container Terminals

Businesses

  • Albertsons
  • Gemini Shippers
  • Land O’ Lakes
  • Target
  • True Value

Chassis Providers

  • DCLI
  • FlexiVan

Logistics and Warehousing Companies

  • FedEx
  • Prologis
  • UPS
  • CH Robinson

Concerns

Although many professionals in the supply chain industry view the FLOW initiative as a good idea in theory, it leaves others concerned with how well it will work in practice. One concern is that none of the participating companies are supply chain software companies. If the goal of the initiative is to improve information sharing and digital infrastructure, then software will play a major role. Although companies can apply to join FLOW, this still seems like an oversight from the initial planning.

The Biden administration introduced the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in March of 2021 and now the FLOW initiative in 2022. As the economy recovers, the government is trying to fix some of the major problems that have been affecting transportation for decades. These steps are designed to be long-term solutions so it may be a few years before we see the effect of these changes to our infrastructure.