This Week in Logistics News (August 19-23, 2013)

I went to Home Depot earlier this week to return a purchase, and the customer in front of me wanted to exchange a defective power tool with the same model, but he couldn’t find any on the shelf even though the store’s inventory system said 5 units were in stock.

For all the talk about Big Data, omni-channel fulfillment, and other sexy technology, at the end of the day, bad data (and in many cases, store-level execution) remains the Achilles heel of supply chain management.

Here’s the news that caught my attention from the past two weeks:

JDA Software announced the latest release of its supply chain planning suite, which is comprised of more than 20 applications. New innovations include inline analytics, process-driven workflows, packaged event-response levers, consolidated demand signals and in-memory technologies. Here’s some additional details about inline analytics:

JDA’s latest supply chain planning suite introduces inline analytics, the next generation of analytics that go beyond visibility to offer diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytics that provide the “why”, “what if” and “what’s optimal” insights necessary to take action. With analytics embedded within the processing platform, planners can respond to changes and resolve disruptions immediately. This approach allows organizations to reduce supply chain risk and potential customer dissatisfaction, versus traditional analytics that require postmortem analysis to determine root cause.

Embedding analytics within the processing platform is certainly the ideal way to enable users to make smarter decisions faster. However, not all insights and intelligence reside in a database. The missing link, in my opinion, is the ability for users to tap into the insights, advice, and experience of their peers to aid in the decision-making process. In other words, the next frontier is to integrate social networking capabilities within the user interfaces of supply chain management applications (for related commentary, see “A Pulse on Social Networking for Supply Chain Management”).

Meanwhile, Manhattan Associates announced the 2013 release of its Inventory Optimization solution, “which provides customized, automated inventory optimization strategies designed to address a customer’s specific business issues and objectives.” According to the press release, Nature’s Best decreased labor costs by 66 percent and increased inventory accuracy by 14 percent after implementing the solution. Here’s a quote from Russell Parker, senior vice president of marketing, brand management, and inbound logistics at Nature’s Best:

“The software does all the heavy lifting. It does the thinking. It does the analysis. It updates itself. It reviews and discards outlying data. It recommends changes for everything from forecasts to order frequency.”

Going back to my Home Depot experience, too bad the software can’t go into the backroom of a retail store and restock an empty shelf. But maybe a robot can in the future.

On the 3PL front, Ryder announced that it is introducing new transportation and logistics solutions for the oil and gas industry, including customized Dedicated Fleets, Transportation Management, and fleet Leasing and Rental services. This is another example of how 3PLs can differentiate themselves in the market by integrating their services into industry-specific solutions — especially for industries that are growing and generally underserved by other providers. According to the press release, Ryder already serves clients in the oil and gas industry. “For example, the company manages all port deliveries to support 18 offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico for a major oil company, with 61 dedicated drivers and a network of transportation partners. Its Control Tower solution for an equipment and supplies provider includes on-site staff in Houston, Oklahoma and Louisiana executing more than 75,000 truckloads per year.”

Innovation in logistics also occurs outside the realm of bits and bytes, as Con-way Manufacturing’s announcement this week demonstrates. At the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, the company unveiled the Kevin Rutherford Signature Series Trailer that features “advanced options not found on standard models available to owner operators, including the SmartTruck UT6Plus UnderTray System to reduce aerodynamic drag and improve fuel economy.” Here are some additional details from the press release:

[The trailer also includes] a Meritor™ suspension with disc brakes and MicroBlue® bearings. The trailer is also fitted with a Fusion Floor™ by HAVCO™ and Michelin® X One® XTA® single-wide tires. Together, these features reduce the weight of a standard trailer by 400 pounds, contributing to impressive fuel efficiency numbers and significantly exceeding the EPA’s requirements for SmartWay certification.

Is it me or did summer go by too fast this year? Time to enjoy the remaining days of sun and warmth. Have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Pompeii” by Bastille

Note: Ryder is a Talking Logistics sponsor.