Transforming the Trucking Industry with IBM Design Thinking

By Leo Shrayber, CEO Truck Trust

It was a bright sunny Saturday in Miami when I received a phone call from Ron Argent, the CEO of London-Based Cognition Foundry, a customer and approved partner of IBM.

“IBM is running an incubation program and this is the first time they are willing to take on an outside project. You need to apply.”

The next day I found myself speaking to Bill Stark, IBM LinuxONE marketer, an energetic and well spoken guy with big personality. As I am going thru a pitch about my ideas on how to change the business of logistics I find myself in the audience of a person who can easily relate and understand the issues the industry is facing and the solutions I am offering. Having spent the past 14 years in logistics operations, my insight into the problems plaguing the industry is deep.

Identifying the user ecosystem, and surfacing pain points that exist in the logistics industry today.

I explained that the world of logistics is very large and it rests on the shoulders of millions of companies that rely on thousands of disparate systems. These systems don’t talk to each other. Antiquated processes and outdated forms of communication keep many companies in the dark, preventing them from effectively competing in a crowded marketplace. Lack of transparency causes a lack of trust between companies. The same inefficiencies make truck drivers’ jobs difficult and their livelihood sub-par. The environment suffers as well, as many miles traveled by empty trucks add up to an enormous amount of CO2 unnecessarily spit out into the atmosphere.

Something has to be done about it, and I believe we can solve many of these issues with the use of Blockchain technology and systems integration. For example, if people in the logistics ecosystem are able to collaborate and share the information freely — if data can flow seamlessly across systems — companies can make decisions faster. They can utilize available equipment intelligently, and increase their bottom line, improving the lives of truck drivers and helping the environment all at the same time. Bill connected me with a team of IBMers who understood my vision and agreed. At that moment I couldn’t be happier to have a company like IBM behind me and my ideas. I felt validated.

Using IBM Design Thinking

Shortly after, I was told that my project received approval for incubation by a team of early career IBM designers, and my preparation began. My expertise is within the logistics industry, not software development. I worried about how I would fare while working with software designers and developers in a completely new work environment. However, after the project kick off meeting, all my worries were put to rest. It turned out, the project team had the entire process well planned. All I had to do is to bring people from various logistics companies who will be end users of my application after it is released. These are the people who influence the course of software development, since they are the ones who encounter the problems on daily basis and they are the ones who want to improve their businesses. I also had to make myself available for the design team, as a field expert, to educate, answer questions and translate industry specific jargon.

Empathy maps help ground the team in what each user type is doing, thinking, feeling and saying so that they can better understand the pain points in a user’s job.

I flew to Austin, Texas where the flagship IBM Studio is located. Walking into the studio I was instantly taken by the open design. There was no gray cubicles or drop ceilings. Work spaces were divided by white boards suspended from rails above that can be rolled to open the space up if necessary. Transparent glass meeting rooms foster inclusion and collaboration. Freedom of expression was apparent in the way people dress. In our first group meeting I was given a chance to talk about the business of logistics, while the designers and their leaders attentively listened and took notes. I thought it would be difficult to have people comprehend the key concepts of an industry new to them, but I was wrong. The team consisted of some of the most intelligent people I have met. Not only did they easily understand the basics, they could also figure out the subtle nuances all on their own. What followed in the next 5 days was an incredible experience for me.

I worked hands-on with the design team in their collaboration space to explain the complexity of the logistics industry

Using activities that are part of IBM Design Thinking practices, the team interviewed users, created personas, made prototypes and collaborated endlessly to get to the bottom of things. Talented and driven, they dissected the logistics industry into pieces, validated the problems and created intelligent user flows that will be the basis of the “TruckTrust” application. A mini-project that lasted only a month produced more than half of all the wireframes needed for the project. It was all packaged in an end-to-end user story that solved the pain points the team uncovered, and conveyed the vision for the new user experience. I was very impressed.

In IBM Design Thinking practice, primary research with end-users is essential for building an understanding and developing empathy. Here the team is interviewing trucking industry professionals.
In IBM Design Thinking practice, Hills help align design and development teams around the most important goals to achieve for users.
IBM Design Thinking practice includes “Playbacks,” or user-centered presentations that are important points of alignment for product teams.

Next Steps

Now that the TruckTrust platform is off on the right foot we will continue the development on our own to create an autonomous logistics network. IBM Blockchain and LinuxONE are our technologies of choice to accomplish that goal. It holds great promise and is a perfect fit for the business of logistics. Trust, collaboration and consensus are the terms native to this new technology as they should be for any business. At the same time, we are improving the lives of truck drivers and helping the environment. After all, we all need fresh air to breathe.

Prototype of Truck Trust software application currently in development

Special thanks

To Ron Argent for introducing me to Bill Stark. To Bill for introducing my project to Meredith Stowell, who sponsored it. To Kara Kotwas and Erica Raymond for leading the project. And to all the designers: Patrick Ree, Abdullah Alomari, Claire McCloskey, Andreas Rau, Sammy Schuckert, Cody Cai and Nathalie Martin. Hope to work with you guys again in the near future!

Leo Shrayber is CEO of Truck Trust based in Miami, Florida. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.