This Week in Logistics News (April 15-19, 2013)

As I write this, the greater Boston area (including where I live) is in lockdown as the police hunt for the second suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings (the first suspect was killed overnight). I’m amazed by how quickly the investigation has progressed, and how organized the response by law enforcement has been. We’ll learn more in the hours and days ahead.

In the meantime…

SAP reported that total revenues and net profit increased 7 percent and 17 percent, respectively, in Q1 2013 compared to Q1 2012. Revenue from SAP HANA and cloud subscriptions and support tripled in the period compared to the previous year. In contrast, software revenues only increased 3 percent compared to the previous year, falling below analyst expectations. This is yet another indication of how cloud deployments are driving growth in the enterprise software industry today. “Our industry is at a fundamental transformation point, driven by the convergence of mobile, cloud and big data. SAP’s 25% growth [in software and cloud subscriptions] shows that we are not only leading this change but also gaining significant worldwide market share,” said SAP Co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe.

In other technology news, Nulogy announced the availability of new updates to its iPad-optimized Mobile WMS and QCloud product lines. According to the press release:

The PackManager Mobile WMS module now handles the majority of warehouse functions previously available to customers in the system’s legacy mobile experience. Receiving and Move workflows in particular have been streamlined with a brand new user interface (UI). The new UI, which is optimized for iPads, allows users to access information more quickly with an improved layout, lets workers focus on tasks by reducing the need to interact with the software, supports natural touch gestures, and uses custom on-screen keyboards to dramatically improve the compatibility with bluetooth barcode scanners.

 

“The Nulogy user experience design and engineering teams have been working continuously to bring a new generation of technology to our contract packaging and manufacturing customers,” said Jason Yuen, Nulogy’s Chief Technology Officer.

This news underscores a point I made in my Talking Logistics episode yesterday: software vendors are starting to compete on design, not just features and functions, and part of this trend is developing solutions optimized for mobile platforms, including tablets and smartphones. More on this topic in a future posting.

Out of the UK, an interesting startup called Speedy Route launched a free, online multi-stop routing solution. Here are some excerpts from the website:

Speedy Route calculates the best route when visiting multiple locations and then returning back to the start. It is ideal for delivery drivers, sales people on the road, or anyone who needs to make multiple stops. Speedy Route re-orders the locations you enter into the best optimal order, so that every location is visited once before returning to your start location in the shortest and quickest way possible. Speedy Route also provides full driving directions between all stops.

 

Speedy Route is brought to you by Magic Hat Solutions Ltd. Speedy Route is currently a free web service, but we reserve the right to charge a fee to use the service in the future [emphasis mine]. Speedy Route incorporates Google Directions in its results, and uses portions of the Open source software OpenOpt to help calculate the optimal route.

On the one hand, you can dismiss this solution as a “toy” compared to more sophisticated routing and scheduling solutions. But on the other, this solution coupled with a freemium business model (it’s clear the company plans to charge users in the future to solve more complex routes) might be an effective approach to penetrate the low end of the market. To me, this is another example of how software companies continue to experiment with go-to-market strategies and deployment models to cost-effectively service the SMB market.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reports that Procter & Gamble “is planning to add weeks to the amount of time it takes to pay its suppliers.” Here are some more details from the article:

P&G is actually late to this game. It currently pays its bills on average within 45 days, faster than the 60 to 100 days that other consumer products makers and large companies in other industries generally take, according to industry experts. The company is looking to move its payment terms to 75 days and recently started negotiations with suppliers, people familiar with the matter said.

 

To help suppliers deal with the changes, P&G is working with banks that will offer to advance cash to suppliers after 15 days for a fee, some of the people said. The changes are expected to be phased in over three years and ultimately could affect hundreds of companies, the people said.

As a small business owner myself who occasionally has to deal with late payments, managing cash flow is an ongoing challenge. This strategy P&G is employing does nothing but shift problems across the supply chain, which ultimately comes back to bite you later on. If you truly consider your suppliers partners in the success of your company, one of the best ways to show them is to pay them on time. Otherwise, collaboration and partnership are just empty words.

Have a great weekend!

Song of the Week: “Walk On” by U2 (from 9/11 tribute)

Note: SAP is a Logistics Viewpoints sponsor.

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