It is not uncommon when I go to user conferences put on by software companies, for the keynote speeches to irritate me. Really, they should not. It should be expected that the company’s top executives will spin a rosy vision of the future enabled by their solutions. It is common that there will be some ambiguity as to whether the functionality described has been released or is planned. I usually learn more in track presentations by customers, side conversations with product managers, and by seeing product demos. That was the case at JDA Icon, which took place last week in Dallas. I liked what I heard in these side conversations. And I particularly liked what I saw.
JDA Software is a leading provider of supply chain solutions for planning, execution, and stores. At Icon, I learned of some very big companies who were customers. These mega-companies are well known for the excellence of their supply chain operations. They are also well known for refusing to publicly confirm which supply solutions they are using. I do not want anyone mad at me. So, I will not name them.
When it comes to what I saw, two products stood out. Starbucks had implemented a solution they were calling Teamworks. The solution is used for forecasting sales, labor scheduling, and time and attendance and had both online and mobile user interfaces. They co-innovated this solution with JDA.
For years, enterprise software companies have been working to get to a consumer-grade level of ease of use for their solutions when used on mobile applications. The Teamwork product can be used online, but workers and managers will often prefer to work with the application on smart phones. Store managers use it for scheduling and other activities. Store associates for seeing their schedule, swapping shifts, and related activities. It is the first mobile app I’ve seen in this space that has UBER type user friendliness and yet solves a complex scheduling problem.
A Robust Control Tower Solution
I liked JDA’s Luminate control tower even more. Control tower is a term that implies real-time visibility. But visibility to what? Shipments? The integrated business planning process? Finished goods inventory? The status of work on the factory floor? Supply chain risks? Ideally, a supply chain practitioner does not have to look at multiple views to do their job.
The Luminate Control Tower has a great look and feel. But more importantly, this SaaS based solution provides real-time visibility to shipments, orders at risk of not being fulfilled, and other supply chain issues. More importantly it is visibility and remediation. It is worth noting, that being able to tap into the supply chain plans provides a much richer predictive capability than control towers that only use execution data. It is not yet a complete end-to-end control tower. They need to add a robust solution for handling supply chain risks – like what riskmethods or Resilinc provide – to be truly comprehensive. But it is the closest to a complete solution that I have seen.
Impressively, this solution was built in less than a year. Even more impressive, Electrolux, their co-development customer, talked about an implementation in Europe that only took five months! Electrolux mentioned a wide variety of benefits and now plans to roll the solution out globally. Two other customers are already live and several more are piloting the system. This solution is going to have legs.
A Commitment to Public Cloud Solutions
JDA is in the midst of moving all their solutions to SaaS public cloud solutions that will be hosted by Microsoft’s Azure platform. Public cloud solutions implement more quickly and upgrade much more easily. JDA announced incentives to get on-prem customers to move to the Cloud solution.
When it comes to the transportation management systems (TMS), JDA has moved the transportation modeler capability to the public cloud Luminate environment and will move the rest of the solution in the next 18 months. ARC has long been a proponent of public cloud solutions because of the ways that the network data can be leveraged to improve benchmarking data. This data can also potentially be used to reduce empty miles by allowing more opportunities for continuous moves and for LTL to TL consolidation.
I was also at Transplace’s user conference – the Shipper Symposium – last week. Transplace provides SaaS TMS that leverages their network – over $8 billion in freight under management. Transplace is working with an AI partner and making good progress in leveraging network data to reduce empty miles.
It remains to be seen whether JDA will be able to leverage the network data they will generate from their Public Cloud TMS to equal effect. If they decide to let new customers either opt in or opt out around sharing their aggregated and anonymized data, which looks like their path right now, it is unlikely they will have enough network participants to drive valuable new insights.
A Platform that Supports IoT, AI, and Orchestration
Another solution I got briefed on, but did not see, is Luminate Warehouse Tasking. This product is designed to intelligently optimize tasks in real-time. It is a pull-based solution that works backwards from when goods need to be delivered to the dock and intelligently sequences and smooths tasks over the day on an ongoing basis to increase productivity while hitting service commitments. Very nice functionality with a nice product roadmap for future enhancements.
But what is worth noting is that they did not build Tasking in their WMS solution. They wanted a SaaS Public Cloud solution, so that made sense. But also, to take advantage of their ability to use the orchestration layer in their platform, they need more componentized solutions. The other advantage is that by building it outside of the WMS, they were able to build it much more quickly. I’m told it was built in just a few months. This a direction you will see JDA taking with all their products.
A true platform needs to be able to do advanced orchestration. With MuleSoft as their technology partner in this area, the Luminate platform, and a move to more componentization, JDA is moving in the right direction.
You’ll see more writing about this conference. I’ve heard some good user presentations I want to write up. Keynotes are about what might be possible in the future. But hearing what customers say, is a good way to provide a sanity check on a supplier’s existing capabilities.