GE Transportation buys ShipXpress in bid for rail shippers

GE Transportation buys ShipXpress in bid for rail shippers

The acquisition of ShipXpress will help GE Transportation round out its RailConnect 360 suite of software programs, and Movement Planner, which uses real-time data to optimize rail network utilization.

The acquisition of cloud-based software company ShipXpress puts GE Transportation on track to expanding its business with rail shippers and railroads worldwide, blending GE’s tracking and equipment-based technology with ShipXpress’s supply chain management systems.

The deal is the latest in a slew of acquisitions and investments in the logistics market, and especially the logistics technology sector. The effective goal of many of these deals is to increase the level of automation within logistics and to deliver supply chain visibility to shippers.

The ShipXpress acquisition makes GE Transportation much more than a provider of equipment, in this case, of locomotives. The company already offers railroads and shippers technology to improve equipment performance and their supply chains. ShipXpress will take GE even further.

GE Transportation, which targets heavy industrial markets including the rail, mining, and marine businesses, said the ShipXpress acquisition “deepens” its logistics management capabilities. That will advance GE’s plans to “digitize” rail operations as part of an “Industrial Internet.”

The combination of ShipXpress software and GE sensing technology and its Predix platform will “deliver the industry’s most advanced, scalable cloud-based solution to accelerate the movement of goods and information,” said Jamie Miller, GE Transportation president and CEO.

“Our combined capabilities will help short-line railroads better analyze their rail operations, car accounting and supply chain information, and deliver a data-rich path to ongoing performance improvement, asset and operations optimization,” Miller said in a statement Tuesday.

GE isn’t the only transportation original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, looking to extend its reach and technological capabilities beyond focusing on equipment performance to helping its customers, and their customers, improve their supply chain and corporate performance.

Volkswagen subsidiary MAN Truck & Bus AG recently invested $8.5 million in a logistics tech start-up, FR8 Revolution. “They make trucks, but it’s a natural extension to go from the truck itself to the ecosystem that goes around that truck,” Matthew Kropp, CEO of FR8, said.

GE Transportation has already made a similar leap on the rail side with its RailConnect 360 suite of software programs, which include transportation and revenue management systems, and Movement Planner, which uses real-time data to optimize rail network utilization.

RailConnect 360 is based on Predix, an operating platform developed by GE for building applications that connect assets in an Industrial Internet of Things and collect and analyze large amounts of data. The Predix platform is used by companies across a broad range of industries.

Acquiring ShipXpress extends GE’s reach into the rail “ecosystem” by connecting it with shippers. ShipXpress was launched in 2000 to provide rail shipment reporting and data analysis to shippers, starting with ShipX Trax and expanding to multi-modal pricing with ShipX Rates.

The Neptune Beach, Florida-based company expanded into rail management software in 2007 by acquiring the assets of the RailSync division of Railinc. Since then, it has focused on developing a collaborative, supply chain platform for both railroads and rail shippers.

The goal is “transform the role of rail, truck and other modes of transport in global supply chain management," and to “achieve the promise of real-time collaboration among trading partners,” ShipXpress Co-CEOs and founders Raghu Misra and Seth Maerowitz said in a statement.

They’ve got plenty of competition in the race to deliver on that promise. The Peggy Smedley Institute, which focuses on Internet of Things education, claims there have been nearly 500 significant deals in the industries that comprise the IoT “ecosystem” in the past 12 months.

Logistics and transportation are verticals ripe for further investment and development.

Contact William B. Cassidy at bill.cassidy@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @wbcassidy_joc.