This Week in Logistics News (November 26-30, 2012)

I didn’t win the $585 million PowerBall jackpot this week, which is not surprising, because when it comes to lotteries, taking shortcuts through town when I’m late, and picking the fastest checkout lines, I’m like Hemingway’s old man: “salao, which is the worst form of unlucky.”

On to the news, which is dominated this week by transportation management technology.

Almost three years ago I envisioned an app store for logistics software, and the news from LeanLogistics this week is another step in that direction. The company announced the On-Demand TMS® SuiteApp, built using NetSuite’s SuiteCloud Computing Platform. Think of SuiteApp as an app store where customers shop for apps to extend their NetSuite cloud-based ERP system, similar to Salesforce.com’s AppExchange. According to the press release, “NetSuite customers can leverage industry leading transportation management technology with a low cost, plug and play solution built into NetSuite ERP for quicker ROI compared to traditional TMS software.”

The “app store” model, especially one linked to an enterprise system with a relatively large customer base, is another avenue for TMS vendors to reach small and midsized companies, a segment of the market where managing transportation with spreadsheets and fax machines is still the norm.

In other TMS news, Precision Software announced that it has achieved Oracle Validated Integration of Precision Software Transportation Management System (TMS) Parcel v2012 with Oracle Transportation Management 6.2. According to the press release, “Precision Software TMS extends the functionality of Oracle Transportation Management by making it easier for customers to consider parcel carrier services during rate analysis and planning.”

Simply put, manufacturers and retailers today are looking for TMS solutions that go beyond truckload and less-than-truckload capabilities. Parcel shipping, fleet management, and global trade capabilities (ocean and air, plus customs compliance) are moving from the “wish list” to the “must have” list.

Last year, in “The IT Dilemma for 3PLs,” I raised the following question: Should 3PLs continue to develop their own IT systems in-house or should they implement third-party solutions instead? There are good arguments for both approaches, as the comments readers posted illustrate. A 3PL that invests significantly in its own solutions is CH Robinson. The company announced the latest update to its Navisphere technology platform, which is used globally by employees, customers, and service providers. Enhancements to the platform include “a modernized user interface, streamlined access to business-critical data, and customization to support customer requirements across global workflows.”

The platform also addresses a critical, but often overlooked, component of transportation management systems: network connectivity. Via Navisphere, customers “gain access to a centralized network of more than 100,000 supply chain partners, without the need to integrate with each provider individually.”

I’ve been saying it for years and I’ll say it again: when it comes to enabling supply chain and logistics processes, software is not enough; you also need B2B connectivity, and I believe companies should access it as a service, just like electricity or any other utility.

In another example of how smartphones and mobile devices are playing a bigger role in transportation management, Roadnet Technologies launched its MobileCast vehicle GPS tracking software on the Android™ smartphone operating system. Here are some excerpts from the press release:

The Roadnet Technologies MobileCast vehicle GPS tracking software enables companies to see a fleet’s transportation routes in real-time, combined with the ability to make changes to particular routes based on occurring events or conditions, such as traffic or the needs of customers.

 

The mobile application allows drivers to review their daily routes, complete stop surveys, examine stop information, record arrival and departure times, complete stop reconciliation, add delivery receipt information and mark stops as undeliverable. Roadnet has also taken advantage of integrating other Google Android technology such as voice navigation and traffic in order to provide a complete solution for delivery.

And finally, in another example of how innovations in packaging can result in transportation and warehousing operational efficiencies, Staples announced “the launch of new packaging technology nationwide that customizes delivery box sizes to each order.” Among the benefits cited in the press release: “Customized box sizes allow more shipments to fit on each line haul and more orders in each delivery truck. In addition, just-in-time packaging with Smart-size reduces costs and warehouse space from storing delivery boxes.” For related commentary, see “Del Monte Foods: Packaging, Transportation, and Sustainability” and “The Importance of Packaging in Supply Chain Management.”

And with that, goodbye November, hello December. Have a great weekend!

Song of the Week: “Wishing I Was Lucky” by Wet Wet Wet.

(Note: CH Robinson, Descartes, LeanLogistics, and Precision Software are Logistics Viewpoints sponsors).

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