I just had an interesting breakfast with Mark Eppley. You might know him as the founder of LapLink. But this morning he was telling a different story. Business really is about stories, you know. Do you have a compelling one? He does.
100 semi-truck-loads of goods disappear every day in the United States.
That’s his story. I had no idea. Billions of dollars in supply-chain losses every year. Turns out organized crime steals trucks. They usually find the trucks later on. But the load is gone. Some of this is in collusion with truck drivers. Some of this is just opportunity (a truck is left running at a truck stop, a thief breaks in and steals the truck, takes it to a drop-off-point where the load disappears into an underground marketplace).
In some overseas markets, he tells me, they are even more brazen. They’ll just kill the driver and take the truck.
Does this crime pay off? Well, consider a truck load of Viagra. One pallet of that stuff is worth millions. One truck can hold $30 million worth or even more.
Now you know how the spammers are being funded.
So, how is Mark Eppley’s new company, SC-Integrity (for supply chain integrity), gonna stop them?
Well, with the Amazon model. Huh?
He’s sticking all sorts of data from the supply chain industry into a database and looking for commonalities.
You know, the same kind of system that Amazon uses to figure out that if you buy a Harry Potter book you’re probably going to be interested in other things based on the past behavior of other people who’ve bought Harry Potter books.
He also uses a variety of devices that are placed inside the cargo. They use a variety of information gathering and sharing techniques and techniques to avoid detection. He didn’t want me to share much about how the devices work but let’s just say they report back home where they are and other data. They also aren’t detectable and if jammed, that can be figured out too.
Does his anti-crime system matter? Well, he says they’ve already returned millions of dollars of goods back to their owners.
Can this system be foiled? Yes. But he says that’s not the point right now. The point right now is to raise the bar on the criminals and make them react to the system. Most crime, he says, goes to where the easiest fruit lies. His customers, he says, will be very happy if they reduce their losses by a few percent.
Oh, and do trucking companies prosecute drivers? Usually no. They usually just fire the drivers who then go across the street and do it again at another company. The trucking industry has a shortage of drivers, he says, so they’ll usually hire anyone without a criminal record.
So, what he’s doing is looking not at the driver, but at the route, or at the truck stop, or at other common patterns. What’s the probability of a trucker carrying a load of diamonds getting hit at a certain truck stop? His system will know over time. Just the same way that Amazon knows the probability that you’ll buy a Tom Peters book after you buy a Harry Potter book.
Does IT matter? Ask the criminals who are behind bars.