This Week in Logistics News (January 13-17, 2014)

My youngest daughter turned six this week and I thought it would be a great idea to buy her the soundtrack to the movie Frozen, which she has already seen twice. I didn’t think it through, however. Now my wife and all the kids are singing every song on the album — in the morning, after school, during dinner, in the shower, as they get ready for bed, and probably in their dreams too. And this morning, I found myself humming Do You Want to Build a Snowman while I brushed my teeth.

If we were the Von Trapps, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. But we’re not — our sound of music is much, much different. But so is our sound of laughter, which is the best birthday gift of all.

Now, for the news that caught my attention this week:

I wasn’t able to attend the NRF BIG Show this week in New York, but based on all the tweets and news releases I saw, it seems like “omni-channel” was the Kool-Aid everyone was serving to get retailers to spend more money on supply chain software this year.

Manhattan Associates announced that its Store Inventory & Fulfillment product suite is now available on iOS devices. According to the press release, the mobile application “enables store operations to efficiently manage the flood of new, omni-channel activities, such as order picking and parcel shipping, while still delivering great brand experiences for in store customers.”

SAP also announced new mobile applications, including the latest version of its SAP® Retail Store Ops Associate mobile app (available on iOS devices) that gives store associates the ability “to order products, perform in-store markdowns, make inventory corrections and transfers, post receiving from vendors and distribution centers and provide access to product history and information.”

Meanwhile, JDA announced the availability of PerformNOW!, “a new set of services offerings designed to dramatically speed the implementation of key JDA software applications…that address allocation, assortment, inventory management, enterprise planning, sales and operations planning, demand and fulfillment.” According to the press release, “this pre-packaged environment includes features such as pre-designed resource plans, design documents and specifications.”

I can’t help but ask: If PerformNOW! “dramatically speeds the implementation” and enables “faster speed-to-value and enhanced cost savings,” why would customers choose a different “PerformLATER” approach?

Moving on, the buzz around same-day delivery continues to grow. WeDeliver announced this week that it received $800,000 in seed funding from 21 investors. Headquartered in Chicago, WeDeliver is focused on enabling same-day delivery for local merchants using “delivery specialists” — local people (trained by WeDeliver) who use their own cars and bikes to make deliveries for a fee. It’s basically taking a page from the Airbnb and Lyft business models and applying it to local delivery.

According to a Chicago Tribune article:

WeDeliver’s fees depend on the business, item and distance. The average ticket is between $9 and $10. The company focuses on jobs within 4 miles of the merchant, with the price rising significantly for longer hauls…WeDeliver takes a 30 percent cut, and the delivery specialist keeps the rest.

WeDeliver joins other startups and software companies chasing this market opportunity, including Zipments, Shutl (acquired by eBay in October 2013), and GrandJunction (a Talking Logistics sponsor), which according to its website has managed 63+ million local deliveries to date.

One of my predictions for this year was that shipping and delivery capabilities will become even bigger competitive weapons, and as a result, “last mile” logistics will become a hot area of the transportation management systems (TMS) market, and couriers and local delivery companies will play a more critical role in transportation networks. I will discuss this topic in more detail in a future posting. (For related commentary, see Home Depot Spending $300 Million to Enable Same-Day Delivery).

In transportation technology news, Paradox Software Consulting released version 10.0 of its transportation optimization suite, which includes tools for routing and scheduling, continuous move planning, fleet sizing, and lane matching. The release also includes a new product called Lane Match, “a tool that generates optimal matches of transportation capacity and freight…and can be used by carriers, private fleet operators, and brokers to evaluate candidate matches of backhauls with available shipments.”

YRC Worldwide suffered a setback this week, with the Teamsters rejecting its contract extension proposal. The company is trying to refinance about $1.4 billion in debt, but its creditors want YRC to stabilize its labor expenses first before moving forward. According to news reports, YRC plans to make a revised contract offer soon, which was welcomed news to investors, employees, and customers.

In contrast, UPS Freight reached a new labor agreement with its Teamsters employees. According to the press release, “UPS Freight Teamsters have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new national five-year master agreement that increases wages, significantly strengthens pension benefits and takes on the issue of subcontracting.” The bar has been set for YRC and others.

Finally, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its Top 10 Most Wanted List of Transportation Improvements for 2014. Not surprising, distraction was on the list. It’s a problem that affects all modes of transportation, and as I wrote about in Beware, Driverless Cars are Everywhere!, each of us are prone to it too. Here’s what the NTSB said in the press release:

Accident investigations and safety studies conducted by the NTSB in all modes of transportation underscore the dangers of using portable electronic devices while operating a car, train, plane or marine vessel. In addition to banning the use of these devices while driving, education and company policies help to reinforce laws and regulations by explaining the dangers of distraction and what companies expect from their employees.

And with that, have a Happy (song-filled) Weekend!

Song of the Week: “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode

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