Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fun and relaxing vacation. Now it’s back to the grind — and fun. There was very little news this week, but here’s what caught my attention:

As expected, the JDA and RedPrairie merger was completed right before the holidays. The combined company (with total revenues of over $1 billion) will adopt the JDA brand name and be headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. According to the press release:

Since the merger agreement was announced on November 1, 2012, the two companies have been preparing an integration plan designed to rapidly combine the operations of the two companies into one. The plan is now substantially complete, and the integration process will begin early in the new year and will be rapidly followed up with an integrated product roadmap in the second quarter, in time for the combined user group conference on May 5, 2013.

JDA has been down this road several times in the past with other acquisitions, including Manugistics and i2 Technologies. We’ll just have to wait until Q2 and JDA’s user group conference to get a better sense of the road ahead for the company and its customers. For related commentary, see “Best of Breeds are Dead. Long Live Best of Breeds!

As I noted in my predictions for 2013, mobile technologies (along with social, cloud, and big data) will continue to dominate the technology headlines this year. The latest example is Roadnet Technologies, which announced enhancements to its MobileCast vehicle GPS tracking software, including a new module, MobileCast Manager “that targets sales and merchandiser managers so that they can monitor time spent at a customer or prospect as well as mileage by sales or merchandiser personnel.” According to the press release:

This is a web-based tool that presents data on time and mileage so that managers can understand how much time is spent with a customer, how many “routes” have been run, the amount of driver time and how many miles are reported for reimbursement. Sales representatives and merchandisers also have the ability to edit mileage reported via GPS to remove personal mileage.

In the 3PL world, UPS announced a new express air freight service, UPS Worldwide Express Freight, “for urgent, time-sensitive and high-value international heavyweight shipments.” Here are some details from the press release:

Customers now can ship pallets over 150 lbs. as easily as packages exclusively within UPS’s global air network from 37 origins to 41 destination countries and territories. This guaranteed, day-definite, door-to-door service features some of the fastest times in transit in the industry, including overnight shipping from the Asia Pacific region, Europe and the Americas to the United States. Two-day shipping is available to Europe from Asia Pacific, the United States, and the Americas.

 

UPS Worldwide Express Freight service offers many of the same features as UPS’s Worldwide Express package service, including automated shipment preparation, online tracking and proactive notification technology. In addition, both express freight and package shipments are consolidated into one bill.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart plans to monitor the warehouses of its 3PLs, “in the same way it tries to police conditions at suppliers’ factories around the globe,” in response to “protests, fines and lawsuits stemming from complaints of poor worker treatment at the warehouses.” Here are some excerpts from the article:

In California, state regulators have been investigating warehouses for violations including failure to provide necessary safety shoes and other equipment, as well as allegations that workers with heatstroke were denied proper medical care.

 

In Illinois, workers have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that a hiring agency cheated warehouse workers out of wages by rounding down hours and withholding overtime pay.

 

The warehouse industry has a history of worker safety problems: With more than 670,000 workers, there are 5.5 injury and illness cases per 100 full-time warehouse workers, higher than the rate at industries such as mining (2.2 cases per 100 workers), construction (3.9) and manufacturing (4.4), according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Cases involving Schneider National and NFI Industries were mentioned in the article. Both 3PLs are pointing the finger at the staffing agencies they use as being the responsible parties. In my opinion, however, that’s no excuse, assuming the alleged wrongdoings are true. When you outsource a function to a third party, you don’t outsource ultimate oversight and responsibility. This is true for shippers outsourcing to 3PLs, manufacturers working with suppliers, and 3PLs working with subcontractors like staffing agencies and trucking companies.

At the end of the day, the buck stops with the brand owner at the top of the pyramid, in this case Walmart, which is why the company is taking action. We’ve seen it in other cases too, such as Apple taking action in response to labor issues at Foxconn and its suppliers, and it wouldn’t surprise me if other companies follow Walmart’s lead in taking a deeper and closer look at its outsourced logistics operations. As we’ve seen on the product side, having visibility to Tier 1 suppliers is not enough; you also have to know who your 3PLs are subcontracting to on your behalf, and if those subcontractors are subcontracting to other companies too. And you have to make sure that everyone down the chain is informed of your policies and expectations, and is in compliance with them.

And with that, have a great weekend!

Song of the Week: “Head On” by The Jesus and Mary Chain

(Note: JDA is a Logistics Viewpoints sponsor)