From Nuclear Power to Logistics Software: The ProShip Story
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In this episode, Justin Cramer, co-founder of ProShip, and Blythe discuss what it’s like managing thousands of parcel shipments daily. He explains his transition from the Navy to logistics software, handling peak seasons across industries, and integrating carrier compliance updates. The episode also explores separating systems of record, the onboarding process for enterprise shippers, and how AI could enhance predictive transit time estimates based on weather, events, and other data.




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Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Justin Cramer: 0:05

Automate as much as possible. We know that software can do things significantly faster than people can en masse. Deciding between UPS ground, fedex, ground, ground, advantage, ground direct, anything like that these are things that should be left to the computer. Where people are important is presentation, qcing the items before they go into the box, double checking to make sure the right items are in the box All these things that machines don't do well.

Blythe Brumleve: 0:45

Welcome into another episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight. We are proudly presented by SPI Logistics and I am your host, Blythe Brumleve. Today. I am happy to welcome in Justin Cramer. He is the co-founder of ProShip and we're going to be talking about what it's like to manage thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of shipments every single day, some of the common pitfalls that happen during that process and how you can avoid them. So, Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin Cramer: 1:13

Thank you for having me, Blythe.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:14

Now in preps for this conversation I was listening to your interview on I think the channel was Industrial Sage, it was from a couple of years ago, but you said this really cool quote that I thought was super interesting. That logistic software is complicated, but not nearly as complicated as nuclear power. So for the audience sake could you kind of give us the background of where that quote came from? Obviously it's tied to your career background, so I thought that was a good way to sort of kick off the show.

Justin Cramer: 1:44

Yeah. So straight out of high school I went into the Navy and was lucky enough to be rather adept at science and things of that nature. So I ended up as a nuclear machinist. Basically, I operated all the fluid systems associated with nuclear power plant. Fluids included the hot water. It included the chemicals that went into the plant and also included the steam that came out of the plant.

Justin Cramer: 2:06

So I happen to be on the USS Enterprise, which is not just a Star Trek thing, it's actually one of the oldest names in the US Navy, with the first USS Enterprise actually being taken from the British during the Revolutionary War.

Justin Cramer: 2:24

And the CBN-65, which is a ship I served on, was actually the sixth ship of that name. So it was a very early nuclear power model for the Nimitz class and now the Ford class have significantly more simplified models, and now the Ford class have significantly more simplified models, whereas that one was so we could prove we could do it at the height of the Cold War. Because of that the complexity of the power blockfounders, who was also in the military with me it gave us the ability to learn how to understand very complex systems and be able to relate them to other things. So as we moved out into the civilian world and went looking for interesting things to do, we ended up falling into logistics. We ended up falling into logistics and that's where the phrase came from Because the logistics is never-ending and deeply complex. It's not quite as complex as operating nuclear power plants.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:37

And slightly less dangerous too as well.

Justin Cramer: 3:46

Well, I have to say, look, when you think of the fact that the average nuclear operator in the Navy is 19 years old, they do a really great job of actually training those individuals and allowing them to demonstrate the maturity that they actually can have at that point in time.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:57

And I think you go through a series of testing and stress requirements in order to deal with that particular job. Is that accurate?

Justin Cramer: 4:07

It was very long I joined Okay, I'm going to date myself here because I have been doing this for a long time. I went into boot camp in October of 91. And I did not actually get to operate a nuclear power plant, even under direction, until late 92, almost early 93, which, in military terms, right, because a lot of people go in for two to four years. But we had to go in for six years minimum for that very reason, because it took so long to train you and, yes, we did have a lot of people roll out. I mean, mind you, it's nothing like any of the special forces attrition ratios or anything like that, but it is exactly that is will you be able to handle the mental load for long enough? Will you show the appropriate ability to demonstrate maturity and do you have the ability to maintain all the variables in your head as required in order to not be dangerous to your fellow sailors?

Blythe Brumleve: 5:10

I love that. Well, it's reassuring that it's not just a few random people that are put in charge of that role. So that's definitely reassuring, and I'm assuming that's where the quote comes from. You know, logistics software is complicated, but not nearly as complicated as nuclear power. So how did you make that transition into civilian life? When did you decide? Ok, logistics is going to be my next move.

Justin Cramer: 5:38

Well, it's kind of just fell into my lap as I got out of the military. It's kind of just fell into my lap as I got out of the military. It was when computerization was really coming to a lot of things in the Navy, and one of those was what's known as the tag-out lockout system. I'm sure many of your listeners are very familiar with it. They have their own locks, they have their own keys, you know, and all this Back in the late 90s. There was not an automated solution around this that allowed for, when maintenance was being done, to not have every single thing duplicated. So back in the day we actually used tags rather than locks, but the concept is the same in locks, but the concept is the same. And I ended up working with a company that was actually deploying the first computerized software from there. Oddly enough, they also deployed that software for nuclear power plants. So you know, we got along pretty well, but I was, so I was a naval subcontractor continuing to teach about, you know, taking some of these civilian things into the military, using this software, and it got me back in those days.

Justin Cramer: 6:48

If you went out to sea with a boat while you were training them you didn't have internet, you might get things via email, but they were going to be very slow if they had an attachment, so you had to be self-sufficient with the software. That got me into software engineering. So once I got done with that job, once it was determined that it was a great run but I needed something else. The friend I was talking about, who was in the Navy with me, just happened to be working in a multi-curriculatory software company and he's like hey, why don't you come to Chicago? And a couple months later we all decided that no, we could do a better job with our own company and we started ProShip, or we started Bestway, which created the product ProShip, and started from there. And that was April, March, March of 2001.

Blythe Brumleve: 7:48

Oh wow, so you've been in the. I think for a lot of folks working in logistics it feels like over the last handful of years has been sort of the tech revolution in this industry. But you've been working on this problem for a while now, so that's super encouraging to know that there are tools out there that have been addressing some of these issues for a long time. I'm curious is the product today of ProShip? I imagine that it's evolved since the early days Significantly.

Justin Cramer: 8:21

As a matter of fact, since about 2004, 2005, we've been what's known as a ci cd solution continuous integration, continuous deployment or development, depending on how you want to uh interpret that. And the idea is is that we set aside some very strict contracts between components. Okay, so how, like our orchestrator communicates to UPS engine, how it would communicate to a FedEx engine or any of the other carriers, the being able to separate those has made it made for made it. That was an old language when I started, but you know, the idea is is that we could switch languages on the other side of the contract. So we've been able to move from, you know, delphi components, visual Basic 6 components, java components, c, sharp, c++ components over to NET components, as to continue to grow, replace and take advantage of the newer features that are available in the modern languages, all because we communicate the same message back and forth. So it doesn't matter what technology is on either side of the communication layer.

Blythe Brumleve: 9:42

Oh, interesting. And so for folks who may not be aware, what is a typical customer of ProShip look like?

Justin Cramer: 9:50

Okay. So if we look at the average, okay and I'm going to be very clear to call this average, because when we look at the high end it's very prestigious and very high volume. But the average customer probably ships in the upper thousands, maybe even the low ten thousands, on an average day. Many of our customers are retail or manufacturers with direct consumer interests, and so on an average day, sure they may be shipping twelve, thirteen thousand. They may drop as low as two thousand, right, especially if they're very seasonal products. But come their peak they may 10x OK. So they may go from from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. At our mid, at our second tier, at our second tier, they're going to go from low hundreds of thousands into the mid hundreds of thousands, as in three to five hundred thousand per day. And at our highest level they may actually approach and we have had customers exceed more than a million packages a day.

Justin Cramer: 10:59

Now, there's a lot of things associated with that. You can't just throw in a great shipping software and expect that just to happen. There's a lot of things associated with that. You can't just throw in a great shipping software and expect that just to happen. There's a ton of operations. There's a ton of enterprise software stack changes that need to get made, all these things. But the idea is and as we like to say, proship is one of the last shipping systems you'll ever need. The idea is you can grow from a few thousand a day all the way up to a few million a day globally.

Blythe Brumleve: 11:27

Are you in freight sales with a book of business looking for a new home? Or perhaps you're a freight agent in need of a better partnership? These are the kinds of conversations we're exploring in our podcast interview series called the Freight Agent Trenches, sponsored by SPI Logistics. Now I can tell you all day that SPI is one of the most successful logistics firms in North America, who helps their agents with back office operations such as admin, finance, it and sales. But I would much rather you hear it directly from SPI's freight agents themselves. And what better way to do that than by listening to the experienced freight agents tell their stories behind the how and the why they joined SPI? Hit the freight agent link in our show notes to listen to these conversations or, if you're ready to make the jump, visit spi3plcom. So is it technically considered a TMS or a WMS, or how does it? I guess?

Justin Cramer: 12:22

Great question, yeah, so if you're going to use the phrase TMS, we'd like to clarify and say we are a small parcel TMS. Our focus is because UPS, fedex, ontrack I keep wanting to say Lasership I know they've all merged already, but all of these carriers that we see now and there's over 40 carriers in the US now which, when I started, there was, if you consider it, airborne, which DHL purchased and subsequently abandoned, there was like four.

Blythe Brumleve: 12:57

So now the fact that we are more akin to a European country and we have 40 plus carriers a European country and we have 40 plus carriers there's a lot of opportunity out there for customers to use all these different carriers and I was going to say just to clarify really quick so when you're referring to carriers, you're referring to the FedEx, ups, dhls of the world, not typical truck drivers or, you know, owner operators, things like that.

Justin Cramer: 13:27

No, generally not, Because, again, that falls more on the LTL or TL side. Okay, now we support that. As a matter of fact, we've got a great partnership with Banyan. If you really want to go deeper into LTL and TL, we still support the old school SMC3. We still support the old school SMC3, zarlite files. So there's lots of different ways we can skin that portion of that Now.

Justin Cramer: 13:58

In our case, though, we focus primarily on all of the changes necessary to maintain compliancy with the small parcel carriers. That is our day-to-day bread and butter. This is where we're releasing on our patch Wednesdays, right, this is where we're releasing all the updates. And when we look at what just the United States Post Office and UPS alone have been doing, they have been making multiple changes per year. When it used to just be, you know, every end of December, you'd get a patch out for UPS Early in Q1, you'd get something for the United States Post Office, right, it's not that way anymore.

Justin Cramer: 14:33

And the new carriers? We don't really have a name for them yet because they're not exactly regional carriers. Not exactly regional carriers, they're like density carriers, right, because they may only service Denver but not any other city in Colorado. They may only service Cincinnati, columbus and Cleveland, but they're not going to get to Youngstown or Toledo or something of that nature in Ohio, right. But all of these carriers now are making changes, usually annually, sometimes more frequently. So because of all that pressure, it is something where that's what we've been able to focus on. That's what our architecture was really built around to begin with and that's why, if you're going to refer to us as a TMS, I would refer to us as a small parcel TMS. We really are about high speed, small parcel shipment execution. So outbound, where, if we do look at a full blown TMS, can we help get stuff inbound? Yes, especially if it's parcel. But we're not going to do route planning or load planning or things of that nature Right, we are really focused on that execution piece.

Blythe Brumleve: 15:51

Because I would imagine I mean some of the people that I talk to, especially on the full truckload side of things. They talk about managing carriers. You know they probably have 10 to 30 carriers that they speak with on a regular sort of weekly basis, have 10 to 30 carriers that they speak with on a regular sort of weekly basis. But what you're referring to, you have these probably shipping managers, transportation managers, that are dealing with thousands of carriers all across the country and probably across the world.

Justin Cramer: 16:14

When you go across the world. Yes, we are very North American focused. We do actually support Europe, some of Asia and more of Latin America now lately as well, Asia and more of Latin America now lately as well. But let's face it, where you are going to find shippers who are going to exceed 10,000, 20,000 a day, you're going to have a high concentration of those in North America.

Blythe Brumleve: 16:36

And so when you're talking to these companies, what does sort of their internal transportation team look like? Is it one person that's managing a lot of this? You know we heard a lot during COVID that you know the supply chain managers finally have a seat at the table at the, you know the boardroom and can have input on accurate, you know, or in intensive business conversations, revenue conversations. So when these big retailers or these big, you know, healthcare providers, things like that, that are handling these thousands and thousands of shipments a day, what does their internal team look like?

Justin Cramer: 17:11

It varies, but usually we're talking to one of two, if not both, major teams, and then one is going to fall under the COO, the other is going to fall under the CIO, cto, so there's always going to be IT involved. We mentioned the enterprise software stack. The movement of data, the lack of requirement for anybody to hand type anything in, is key to actually getting more out of your existing capabilities at any point in time. Of your existing capabilities at any point in time, okay. But then there's also the COO, right? Or sometimes it's a logistics manager, a VP of logistics, you know something of that nature. Especially the larger the company, the higher the title they're going to have.

Justin Cramer: 17:56

Really, if we look at our average customer, usually it's the logistics manager, okay. But of course we like to talk about the big ones, we like to talk about the whales, right. But seriously, the logistics managers are where we probably talk more frequently to, because everything continues to change. The logistics managers are the ones who are going to decide am I going to get automation in my warehouse? Am I going to put a print and apply machine, a Panda machine, in the warehouse? Am I going to want to print labels when I print pick slips, if I'm, if I have a lot of case picks, they're they're going to actually determine how the, the how the results of the shipping software are going to be realized physically, whether that's in a store or in a warehouse, whereas IT's job is to work with us and the rest of their staff to ensure the data moves up and down, in and about left and right throughout that enterprise software stack in a manner that keeps everybody happy and allows network bandwidth to still exist.

Blythe Brumleve: 19:06

So what happens, I guess, during you know you mentioned ESSO, enterprise shipping systems and is that Enterprise software stack. Oh, enterprise software stack.

Justin Cramer: 19:15

So you're talking your ERP, your accounting software. You could have an OMS in there, especially if you're connected to your e-commerce suite. You could. If we're shipping from store, you might be shipping from your point of sales solution or from a screen inside your OMS In the warehouse. It's probably going to be integration into the WMS or other solution associated with it.

Blythe Brumleve: 19:37

So it's pulling all of these gigantic data sources together. And how do you pull all of those gigantic data sets together and then make that data actionable for your customers?

Justin Cramer: 19:51

Just two simple steps. Number one pull the data. Number two apply business rules. It's simple, but, as I like to say to customers and potential customers, simple is not easy. It's simple as long as we maintain the discipline to gather the information appropriately, only gather from a system that actually provides value.

Justin Cramer: 20:14

Normally we don't gather anything from the ERP, with the exception of if we're doing dangerous goods or if we're shipping internationally. Why? Because we need additional information. Normally, a shipment requires five pieces well, four, but I'm going to talk about a fifth piece of information. We need to know where a package is coming from, where it's going to what, which is usually just the weight and dimensions of that package, and then how, which is usually what you're paying us to determine what's the lowest cost solution that will actually get it there in time. The fifth piece is metadata. Right, so that metadata is going to be, you know, let's say you are a platinum loyalty member of this thing. Well, because of that, I may have a different business rule, right? Well, because of that, I may have a different business rule, right? Let's say, on the other hand, that an item that you purchased is free shipping or is expedited, or is something of that nature.

Justin Cramer: 21:14

All of that comes down as metadata. It's additional data that needs to, needs to be pulled from somewhere else in the enterprise software stack. Ok, but and that's what we focus on most of the time but if we go back to where, I'm sorry, if we go back to what, right to from what and how we go back to what if we're doing an international shipment, I need to know more than just the weight dimensions. I need to know I'm just going to drop all of my dangerous goods information off the top of my head right now. So I need to know those numbers and descriptions. Information off the top of my head right now. So I need to know those numbers and descriptions.

Justin Cramer: 21:49

And if we are going into international, we need to know our harmonized tariff codes, countries of origins, quantities, counts, unit measures, all those other things. So in that case, whether it's dangerous goods or whether it's international, generally, we need more information to fill in the what we are shipping. Okay, so because of that, often country of origin is only available in the ERP. So because it's a system of record, right, that's where we purchased it from, this is how much we paid the manufacturer for it, you know, so on and so forth. So we'll have those records in there, and potentially by SKU, so we can pull that information down as necessary.

Justin Cramer: 22:29

But normally if you're just a domestic shipper and you are not shipping a dangerous good weight and dimensions is all you need for a package and this is very interesting for when you deal with healthcare because, as we all know, data privacy is very important to everybody. Hipaa is even more important, right PHI, personal health information. But if you're not shipping internationally and if those goods are not dangerous goods, we don't need to know anything about what's in that package.

Blythe Brumleve: 23:02

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Blythe Brumleve: 23:38

For more info, go to tai-softwarecom. Backslash battle stations. And we also have a link for you in the show notes to sign up for a demo. And we also have a link for you in the show notes to sign up for a demo. And that sort of brings me to the next, I guess, sort of group of questions that I wanted to talk to you about, because it's technically around peak season and I guess you know forgive my fifth grader level question here but why is the summertime considered peak season versus, like, a holiday season, or are those just two separate, different peak seasons that you're able to accommodate?

Justin Cramer: 24:13

Depends upon what you are as a shipper, right. We've got the interesting thing. We've got a lot of shippers who back to school is their peak season. We've got lawnmower, pool, outdoor recreation customers. That spring is there. We're going into their peak season right now.

Justin Cramer: 24:36

It is retailers that traditionally seek you for as their peak season because, let's face it, we Americans have made a sport out of consumerism and that the national holiday of that is Christmas. So we all are preparing for that big game, that big day, and that means a lot of shipping. Now we have seen some demand shaping occur since the first year of the pandemic In 2019, we saw a massive squeeze between Black Friday and the week before Christmas and there was a huge spike there. What we saw last year was that was pulled all the way forward and started in October, so that's more than 30 days pulling forward. That's a huge demand shape and it made it a lot easier Marketing within, and it made it a lot easier. Marketing within those retailers made it a lot easier on operations because they pulled forward sales and they and they did these other things.

Blythe Brumleve: 25:37

So, um, uh, hopefully that answered some of that question it did because it now it just sounds like you know for. And it makes a ton of sense because for a variety of your shippers they have all have different peak seasons, so you're accommodating that throughout the entire year, and so I guess sort of my next question is if you have these different peak seasons for all of these different shippers, how do you best prepare them for their own peak season?

Justin Cramer: 26:06

Process is exactly the same for every single one. I'm going to talk about this as if it were a retailer with a December peak and the idea is that basically, think of it almost like a dial and you just rotate it back across the years you need to Okay. So if your peak is in July, well then, everything I talk about for January you would be doing in August. Okay. But so in usually, what we see and actually I'm sorry I'm going to step back to peak, because it all starts in peak and the single most important thing anybody can do during peak is a weekly log. Daily logs would be better, but a weekly log is recommended and the idea and this isn't brilliant stuff there this is basically just kind of what you do in a postmortem or what you would do in an agile standup Okay, you look at what's working well, what's not working well and what absolutely needs to get fixed. And the reason I say this is because we want to make sure that when we move into Q1 and we start planning, we start looking at those notes. We want to know what worked well, because too many times I've seen companies make a major change between peak seasons and they threw out the baby with the bathwater. They got rid of some really good features because nobody said to save them Right and a vendor doesn't know Unless the vendor put those features in in the past. They're not going to know, right. So, anyways, you start by documenting during peak I recommend weekly, and I recommend you make sure you know what you're going to keep, what's working OK and what, what actually needs to be absolutely changed, ok. So as you move forward then into like February and March, you actually need to start deciding what you're going to do this year and engaging your vendors. Then in April, may, june, that's where you should start the process of deploying. Now, mind you, I am talking about a top tier retailer here and this is usually the timeline that's required. The reality is that you want to be deploying in Q2 so you can test in Q3. Why? Because you're going to code freeze at the end of Q3, and then you need to execute in Q4, right? So again, you can rotate that back any way you want to. You can also compress if you're a smaller customer, okay, I warn you that. Remember that you're probably not looking at a single vendor. We're partners with a lot of WMSs, a lot of OMS companies out there. Not all of them are created equal. Not all of them can move as fast as possible. The sooner you get in line for service, the more likely you are to get things done before peak. Okay. And then the final thing I'll say, because we see this a lot with new customers. New customers want everything day one.

Justin Cramer: 29:23

Okay, I don't think you should look at the shipment execution in your business as a light switch. It's something where you should expect that on a routine basis, for some of our large customers, that's annually, for more average customers, every two to three years, that you're going to continue to make a tweak right? So if you're new to a solution, maybe you don't go all the way in because, honestly, you're going to drag a lot of the. You're going to drag a lot of the assumption you had from your old solution. You're going to try to put that in place.

Justin Cramer: 30:04

If you give yourself some time, if you give yourself a season to get used to what the, what the new software suites can do, you will have new ideas and you won't have to pay people to remove the old ideas as much. So those are my thoughts. Again, though, to remind the audience here we're talking about how do you prepare for change. When do you prepare for change? And to me, for an enterprise, for for like a NRF top 100 retailer, that starts at peak. It goes into Q1 with planning and involving the vendors, q2 is execution, q3 is testing, q4 is peak again right, so it's not exactly an endless cycle because you're going to skip some cycles, but for the first couple of cycles you probably want to continue to tweak to get the best ROI out of the solution that you can.

Blythe Brumleve: 30:51

And so that framework essentially works for, you know, not just retailers, but you know a lot of the enterprise level shippers, and so I guess what are the warning signs for some of these companies? That they need a more sophisticated solution, that they need to have more of a holistic view of how all of these different you know maybe WMS and you know ERP, you know all of these different systems coming together into pro-ship, how do they know that you know it's time to make a change?

Justin Cramer: 31:21

The easiest thing to look for is if you have that person, and you'll know you have that person, because if that person is sick, nothing happens. Everything has to go as status quo. We can't make a change. These orders may not be able to ship today because that person isn't here. Okay, um, that is. That is indication number one that something's not happening, happening right, it may actually come from more, from the financial side.

Justin Cramer: 31:52

You realize that your average cost per package is significantly higher than your peers. Okay, that might be something that in a trade group you might be sharing. If you're in a trade group, maybe you should get in one and kind of share that information. And then, finally, so you've got in one and kind of share that information. And then finally, so you've got operational pressure, which usually is a that guy kind of thing, right? Or the operational is if one person is missing and you can't get something done, or if you literally just can't get enough packages out per day to keep up with demand, okay, that's operational IT.

Justin Cramer: 32:30

Well, it usually has their own set of requirements. If it's not keeping up with updates, if you don't have access to enough services, or again, if it's just not fast enough, okay, now, not every carrier out there is going to be able to respond in sub 100 milliseconds and that may not be what you need, but it's a certain time you may need that. We have components that respond in sub 90 milliseconds. That is the requirement for that component.

Justin Cramer: 32:55

Why, remember, I talked about that enterprise software stack, that ESS? Because often we have to gather more metadata from the rest of the stack and that takes time metadata from the rest of the stack and that takes time. Okay, I hate seeing a 500 millisecond that's half a second to normal people. I hate seeing a half a second call to fetch information from a database or an API, because, well, if you're using a print and apply, how much time do you have from that scan and dimensionalizer to the actual applicator? Normally that is about two seconds and that one call just ate up a quarter of my time. That's why the engine has to be fast, because we have to get the data, we have to apply business rules, then we have to see what the carrier can do for us.

Justin Cramer: 33:44

And then we have to write all that back before that label hits the package.

Blythe Brumleve: 33:50

And so, when you're recognizing that these issues are going on, you say, okay, we need to make a change, we need something a little bit more sophisticated to bring in all of these different data points and all of these different job roles. What does that onboarding process look like? Because you know you make the decision to okay, this is the direction that we want to go through. What does the onboarding process look like for a typical or, I guess, mostly typical customer approach?

Justin Cramer: 34:17

So an average customer takes about 180 days to make a decision. Okay, average, and that's because there are other companies out there. There are other products out there. When you go and look for a new car, you kind of have to start making some initial decisions. Do I want a little two-seater because it's just me and I'm just going to go about and have fun? Do I need a minivan because I'm going to have a full family with me? Do I need a truck because I need to put construction materials in the back? Or do I need an entire semi because I've got that much to move right? So, just like the analogy for the various cars that I talked about there, there are various pieces of software, shipping software specifically fits in the market.

Justin Cramer: 35:06

Okay, there's not a perfect analogy because we're a Porsche truck, but that doesn't actually make any sense. Right, we can go really fast and we can move a whole lot of stuff. But, like with the name Porsche, we're not going to be the same cost as a free API that you might go out there and look at and there's trade-offs as to why you might want that. But anyways, you start by understanding what the market is. Again, you may talk with professional groups that you may be a part of. You may go to trade shows, all these things to gather that information. You then have to reach out and almost do an interview with all the vendors to decide who better fits. And then you get deeper and you do technical validation, operational workflows, all these other things to get to a true, proper price, an end price, and at that point in time you go through legal if you don't agree with the initial contracts, and I'm sure you can imagine which end of the spectrum does more legal than the other. But that being said, going through all that can take about 180 days for a good mid-size, you know, 500 million in revenue company to go through and make sure that they're properly getting the product that fits their need On the other hand.

Justin Cramer: 36:34

So ProShip Enterprise is our enterprise product. We also have a WorldLink product. Now that one, the timeframe on that is significantly smaller. Usually we have smaller IT teams. We have a smaller enterprise software stack. More importantly, we usually don't have as complex of an enterprise software stack. There's not as much legacy bits in there that need to be worked around 300 package a day shipper. That timeline can be brought down a lot from that 180 days, but do realize that it is going to take time. We've had outliers take three years to actually go through the entire purchasing process. Okay, now that's an outlier, okay, but it does exist.

Blythe Brumleve: 37:22

Well, I can imagine it. Just all of those different I mean because you know my career, you know sort of backstory is mostly in the full truckload space, um, a little bit of LTL, and so I understand you know that those different shipment movements and those feel like a lot. But as you're talking and as you're explaining the intricacies of shipments and just in general but just at the micro level of e-commerce shipments and how you know how one small thing, one inefficiency, can just have such a it feels like it can have such a downstream effect and ultimately affect your bottom line and affect your profits.

Justin Cramer: 37:58

It can prevent you from saving tens of thousands of dollars or it can prevent you from executing an extra thousand or 10,000 shipments in a day. What does that actually mean to the bottom line? It's interesting because one of the things I don't do our technical interviews anymore, but when I did, the concept was what are you looking for to have an effect in life? Okay, I get to know that there are approximately 2 billion shipments a year that go through this software. Okay. So if you're a software engineer, are approximately 2 billion shipments a year that go through this software? Okay? So if you're a software engineer, you have the ability to touch 2 billion shipments shipping events a year? That could be that.

Justin Cramer: 38:40

I noticed that you've got a bobblehead back there. That was probably a gift, right? Somebody purchased that for you. They cared a lot about that shipment. Okay, and a good shipping software is going to get it there when they expect it. Okay, let's say they wanted to get it to you for your birthday and they just realized way too, way too close to your actual birthday. Right, they're going to want to get a low cost but still get it there on time, because if it gets delivered late, you know, the day after Christmas is disappointment. That is not when we want to deliver things right. So that is what I look at. Is that our ability to impact so many events and lives throughout the world? And, like I said, that's about $2 billion a year and that number is only going to go up.

Blythe Brumleve: 39:29

And I can imagine that that dramatically increased after COVID where you have. Are you seeing, maybe in your own data, where the new normal is finally here, maybe in your own data, where the new normal is finally here, where it's probably elevated as far as e-commerce shopping is concerned, just parcel delivery since 2019 or since 2020. But is it dramatically increasing or are we kind of leveling out?

Justin Cramer: 39:55

For us it's increasing, but that's because of how the market is moving. The amount we ship goes up. Many of our customers have gone up slightly, but if you do look at data from freight waves and others that actually accumulate all that data, shipping continues to go up a little bit, but not as much as it did the first two years of the pandemic. We're kind of we're kind of drifting over to where the line was going to be, but it continues. For us because of the successes we continue to have and because we see when somebody retires from one place or moves to another place you know, and they've used ProShip and that opportunity comes up. They usually throw our name into the hat as to what's going to get looked at. Okay, Because they know what the product can do, which is great for us. It's great, it's a testament. It's a testament to the way our teams work.

Justin Cramer: 40:56

Okay, One of the things I like about being at ProShip is I'm never the smartest person in the room. I know a lot. I can get very detailed in certain things, but we have people who are significantly better at UPS than me. We have people who are better at LTL or truckload than me, so you have these teams of highly qualified individuals, from project managers down to execution engineers, to our support staff, many of whom have been in the industry for more than five, six, 10 years.

Justin Cramer: 41:28

Okay, and it really does show in the execution, maintenance and support of the product. So I think that really is a key to having a great partner is the fact that it's not a personality-driven company. It is a company filled with individuals who are passionate about that. One thing which is why, like I said, I used to talk about the effect that you would have as a software engineer, whether you were a support engineer, an implementation engineer or a development engineer all three of those, which is our we have more engineers than we have anything else in the company. All three of those have such an effect on day-to-day operations of people who have no idea what the difference between on-track and GLS is.

Blythe Brumleve: 42:23

And I would think that it sounds like there's a lot of cutting down on decision-making or making those decisions easier to take action on. Is that an accurate statement?

Justin Cramer: 42:34

We say automate, okay, automate as much as possible. We know that software can do things significantly faster than people can on mass. Okay, deciding between UPS, ground, fedex, ground, ground advantage, ground direct, you know anything, anything like that. These are things that should be left to the computer. Where people are important is presentation, qcing the items before they go into the box, double checking to make sure the right items are in the box, all these things that machines don't do well. I think that a lot of our customers have seen that shift from having people make decisions to having people apply value. So that's really what we allow. Is that shift? And I will say software scales. Software doesn't need as much training. We train it once it's good to go. But it is still labor. When I first got into this industry, labor was the number one concern and, with maybe the possible exception of a year or so ago, where cost was the biggest concern, labor has always been the number one concern in the industry.

Blythe Brumleve: 44:04

How do you see? You know I hate to use the phrase like AI, but obviously AI fits perfectly into this conversation. But from a machine learning perspective, I imagine you've been doing that already. I'm curious as to how you know maybe some of these large language models and further developments in AI will affect, you know, pro-ship in general or just the industry.

Justin Cramer: 44:28

It's a great question. Here's what I'll say, and I have been thinking about this very heavily in the last 24, 48 months AI has no business. Where something can be calculated, where there is an exact answer Okay, ups does not use AI to determine your bill. Okay, they use your contract and hard numbers. So, also, you can't use AI to create a compliant label. Okay, the one area when it comes to shipping where AI may come into play is in and we're talking shipment execution.

Justin Cramer: 45:08

Now, andrew, we're not talking about how UPS might use it to determine a delivery path or something of that nature if you're using your own milk run to deliver to customers, but the one feed that we can get into shipping software that could be AI assisted is estimated time in transit. Now, I have actually been relatively vocal about this to a lot of my auditing partners, tracking partners that are waiting for them to come up with one of these models. That are waiting for them to come up with one of these models, because, as we look at this and we look at, I know the pandemic has cleared our mind from a lot of things, but if I say things like Katrina, sandy, edward, all of these events, if we look at Texas had several tornadoes last week. Right, if we look at weather, if we look at the and I apologize I'm going to not say this bridge, right, but the Key Bridge in Baltimore, oh, the Baltimore Key Bridge, yeah, that took out a major transitway. It could affect delivery times in the Northeast, delivery times in the Northeast. Okay, all of this data, if you take historical data, you take weather data, you take Department of Transportation data, these could all affect the reality, the actual time in transit, in ways that we might be able to predict the actual time in transit in ways that we might be able to predict.

Justin Cramer: 46:40

I would love to get to a point where I can tell somebody, because a class one hurricane is sitting just north of Puerto Rico and heading towards Orlando, that there's going to be no deliveries three days from now in these zip codes. Right, because then in the cart I can tell my customers don't, I can tell my customers can tell their customers. Right, I'm very possessive of the whole process, sorry. You tell the customers nothing is going to get delivered on Thursday because the eye of the hurricane is expected to be there. So you either need to ship it for delivery on Wednesday or delivery after Friday. So that's where I see AI coming in to help be predictive, because whether you call it a large language model, whether you call it machine learning, whatever you do, the P in GPT is predictive.

Justin Cramer: 47:37

This is all a very, very fun statistics game, and statistics gets more valuable when you put more data into it. Okay, so I think that's really when we're starting to predict. We need data other than just the history. We need to know the metadata around that history, and I think as we start to see that come together, we are going to provide even better customer experience. Now I see a lot of room for AI elsewhere in the warehouse. There is no one perfect pick plan. Ai is going to be perfect for that. Like I said for delivery, ai would be perfect for it's better at doing delivery routes because it can say oh hey, there's a game Everything around the stadium is not going to be good, let's bypass that, or let's make all the final deliveries around the stadium, or something of that nature Right. Again, it's predictive. There is not an answer and there's not an answer that will be the same today as it is tomorrow, and so that's how I separate what AI should help and what we should keep with a traditional calculated approach.

Blythe Brumleve: 48:49

I think that that's really well said and a great place to sort of put into this conversation around it. But I am curious to know is there anything that we haven't already talked about that you feel is important to mention?

Justin Cramer: 49:06

I think the one thing I want to reiterate is separation of concerns and system of records I talked about a little bit as we talked about the enterprise software stack where you have to go to get country of origin right. The reason you have an ERP solution is because that's where all the costs are kept. The reason that you have a WMS is because that's where inventory and planning for the use of that inventory pick pack put away. All those things are done in there. Shipping software should be just that. It should be isolated for the purpose of finding you the most cost-effective means of hitting your customer's expectation.

Blythe Brumleve: 49:46

Gosh, that's a really well, very, very well put, because you know the. I think that what I love about doing this show is that I can have conversations with folks that you know who built a WMS or in charge of robotics or in charge of you know LTL shipments. But then I talked to, I have a conversation with you, and it's you know who built a WMS or in charge of robotics or in charge of you know LTL shipments, but then I talked to, I have a conversation with you, and it's you know, one of those things where it's like it's shipping and transportation is just so much more intricate than I think people give it. You know, uh, you know credit for and and for someone like you who comes in, it's like, oh, this is actually kind of easy. I worked on nuclear-powered submarines before nuclear-powered ships and this is a walk in the park. And you make it sound like it's a walk in the park.

Blythe Brumleve: 50:27

I'm sure it's not. I'm sure this is obviously decades of work and thoughtfulness that's come to fruition. So, justin, I really appreciate your time and perspective and helping us break down these complex topics that you, you know you're you have been building solutions for, uh, for years. So for folks who may want to follow you, you know. Get in contact with you um visit the, you know, proship website. You know, maybe sign up for a demo. Where can I send them?

Justin Cramer: 50:52

Yeah, definitely want to go to ProShipInccom that's P-R-O-S-H-I-P-I-N-C dot com. Okay, on there you can find out more about the product, you can see videos that we've put up from multiple of our employees and, of course, you can always schedule a call or a demo if you'd like.

Blythe Brumleve: 51:12

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Justin. This was really an insightful conversation.

Justin Cramer: 51:17

Thank you full conversation.

Blythe Brumleve: 51:26

Thank you, I hope you enjoyed this episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight, telling the stories behind how your favorite stuff and people get from point A to B. Subscribe to the show, sign up for our newsletter and follow our socials over at everythingislogisticscom. And in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let y'all know about another company I operate, and that's Digital Dispatch, where we help you build a better website. Now, a lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a coworker's child, a neighbor down the street or a stranger around the world, where you probably spend more time explaining the freight industry than it takes to actually build the dang website.

Blythe Brumleve: 52:03

Well, that doesn't happen at Digital Dispatch. We've been building online since 2009, but we're also early adopters of AI, automation and other website tactics that help your company to be a central place to pull in all of your social media posts, recruit new employees and give potential customers a glimpse into how you operate your business. Our new website builds start as low as $1,500, along with ongoing website management, maintenance and updates starting at $90 a month, plus some bonus freight marketing and sales content similar to what you hear on the podcast. You can watch a quick explainer video over on digitaldispatchio. Just check out the pricing page once you arrive and you can see how we can build your digital ecosystem on a strong foundation. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll see you all real soon and go Jags eggs.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.