FourKites’ data shows some encouraging signs, but it is only a start

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · June 25, 2020

At a time when nothing is really close to normal, in the conventional sense, due largely to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, recent data from Chicago-based FourKites, a provider of real-time tracking and visibility solutions across transportation modes and digital platforms, showed that there are some signs of a leveling off of COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions.

In a blog posting by FourKites Chief Technology Officer Vivek Vaid, there were various examples of market conditions, in terms of shipments levels, showing somewhat of a return to closer to normal market conditions.

Data used by FourKites was based on its most recent review of its “entire ecosystem of supply chain data” based on millions of deliveries, tens of thousands of companies, and 15,000 industry verticals.

Here is the company’s breakdown of shipment activity across various sectors:

food and beverage (F&B) shipments are stable, up 1% over the last month and down 7% compared to the “peak of the panic-buying period” in March;

consumer packaged goods (CPG) “remain at elevated levels,” since an initial spike in demand in early March and are up 9% in the last month;

load cancelations drop for meat processing companies—defined by FourKites as loads that were planned two to three weeks in advance but were then canceled by the processor—have dropped 24% since their peak the week of April 20, and now reflect pre-pandemic levels. Vaid wrote that this represents a big change from FourKites’ update in early May, when the company had observed month-over-month cancellation increases of 22%;

as a follow-up, meat shipments are down 15% going back to March, a sign Vaid noted that could mean reduced demand, due to rising prices, as well as ongoing concerns related to COVID-19 infections in processing plants;

stable month-over-month dairy shipments, going back to mid-April, at a time when restaurants and hotels have been dealing with reduced demand;

shipments of alcohol were up 17% through the first week of June, following a 4% decline, from mid-April through mid-May;

pet food shipments fell 7% over the last month and were down 3% the month before; and

personal care products are down 5% over the last month, after a slight gain from mid-April to mid-May

In summing up these revealing findings and providing a look ahead at the next few weeks, Vaid stated: “The current pandemic poses a highly fluid situation, given the ongoing uncertainty around the trajectory of infections as more states and businesses reopen. We do anticipate that volumes will likely increase over the next four weeks as the end of the quarter and Fourth of July celebrations will lead to increased demand for shippers in many consumer-focused industries.”

To be sure, as stated before, these are not normal times, not even close. But, to be fair, amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, especially when compared to the incredibly dire outlook, at the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, these findings from FourKites show, in a sense, things getting closer to normal.

Are we there yet? No, we are not. And we can expect many more ups and downs, ebbs and flows, or whatever you want to call it, until there is an actual COVID-19 vaccine, for which a definitive timeline remains muddled. All we can do, for now, is ride things out and react as best as we can. As always, supply chain and logistics remain at the forefront as a gauge of what is happening as it relates to moving various types of freight i.e. goods. Newsroom Notes thanks FourKites for this insightful data.

June 25, 2020