This Week in Logistics News (April 30-May 4, 2012)

This morning I am giving a presentation on “Putting Leadership Development and Education Back on Your Calendar…and Budget” at the CSCMP New England Roundtable Executive Breakfast. I wrote about this topic last year in “What’s Missing in Your 2012 Budget?” and I’m sure I’ll gain some new insights from this morning’s conversation, which I’ll share in a future posting. In the meantime, here are some news items that caught my attention this week:

The use of mobile technologies in supply chain and logistics processes remains a hot trend in the industry, along with social media and business intelligence. This week Descartes announced that its MobileLink solution is now available on the widely-deployed Android platform. Here is an excerpt from the press release:

MobileLink for Android is a GPS-based solution for managing pick-up and delivery operations, and is part of Descartes’ Routing, Mobile and Telematics suite. The solution provides route sequences, route status, vehicle tracking and dynamic dispatching. Through Descartes’ cloud-based Wireless Global Logistics Network, MobileLink communicates bi-directionally, in real-time, with Descartes’ route planning and execution solutions and customer backend systems. With MobileLink, companies have better visibility into the real-time actions of their drivers and field workers and the ability to make changes in-route.

On the TMS front, JDA Software announced enhancements to its JDA® Transportation Manager and JDA® Transportation Planner. The most interesting enhancement is the integration to Chainalytics Freight Market Intelligence (iFMI) Service. According to the press release:

JDA’s strategic alliance with Chainalytics enables users to access freight market insights, rate benchmarks and predictive analytics from within JDA Transportation Manager, providing an integrated view of the dynamic transportation market to help companies more effectively and accurately plan and execute transportation-related decisions.

Back in January 2011, I wrote about “The Missing Link in Transportation Business Intelligence” — i.e., how transportation BI dashboards allow companies to compare their current performance against what they accomplished last year, as well as what they planned/budgeted to achieve this year, but they generally don’t provide companies with any insight on how their performance compares against industry peers or the broader market.

The Missing Link in Transportation BI Dashboards

JDA’s alliance with Chainalytics addresses this missing link, following in the footsteps of CH Robinson, LeanLogistics, Transplace, and a few other TMS providers that have added similar capabilities over the past couple of years. As I wrote in my January 2011 posting, we are still in the early stages of this trend, and a lot more learning and experimentation by all parties needs to occur. But if you want a more complete and insightful answer to “How’m I doing?” in managing transportation, you’re starting to get it.

Speaking of BI and analytics, SAP announced this week “the availability of new analytics capabilities in the collaborative decision-making application SAP® StreamWork™. Users can upload, explore, analyze and visualize data directly within SAP StreamWork, and collaborate with teams to make fact-based decisions.” This is another example of how software vendors are starting to position social media-like tools into business processes where collaboration and communication between different people is important (see Steve Banker’s recent posting about Infor’s Infor10 ION Workspace). However, I think the integration of social media tools in enterprise software applications (despite being a big fan of them) is another case of where technology is way out in front of what most people and companies are ready to adopt at the moment. More on this topic in a future posting.

Finally, keeping pace with other logistics service providers, Con-way reported strong Q1 financial results. The company reported 2012 first-quarter net income of $25.6 million, or 46 cents per diluted share, compared to Q1 2011 net income of $6.9 million, or 12 cents per diluted share. Revenue for Q1 2012 was $1.37 billion, a 9.7 percent increase from Q1 2011. Menlo Worldwide Logistics, the company’s 3PL operation, saw its revenue and operating income increase 13.3 percent and 42.2 percent, respectively, in Q1 2012 compared to the same period a year ago.

And with that, I’m out of time. Have a great weekend!

(Note: Descartes, JDA Software, SAP, Con-way, CH Robinson, LeanLogistics, Transplace, and Infor are ARC clients and/or Logistics Viewpoints sponsors)