This Week in Logistics News (April 16-20, 2012)

There were several new product announcements this week, so let’s get right to them…

Three years ago, in “The Expanding Footprint of TMS,” I wrote the following:

Transportation Management Systems have traditionally been developed and deployed in silo fashion. For example, parcel shipping, fleet management, and global trade capabilities have historically been offered as standalone applications, developed on different technology platforms, with little or no integration between them or with other transportation and supply chain solutions.

 

Fortunately, the status quo is beginning to change….software vendors are transforming TMS from a fragmented collection of applications to a unified platform where users across the enterprise and value chain can execute role-specific processes via configurable user interfaces, workflows, and web services.

Descartes’ announcement this week shows that the status quo has indeed changed. The company’s cloud-based Transportation Management suite “now includes transportation execution capabilities that provide better control across fleet and for hire operations and help with carrier compliance for small package shipments.” Other TMS vendors have also expanded their solution footprint in recent years, either organically or via acquisition, to include fleet management and parcel shipping capabilities, as well as global trade functionality. The bottom line is that the days of having to implement three or more transportation management solutions to address your common carrier, private fleet, parcel, and international shipments are coming to an end — maybe not fast enough, but getting there nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Kewill also announced the introduction of Kewill Flagship Express, “a SaaS-based shipping solution designed to provide small- and medium-sized businesses a cost-effective U.S. origin shipping solution without sacrificing performance or flexibility.” The TMS market was one of the early adopters of the software-as-a-service model, and although the parcel segment has been relatively late to the game (due in large part to resistance by UPS), the needle is starting to move. Earlier this year, Agile Network released AgileShip SE, a parcel and LTL shipping solution that integrates with QuickBooks and users can download and enable directly from the Intuit App Center — a perfect example of a trend I first wrote about in “An App Store for Logistics Software” and “Software-as-a-(Self)-Service.”

Also this week, JDA Software announced the release of JDA® Assortment 8.0, a merchandising solution that “effectively combines consumer purchase preferences, in-depth analytics, complete assortment lifecycle planning, and sizing and pre-pack optimization into one simple, easy-to-use workflow.” According to the press release, “JDA Assortment is the result of converging the JDA® Buying and Assortment Management and JDA® Assortment Planning applications. By bringing together the bottom-up and top-down approaches to planning, retailers are better enabled to successfully plan assortments that align with the needs of their customers and their company’s strategic objectives.”

Earlier this month, we published a guest commentary by Kevin O’Meara focused on “the greatest talent pool available – America’s veterans.” Ryder’s announcement this week is an example of how companies can tap into this talent pool. Here is an excerpt from the press release:

Ryder System, Inc….has launched a new military recruiting website at www.ryder.com/military to help veterans easily match their military skills with open positions at Ryder. The new website is part of Ryder’s military recruiting efforts, which includes a commitment to hire 1,000 military veterans by 2013.

 

At www.ryder.com/military, veterans can access an automated feature that enables them to search for jobs according to their specific Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) or Military Occupation Code (MOC). Once a veteran enters his or her MOS/MOC into Ryder’s search engine, it will automatically filter the search to display open positions at Ryder that specifically match that job code. The website also enables veteran applicants to search for jobs by geography, keyword, or job title. Ryder currently has more than 670 job openings across all states in the U.S.

The House passed the transportation bill extension on Wednesday, but it includes language approving the controversial Keystone Pipeline, and so President Obama has threatened to veto the bill. “Nothing shows off the worst of Congress like a highway bill,” begins an op-ed published this past Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal. “And this year’s scramble for cash is worse than ever because the 18.4 cent a gallon gasoline tax will raise $70 billion less than the $263 billion Congress wants to spend over the next five years. Let the mayhem ensue.”

Finally, another case study in supply chain risk management came to light this week. An explosion last month at an Evonik Industries AG plant in Marl, Germany has disrupted the global supply of nylon-12, a specialty resin that automakers use to make fuel and brake lines. Evonik produces about 25 percent of the world’s supply and production of the resin won’t resume for at least three months. According to a Wall Street Journal article, “More than 200 auto executives met in a Detroit suburb on Tuesday to evaluate a looming shortage of a relatively obscure resin essential to modern auto production…During [the] meeting, the 200 executives were divided into separate teams. Each was assigned a task, such as finding a replacement material or identifying new firms to produce it.”

Rather than repeat myself here, just read my past postings on supply chain risk management to get my perspective on this topic (including “Supply Chain Resiliency: Make Your Own Luck” and “The Japan Earthquake and Supply Chain Risk Management”).

Have a great weekend!

(Note: Descartes, JDA Software, CH Robinson, LeanLogistics, and Ryder are ARC clients)