Article by: Chris Cunnane
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Amazon is no stranger to innovation; we need to look no further than its investment in drone technology, warehouse robots, robotic picking competitions, the Prime program, dash buttons, cloud services, and a host of others. Often times, the company will quietly launch one its new services as a test run before making any major announcements or grand roll-outs. Last month, Amazon did it again with the launch of its first trucking app. Named Relay, the app was launched in typical Amazon fashion (quietly) and is available for both Apple and Android devices.
The Ins and Outs of Relay
Relay is Amazon’s first trucking app, and is designed to make trips to Amazon warehouses faster and more efficient. Drivers are able to enter cargo information into the app before they arrive. Once they have entered the information, they are given a QR code which they will use at the security gate. The idea is that by pre-checking in, they use the QR code to pass through security instead of the manual process of showing and scanning a badge at the gate. With the pre-check in process, it gives Amazon better visibility into the current location of its deliveries, and can better prepare for arrivals. Some of Amazon’s warehouses and fulfillment centers have built lanes that are dedicated solely for Relay users.
Relay aims to speed up the process of making deliveries to warehouses. Additionally, it can help to reduce manual processes that are not only time consuming, but also error prone. As of now, the app is only used for deliveries to Amazon warehouses. It remains to be seen whether the company plans to expand on the capabilities or include access to third party locations as well.
The Big Picture for the Trucking App
The actual application of Relay is narrow at the moment, as it is only used for deliveries to Amazon facilities. However, this could be just the tip of the iceberg, and a way for Amazon to make inroads for a much larger future application. Amazon has made it clear that there is a much larger trucking app that it wants to build out, and getting drivers on a network could be the way in. Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured in to the digital freight matching market over the last couple of years, and Amazon has its eyes on being the biggest player in the market.
When looking at the digital freight management market, there are a number of challenges, mainly around scalability. This means the provider needs a large number of carriers and shippers on a common network to create a marketplace. Getting to the point where there are a viable and thriving marketplace is essential for scalability. One of the biggest challenges to getting carriers and shippers to join a network is the trust factor. Too many of the start-ups that are trying to enter the market are unknown entities that simply do not have the clout to build a network. This is where companies like Amazon and Uber have the advantage.
Amazon and Uber have the capital and the brand to build a network. Amazon in particular has proven itself as an innovator when it comes to delivery services. This goes beyond home deliveries; the company has established a network to move goods between facilities much quicker. As Amazon is building out its global logistics network, it is working on controlling more modes. The company has moved into the ocean, air, and private fleet business, and now has its eyes set on the digital freight matching market. The launch of Relay looks to be the first step in realizing this goal.
The Final Word
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is always looking at the next big thing when it comes to making his company one of the most innovative logistics providers in the world. From investing in private fleets of trucks and branded aircraft, to drone deliveries and floating warehouses, Amazon is constantly seeking ways to become more efficient and meet the customer’s needs. With the launch of Relay, Amazon is trying to make deliveries to its own warehouses and facilities more efficient, which can speed up the final delivery of items. Even if Relay does not scale or become the norm for how Amazon handles internal deliveries, it is the first logical step in creating a digital freight matching marketplace. While Relay might be an honest attempt to streamline internal processes, it also might just be a means to an end when it comes to building a robust trucking app.