Department of Transportation


FLOW is a public-private initiative to improve supply chain efficiency and reduce logistics costs through better visibility. BTS is its facilitator. The global pandemic coupled with the distinctive dynamics of e-commerce were a stress-test for the nation’s supply chains that laid bare pre-existing deficiencies. Supply chains are complex systems requiring communication and coordination across multiple parties with varying aims and genuine competitive concerns around data. 

Management clarity about the real-time and near-term state of operations demands visibility into freight assets and services via information exchange among often-reluctant players. When recent, abnormal conditions undermined the predictability of operations, disruptions ensued and the visibility deficit became acute. In essence, the logistics “fog of war” grew thick and spread widely. FLOW is an attempt to shed light for the common benefit, through voluntary participation of key players sharing information, supported by BTS as their independent steward of data and guarantor of its protection under law.

Problem and Solution

FLOW is a multi-stage program with long-term, national ambition. Data collected in the program are meant to be immediately actionable. BTS has been facing more demand for current data since the pandemic, and this coincides with supply chain goals for optimizing plans and decisions in real-time. The major objectives of this project are:

  1. Provide supply chain expertise and technical assistance.  
  2. Research, develop, and document data sources, methods, processes, and procedures for  improving BTS freight and supply chain statistics.  
  3. Assess the FLOW pilot and provide a scope of work to scale FLOW to a national  program. Develop a long-term approach to transition FLOW into a national Freight  Logistics Index. 
  4. Develop aggregate demand and capacity ratios and statistical measures to increase  transparency and efficiency within the U.S. containerized export community.

Xentity provided a wide range of on-call expert support to the FLOW and offered recurring workshop supply chain developments, industry standards, and data sets. We also provided a FLOW Pilot Assessment which produced two products: an internal assessment of the FLOW pilot for BTS and participants, and an overview of the pilot for public consumption. Building on the BTS FLOW Pilot Assessment White Paper from the previous task, we also prepared a National FLOW Program white paper, presentation and outreach plan. Capitalizing on the rich and growing data feeds from the FLOW program and considering the additional data sets identified in previous tasks, we also created a new national and authoritative Freight Logistics Index (FLI) index, providing a long-term composite measure for freight logistics at the local, regional, and national levels.

Outcome and Benefit

We provide specific expertise via our on-call support. We also helped transition from the pilot to a national program with additional entries (locations, participants, container sizes), domestic trade inclusion, and additional measures beyond volume/capacity. Furthermore, we ensured that the product was statistically significant (i.e. random sampling across public and private data sources of different industries and freight sectors) and crafted to reliably generate quarterly updates of the index. Finally, we advanced the Containerized Export Program by developing ratios and statistical measures to monitor the ability of the U.S. freight transportation network to meet the needs and unique challenges of the U.S. containerized export community.