The company started out 80 years ago as one of 10 or so so-called rate bureaus for the LTL industry, and up until the 1980s, that meant publishing rates on paper. In the 90s, that information dissemination switched to floppy disks.
Two decades later, and SMC³ provides a set of solutions around LTL rate management, transit times and carrier costing via the cloud.
“We went from being a rate publication organization to a technology-driven organization,” SMC³ CEO Andrew Slusher said in an interview with American Shipper. “Our goal is to deliver data and content that enables decision-making in the LTL industry.”
SMC³’s prominence in the LTL market is hard to understate. The company offers software solutions to shippers, carriers and brokers. Its rate and transit time data also acts as the underlying LTL fuel for many of the commonly-used transportation management systems in the market.
“We have what I’d call industrial-strength solutions,” Slusher said. “We house massive volumes of data. If you book an LTL shipment from point A to point B through a TMS - we provide the rate quote. We can handle massive volumes of data quickly, with high levels of accuracy and security.”
Slusher pointed to the five data centers across the United States that SMC³ operates.
“We’ve built up a tremendous amount of brand equity and confidence with customers,” he said. “We’re not a bleeding edge technology company, but we’re a leading edge one.”
Part of Slusher’s confidence in the company he oversees comes from the fact that he was previously an SMC³ customer. Slusher took the reins in early 2016 (from longtime predecessor Jack Middleton) after stints with American Airlines, YRC Worldwide and MIQ Logistics. It was at YRC where he first became acquainted with SMC³.
“As a customer, I trusted the people that led SMC³ and the people in the trenches to deliver quality solutions,” he said.
If there’s one thing that Slusher wants to emphasize about the company he runs, it’s this: SMC³ is not a rate bureau anymore, it’s a technology provider to the trucking industry. Slusher said the company invests heavily in technology personnel and data scientists to keep the development of its products current and relevant.
Slusher specifically noted the company’s ability to provide application programming interfaces (APIs) for customers that prefer that method of system-to-system integration. Transportation systems communications still largely relies on electronic data interchange (EDI).
“There are a lot of people who like to say EDI is dead,” he said. “EDI will be used less frequently, and APIs will become more popular. But it’s important to understand that there’s a lack of standardization of data that flows from carriers to shippers. No carriers format their data like any other. And that’s a limiting factor to getting these new API technologies off the ground. Because of our experience and technical capabilities, we’re trying to build a better and broader solution.”
Slusher said SMC³ has been building APIs for more than a decade, but that the challenge of using them can often come from latency in response time. For instance, he said the response time for a system requesting a huge batch of rates via API could be 10 to 20 seconds vs. 2 to 3 seconds via EDI.
That said, Slusher emphasized SMC³ is building API capability throughout its product line for customers that want it, whether it’s the transit time tool CarrierConnect or their rating products RateWare and CzarLite.
“We see the large providers (in the 3PL space) will continue to need industrial strength solutions,” he said. “API latency becomes a productivity drag for large 3PLs. API is a play with the smaller 3PLs. That’s where we’ll find a greater appetite. We could have ignored the lightweight API solutions, but technology will advance and those lightweight solutions will become heavier weight. We want to have ourselves positioned in this area.”
Slusher also said SMC³ is focused on expanding its footprint, possibly to other geographies outside the United States and Canada, but also into different modes, such as truckload. The company's future expansion also involves new content, such as document retrieval, and load status information.
“The goal is to be a one-stop solution provider for data and content for the supply chain,” he said. “And we want to deliver it in a manner that consumers can consume it based on their needs.”