MachShip, the right place at the right time.
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give much thought to the shipping and logistics industry. That doesn’t change the fact that your life would be drastically different if products and materials didn’t flow smoothly through the world’s supply chains.
This is why businesses like MachShip, an Australian tech company whose software platform is sort of a Kayak for the shipping industry, are the modern world’s unsung heroes. “The issue that we solve is universal, everywhere in the world,” as the company’s co-founder and CEO, Michael McKay, puts it. Yet, until you dive deep into what a company like MachShip does, it's easy to take its innovations for granted.
A unique, worldwide problem
As it often happens, MachShip would never have been built had a few key people not been at the right place exactly at the right time.
The company traces its roots to work that McKay and Daniel Shannon, another co-founder, were doing about a decade ago in the logistics industry. Shipping technology was already a big business, but McKay and Shannon recognized a major pain point that was hindering logistics companies’ ability to operate efficiently: every customer they served had different logistics software and systems. As a result, sharing data, managing schedules, setting prices, and so on was a tremendous mess. Each partnership required a bespoke set of tools, making it impossible for companies in need of freight services to locate providers quickly and easily.
On top of that, most shipping and logistics companies “are notoriously not good at IT,” McKay says. Unlike other industries, these businesses struggled to embrace digital innovation and build solutions that could streamline data and process integrations between shipping providers and their customers.
But there were exceptions–including the company Shannon was working for at the time, which set out to build a new IT platform to serve as a standardized, universal means of allowing companies in the shipping industry to collaborate.
Initially, the platform was designed to support Shannon’s company. But, seeing a much bigger opportunity to leverage the technology across the industry, McKay and Shannon bought the tech platform and then founded MachShip, as a standalone business in 2014. And have focused on improving and evolving the platform ever since.
Kayak for shipping (but not really)
Calling MachShip a Kayak for the shipping and logistics industry is an over-simplified explanation of how its platform works. Yes, just as Kayak presents a variety of provider options to users looking to book flights or rental cars, MachShip connects businesses looking for freight services with companies who can provide them.
That said, there are some important differences between a tool like Kayak and MachShip. The biggest one is that MachShip requires customers to maintain their own accounts with shipping providers—so MachShip doesn’t play matchmaker as much as it streamlines interactions between businesses that already have relationships in place.
On top of this, there is the fact that—as you might imagine—purchasing freight is not exactly as straightforward as booking a flight. MachShip has to factor in a complex set of nuances (details like weight and size of each freight load, for example) in order to provide shipping options tailored to the needs of a particular user and the goods they need to move. MachShip also provides a communication portal for shippers and receivers to talk to each other–another critical feature given the complex nature of the freight industry. And it offers APIs companies can use to integrate MachShip tooling directly into their internal logistics systems.
In doing all this, “the core value that MachShip creates is enabling the use of multiple transport providers,” says Sam Rowse, the company’s director.
While that may not seem like a big deal to a layperson, it’s huge for the shipping industry. There are hundreds of major shipping companies around the world, and hundreds of thousands of businesses in need of their services. Without a tool like MachShip, finding the best freight provider for a given load would be tedious, time-consuming work, and it would be hard to know whether you’re getting the ideal service—or the best price—based on your freight’s requirements. It would also be hard for smaller-scale businesses to work with very large shipping providers to move goods across borders. By putting all options at buyers’ fingertips, MachShip makes selecting optimal shipping options faster and more convenient.
That’s not only a boon for the companies that rely on shipping services, it also benefits consumers like you. Almost every single thing in your home, the car you drive, the computer you use, and so on was accessible to you thanks to a supply chain that included a series of freight transports. By allowing businesses to move freight more efficiently down the chain to consumers, MachShip helps ensure that consumers receive what they need and want quickly.
MachShip serves several hundred freight providers directly. And a number of those providers are freight brokers, who resell freight services to thousands more companies. So, ultimately, MachShip helps a tremendous number of businesses get things to where they need to be. The MachShip system handled about 4.5 million individual transport loads in 2021, a considerable feat for a company that’s not even ten years old, and whose operations are currently limited to Australia.
Today Australia, Tomorrow the World
But MachShip won’t focus just on the Australian freight market forever, says McKay. The company plans to expand worldwide.
Indeed, part of what makes a platform like MachShip so important, McKay notes, is that no matter where in the world you go, “you have trucks, you have planes, you have vehicles, it’s all the same stuff,” and it all needs a logistics system to manage what gets shipped where. MachShip can be that system for every business in every country in the world.
MachShip’s plans for expansion hinge in part on Equinix Metal, which provides an infrastructure solution that allows MachShip to host its software platform close to its customers, wherever in the world they may be. That’s one reason why McKay and team turned to Metal as their hosting solution early on.
The other reasons, McKay says, are that “the cloud is a money pit,” making conventional cloud servers a poor choice for hosting MacShip, and control, “I crave being close to the equipment,” which is something Metal’s dedicated bare metal services make possible.
McKay isn’t yet sure exactly when MachShip will begin its foray abroad, but he says the only work that remains to be done is internationalizing the platform. From there, he expects smooth sailing–or shipping, as the case may be–in bringing MachShip’s unique functionality to the world.
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