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The supply chain has been given a new blend of market disruptions in the past year. Beyond the obvious pandemic, digital commerce surges and new expectations for next-day delivery have some inventory managers scrambling to keep up with demand while meeting expectations in performance and operations.

Inevitably, cost management goes hand in hand with achieving competitive consumer satisfaction results, so this adds another layer of stress for the team to maintain. Of course, none of this matters if the product is unavailable, and if the status of goods is unknown for extended periods of time, the lack of visibility alone can quickly diminish any chance of maintaining a competitive edge. 

So, what does it take, then? Tom Martucci, chief technology officer at Consolidated Chassis Management, shares that previously held ideals toward inventory management have shifted.

“Inventory management, which was primarily driven by just-in-time philosophies before COVID, has evolved,” Martucci said. “The realization of disruption and the need for ‘buffer stock’ is no longer seen as a luxury but a necessity, particularly in asset management. The operational degradation, lost sales and recovery costs have proven far more impacting than any savings from keeping stocks ‘tight.’ Most companies will now reconsider these old philosophies, with more consideration given to service continuity.”

So, what can be done to better understand what is needed for that competitive advantage everyone in the industry is aiming to achieve? It starts with appropriate asset management. Martucci shares that assets–primarily their utilization and costs–need to be approached with a different philosophy in mind.

“The lessons over the past year have shown us that we must consider a portion of our assets as ‘buffer stock’,” Martucci explains. “The costs of these assets need to be included with the overall pricing philosophies, where I believe these small increases, clearly explained to the stakeholders, are much more easily accepted than massive disruptions and recovery costs. As always, there needs to be dialogue between seller and buyer to assure there are clear expectations and deliverables.”

Technology fulfills a critical role in supporting proactive inventory management initiatives, especially for those warehouse managers struggling to keep up with unpredictable demand trends. The important thing to remember here is the level of visibility provided by the technology implemented. By successfully gathering critical information and data, managers are not left with risky assumptions and guesses. 

“Technology drives visibility, and visibility is a necessity for efficient inventory management,” Martucci says. “In the same way that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, I believe you can’t manage what you can’t ‘see’ in terms of asset visibility via solid technology. On the cutting edge of this evolution is the adaptation of GPS tracking and telematics of the asset itself. No longer will companies need to rely on and ‘hard reader’ verification of the asset’s location. On-board technology will not only be able to tell us where the equipment is, but also the physical condition of the asset. This will promote more efficient use and a higher degree of safety.”

Consolidated Chassis Management takes asset management and amplifies it. The key part of what makes the company’s solutions competitive is not only the amount of data provided, but also the right kind of data it gathers and manages. What makes CCM a highly competitive chassis pool manager is found at the core of CCM’s mission that embraces an inclusive and extended stakeholder reach while maximizing principles of quality, availability, flexibility, efficiency, sustainability and neutral management.

“Our technology division created our CIT platform with asset management as its core mission,” Martucci says. “The technology was developed to manage the assets within the CCM chassis pools, and we recently introduced it as a fleet management solution for other companies needing an equipment management solution. The underlying design of our technology includes logging and tracking the number of different metrics throughout the various supply chain processes. We consider our systems very data-rich, which provides us the visibility needed to effectively manage the assets.”

Additionally, CCM takes into consideration how the market is evolving and proactively prepares to adapt solutions for optimal customer support and add a level of flexibility for the customer. Adding to their focus on quality, Martucci explains that changes are in the works for advancing data integration capabilities in the near future.

“Although we are currently reliant on EDI and APIs for data sharing, we are preparing our APIs for the emerging evolution of GPS-Telematics which positions us to seamlessly integrate the new data into our applications and data warehouse,” he says. “These tools are highly flexible resources our management teams use in assuring the assets are where they are supposed to be and are maintained at the highest level.”

From traditional asset management philosophies to advanced technology integrations, Martucci makes it clear that going back to the basics of asset management is at the core of any inventory management approach. Without these key functions of a business within the supply chain, there is simply too much room for error if the goal is to remain competitive. 

“This starts with having a clear visibility as to where the assets are and what their condition is,” Martucci says. “Accepting that consistency is the forerunner of efficiency, establishing clear asset management processes and procedures is a key foundational element. Maintaining a clear set of business metrics that drive and support these business processes is a must; as we’ve said, ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure–or see in this case.” 

If your company made it through the past 12 months, consider what brought it to the other side of the pandemic and this new era of digital commerce. If there are still holes in your organization’s management approach, the time to rebuild the groundwork of your strategy is now. An important takeaway is that traditional philosophies – not antiquated methods, can be what sets your company apart from competitors. 


Tom Martucci is vice president and chief technology officer at Consolidated Chassis Management, where he is responsible for the identification of CCM’s computing needs as well as designing and enhancing CCM’s software suite to meet today’s market needs. He has more than 30 years of experience in the transportation industry, with responsibilities ranging from technical development of applications to developing IT strategies for several large corporations. Prior to joining CCM, he was the chief information officer with Interpool Inc., where he managed separate IT departments for servicing the leasing business and the design and development of Trac’s Poolstat system. Tom attended Iona College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, majoring in Management and minoring in Computer Science. He recently attained a certificate in Executive Training for High Performance at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. 



This year presented new challenges and literal roadblocks for the intermodal industry. From the blindsiding pandemic to the fluid political and regulatory climate, intermodal operations were tested without much of a warning. For some companies, the pandemic forced internal process changes, while proactive preparations proved beneficial for others. More importantly, the lessons taken from 2020’s unique disruptions will ultimately reveal which companies learned how to adapt for the future and which ones still have work to do post-pandemic.

Beyond adaption and predictions, collaboration for intermodalism is critical. Companies such as Consolidated Chassis Management continue to keep safe connectivity part of the foundation of its intermodal operations. Without this critical element, the success of any intermodal process is compromised.

“At the core, the entire intermodal system requires that we collaborate and connect,” explains Mike Wilson, CEO of Consolidated Chassis Management. “We witnessed the importance of working together at the onset of the coronavirus, but as the crisis levels off, we can see that organizations are moving back into their silos. This diminishes the impact that seamless, well-connected intermodalism can have on the supply chain.

“In chassis specifically, we look to optimize collaboration through interoperability, but the problem is systemic, and all supply chain stakeholders need to look to balance commercial interests with optimized supply chain fluidity.”

As all parts of the supply chain work to accommodate the “new normal” and future disruptions, Wilson further reiterates the importance of communication and sharing of information, particularly for upcoming peak seasons that require specific assets. This as well requires a proactive approach to gathering accurate and timely data and the specific needs of every part of the operation.

“Dislocation of assets becomes a significant challenge and some parts of the supply chain end up scrambling to source assets, whether it be containers or chassis, to accommodate surges or a new market demand,” Wilson says. “We must minimize inefficiencies and redundancies while maximizing utilization and availability for everyone operating in the supply chain. That means working together to meet the needs of the industry.”

He cites as an example of the timely sharing of data “so that logistics and equipment providers throughout the supply chain can plan accordingly, rearranging inventory and reallocating resources.”

Every part of the process is critical to the next step–whether that be the technology utilized to track or the equipment needed. When one part of the supply chain is delayed, every part of the supply chain feels it. Although it is difficult to predict every possible delay, there are more than enough resources and lessons from the past that all industry players can tap into and prepare with.

This means that last-minute changes must be prepared for before they happen. One example is revised schedules for ocean carriers. Wilson explained at the time when these schedules unexpectedly shifted, chassis and other equipment providers were forced to evaluate the state of their inventory. He cites the prompt notice of the changes for the success of planning initiatives.

“Open communication and sharing of information are great steps,” Wilson says. “Data sharing is critical to meticulously planning, minimizing waste, and streamlining processes. We must minimize inefficiencies and redundancies while maximizing utilization and availability for everyone operating in the supply chain.”

Technology goes together with collaboration and planning measures, especially in the current trading landscape. The important thing to keep in mind when utilizing the solutions offered by technology, however, is that the human element is equally important. Simply put, we need the combination of experienced team members and the appropriate technology to address the nuanced aspects of this business. To that end, identifying the right technology is critical. There is no “one-size-fits-all” technology approach.

“We still need to consistently look at our technological solutions to ensure they do not cause disruptions or generate new manual tasks that are solely performed to support a new function for the technology being adopted,” Wilson advises. “All stakeholders within the supply chain benefit from adopting technology that will integrate easily with other platforms whether it is an internal or external application. We need to pursue technologies that enhance and synergize with existing programs. Not only do we need experts with experience and knowledge to guide customers in a way that technology often can’t, but we also need to allow for ‘exceptions’ and swift, agile unexpected adjustments that cannot be left to technology alone.”

Automation is another factor intermodal players can tap into for successful navigation of fluid regulations and market dynamics. CCM offers intermodal providers a unique and effective solution for capturing unexpected costs while maximizing information available. When it comes to regulations, manual processes can hinder rather than help.

“When looking to navigate regulations and compliance issues, I would turn to automation as often as possible to take the manual process out of it wherever you can,” Wilson says. “CCM has a new M&R (MandR) system for intermodal equipment and one of the features we have built in addresses tax regulations.  Vendors, mechanics and intermodal asset owners do not have to worry about tax rates. We have a process whereby we get automatic updates for each state, push to our system, and it automatically updates. Users never have to worry. Wherever you can apply a strategy like this, do it.”

To put this all together, communication and utilizing the right resources are the common themes found for successfully operating in the intermodal sector, regardless of the market challenges and level of disruption. From post-pandemic environments to the constantly changing regulatory system, strategizing to ensure all parts of the supply chain are considered will make or break operations. In some cases, this includes competitors and partners alike.

Wilson concludes the conversation by adding: “It is important to remember that often, your biggest competitor can also be your biggest collaborator, especially in this industry. Working in collaboration with your competitors as well as other stakeholders is, after all, what intermodalism is all about.”


Mike Wilson is the chief executive officer of Consolidated Chassis Management.  Prior to joining CCM, he was senior vice president of Business Operations for Hamburg Süd, where he was responsible for all marine and terminal operations, equipment and intermodal, finance and accounting, information technology, human resources and administration. Mr. Wilson has 39 years of experience in international shipping, and his past duties have included senior positions in logistics, operations and customer service, covering a geographical scope that includes North America, Europe, Central America, the Caribbean and North Coast of South America. He received the 2018 Connie Award for his significant contributions to the evolution of containerized shipping and intermodalism.