There’s a shadowy culprit behind today’s desolate store shelves and half-empty warehouses. Many industries are haunted by what the malefactor leaves behind: Sold-out paper products, abandoned construction sites crippled by ceiling joist shortages, and errant packages that seem to disappear into an abyss — never to arrive on the doorstep of those who ordered them.
The culprit is frequently known by the familiar moniker, “supply chain shortages.”
Yet the stories behind this culprit are true. A recent survey of headlines reveals the messy reality of the modern supply chain — it is snarled, tangled, buckling, broken.
Stacks of chipped metal storage containers collect rust at overextended ports, where crews labor endlessly to meet the staggering demand. E-commerce vendors send sweetly packaged replacement products and discount codes to supplicate frustrated customers. All the while, consumers keep buying at an unprecedented clip: Imports continue to climb to an all-time high, shattering pre-pandemic records with each passing month.
But, as the world slogged through the throes of “The Everything Shortage,” logistics tech company project44 was busy designing the antidote.
What project44 does
The latest and most ambitious endeavor from project44 is called Movement: An end-to-end supply chain management platform that aims to illuminate every angle of the logistics journey.
“The problems we’re trying to solve with Movement are big,” said Product Manager Alyssa Hubbell.
“It’s become strikingly obvious over the last few years that supply chains are becoming more global, more complex — and can be disrupted by things like pandemics, natural disasters and everything we see in the news,” Hubbell said.
“Consumers have higher expectations than they ever have: We expect things to be on our doorsteps fast, and we expect excellent customer service when things go wrong,” Hubbell continued. “Supply chain professionals are under an immense amount of pressure to collaborate across multiple parties, make sure products are getting to destinations on time, and deal with disruptions they didn’t account for.”
Despite the immediacy modern consumers have come to crave from e-commerce, the supply chain industry largely operates on outmoded infrastructures. As a result, supply chain professionals must piece together the location of shipments by interacting with multiple platforms.
“Distinct modal points of data across the industry are pretty siloed,” offered Principal Engineer Art Lawry. “If you want to look at a shipment, you’re looking at separate air, ocean and ground shipment pages.”
It’s a fragmented system that Senior Product Designer Peter Zhao has explored from root to end. To create an industry-altering tool like Movement, Zhao and his colleagues needed to deeply understand the pain points of their users.
“It was an eye-opening moment to realize the true complexity of the work back-end logistics workers are doing daily,” Zhao said of the insights he gained from UX interviews and research.
“They have to source data from various platforms like carrier websites and emails from third-party logistics companies,” Zhao said. “Behind the scenes, they’re stitching this information together to guide their decision-making.”
“Oftentimes, they will have tons of tabs open from different websites — and will be chatting with the driver at the same time,” Zhao continued, shaking his head. “It’s an information overload.”
Hubbell chimed in: “One of the key pieces of inspiration for this project was the idea that one day our users could work with just one tab open.”
“That is Movement,” Hubbell said, nodding proudly.
What Is Movement?
“I don’t think anyone else in the space has taken the amount of data inputs and placed them in one experience,” Hubbell continued. “We’ve always been a data-first company, but Movement is really a stake in the ground when it comes to enabling our users to interact with that data.”
Principal Engineer Art Lawry had his sights set on the cohesion of these data points.
“We’ve always been able to provide great data to our customers,” Lawry said. “But now we’re able to give them a cohesive experience — no more jumping around between browser tabs and distinct interfaces.”
“We’re not only tying data together on the back-end, the service side and the API, we’re tying data together visually,” Lawry continued. “We’re letting people look at the same piece of data in new and interesting ways.”
Providing visibility into the multifaceted logistics journey is the driving force behind not just the functional design of Movement but its visual design, too.
A scroll through Movement’s landing page or a swipe through its interface reveals glittering cubes that refract light through crystalline frames. “A new way to see your supply chain,” the page reads, next to the sleek, transparent cube that has become Movement’s signature imagery.
“The clear cube gives us a way of representing the same piece of data that needs to be viewed from different angles by different people and the supply chain,” Lawry explained. “It feels like a perfect match for Movement.”
Much like its luminous aesthetic, the future is bright for Movement. Early launch feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“By all accounts, the London launch was successful,” Lawry said, grinning.
“Users were able to demo the product for the first time at computers — which can be stressful — but we heard that users were having delightful experiences without needing help from our team,” Lawry said. “A lot of feedback has pointed to how intuitive the experience was.”
Hubbell nodded in agreement. “We’ve spent all this time in the back room building this thing,” she said. “Seeing people interact with it and experiencing the gears turning about how they’ll incorporate it into their day-to-day work life is gratifying.”
If there’s one thing Hubbell, Zhao and Lawry want people to know about Movement, it’s the many hands that built it.
“This is the product of so many smart people working together, pulling in the same direction,” Lawry said, before reporting that the team included about 10 distinct engineering teams, 80 people across the organization and over 50 pieces of distinct code.
“This team is so passionate about delivering user-friendly solutions,” Zhao added. “We welcome anyone who is interested in changing the supply chain industry with us.”