Will the FLOW Initiative Improve Communication Between Partners?


The COVID-19 pandemic drew considerable attention to supply chain management processes.  A combination of government stimulus and lockdowns led to an increase in e-commerce demand following the global financial crisis. This, in part, led to delays, bottlenecks and ships stuck at ports. The United States government took notice and tried to find a solution. 

As a means of addressing these concerns, the Biden-Harris administration has launched a new initiative called Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW).    

Using an information exchange, this project will reduce delays and costs by accelerating the movement of goods. The goal of this initiative is to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction via collaboration, cooperation, and visibility between logistics partners.

The current administration is discussing supply chain issues as it pertains to moving forward with this new logistics initiative.   


Advantages of the FLOW Initiative 

The supply chain industry has become increasingly dependent on digitization in the age of globalization and high production volumes. Lack of digitization, especially globally, is one of the largest hurdles to better supply chain visibility. 

To make this initiative more effective, further investments are necessary to improve the system currently in use. In order for companies to succeed, FLOW encourages them to share data and collaborate operationally to share investment and improve visibility and transparency. 

This initiative looks at it from a different perspective than that of the private sector, which dominates the industry. Rather than individual companies moving forward independently, the aim is for them to collaborate in order to push goods out faster and reduce operational delays - which will benefit consumers. By pursuing new potential solutions together, organizations operating collectively can potentially make operational visibility and efficiency better. Even so, this logistics initiative has some drawbacks that may cause some companies to be hesitant to participate. 


Disadvantages of the FLOW Initiative 

Data sharing and collaboration could potentially lead to sharing data with your competitors, an idea to which many are reluctant.

Because companies want to maintain a competitive edge, data sharing between them is a touchy subject. It is possible to ensure that competitors cannot identify weaknesses and/or mimic strengths by adopting a data-sharing strategy.   

Also, the centralization of data may also expose private sector companies to greater risks of cyber-attacks and data leaks. Even though the current administration emphasizes a collaborative digital infrastructure is in the interest of public and private companies alike, many firms still may be apprehensive because of their primary concerns about data sharing - which may be difficult to curb. 


Will the FLOW Initiative Improve Communication Between Partners?

If supply chain industry stakeholders decide to work collaboratively, they can gain the operational visibility required to accelerate the movement of goods. Communications and collaboration can be facilitated through a centralized database created this way.

Hence, carriers and logistical services will be able to deliver products in a more efficient manner. A new era of the supply chain industry is likely to emerge as a consequence of this initiative, as data visibility amongst partners becomes a golden standard. Furthermore, it would allow for a reduction in the sorts of constraints experienced as a result of the pandemic.

Furthermore, it remains unclear as to whether or not companies will move forward with this development and adopt it. The project is currently being conducted completely on a volunteer basis, although there are a number of large carriers participating in the project, including FedEx, UPS, and CH Robinson. The FLOW initiative is set to continue throughout the summer of 2022 and Sec. Pete Buttigieg has stated that he is hoping to see more participation in the months to come. However, the current administration will also need to find a means of enticing companies to take part in the initiative.