This Week in Logistics News (September 23-27, 2013)

Tuesday night, I went to Staples with my daughter to buy some printer ink. She was immediately attracted to a colorful display, which caught my attention too. I took a picture of it and shared it on Twitter, which became my most popular tweet of the week: 

Yes, the future is coming faster and faster. And I’m guessing it won’t be long before many of us will head out to Staples, not to buy ink, but to buy 3D printing supplies.

In other news…

The needle keeps moving forward for omni-channel fulfillment and same-day delivery. According to an article in The Cincinnati Enquirer, Macy’s has expanded its network of fulfillment departments to 500 stores. Here’s some insights and details from the article:

Every morning, staffers from the merchandise team [at the Macy’s store in Springdale, OH] – who normally stock shelves and set up displays – fan out across the store and collect ordered items. Items are brought back to the fulfillment center where staffers wrap and tag orders for the afternoon UPS pickup. On an average day, the store will prepare 50 to 60 orders. On a one-day sale day, it’s more likely to be 75 to 100 orders, and during the busy holiday season after Thanksgiving, the store will handle 300 to 400 orders a day.

The article also states that to enable omni-channel retailing at the store level, Macy’s replaced all its 40,000 cash registers with Web-enabled machines. The cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the $1 billion per year in sales growth the company has experienced the past three years due in part to its omni-channel fulfillment strategy.

Meanwhile, Google announced that it is expanding the rollout of its same-day delivery service, Shopping Express, “to everyone living or working in [its] Bay Area delivery zones, from San Francisco to San Jose.” The company also launched a new mobile app, available for both Android and iOS, “to bring [consumers] the convenience of Google Shopping Express even when you’re on-the-go.”

I don’t know about you, but it’s very exciting to see supply chain and logistics come out of the shadows and take center stage in the business strategies of manufacturers and retailers — and, in some cases, become the difference between corporate failure and success.

On the technology front, Kewill announced the release of Kewill MOVE, “a complete, comprehensive platform for managing the complexities of transportation, logistics and trade compliance.” The press release provides additional details, but simply put, Kewill MOVE brings together the various solution capabilities Kewill has developed or acquired over the years into a single platform. We’ve seen other enterprise software vendors move (no pun intended) to a “platform” architecture in recent years, so Kewill is basically adopting the same strategy to strengthen its competitive position. I’ve been a big proponent over the years of bringing together transportation, global trade, and connectivity solutions into a single platform. Kewill certainly has all the right pieces — whether it can assemble them effectively into “comprehensive” solutions, as well as meet the rapid time-to-value and fast innovation cycles customers expect — remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I believe Kewill is heading in the right direction with its strategy.

Oracle OpenWorld was held this week in San Francisco. I didn’t attend, but based on all of the press releases, I’m guessing “cloud” was mentioned at least a billion times during the event. The news that caught my attention the most was the launch of Oracle Cloud Marketplace, which features “more than 100 business applications developed by Oracle partners…and enables Oracle Cloud customers to easily browse, evaluate, and buy trusted business applications.”

Almost five years ago, I wrote about the growing role “app stores” will have in enterprise software (see “An App Store for Logistics Software”), and over the past few years, (with its AppExchange marketplace) and NetSuite (with its SuiteApp marketplace) have proven the model. The launch of Oracle Cloud Marketplace, while late to the game, is further validation that the future of enterprise software will look drastically different than the past, especially when you add social networking and mobile to the equation.

Finally, according to a Bloomberg article, it seems like Walmart is having some inventory management issues. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

U.S. inventory growth at Wal-Mart outstripped sales gains in the second quarter at a faster rate than at the retailer’s biggest rivals. Merchandise has been piling up because consumers have been spending less freely than Wal-Mart projected, and the company has forfeited some sales because it doesn’t have enough workers in stores to keep shelves adequately stocked.

Read the rest of the article and you’ll see why technology is not a silver bullet, why under-investing in people ultimately costs you in the end, and how the potential gains of innovation are washed away by poor execution.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” by Colin Hay