This Week in Logistics News (January 5-9, 2015)

Happy New Year! I hope 2015 is off to a great start for you. Mine began with a crick in my neck, a little angry fist holding on tight to the muscle, causing me to pop Advils and walk around the house with a heating pad draped over my neck and shoulder. Should I attribute some deeper meaning to this crick or accept it as another sign that I’m not 25 anymore?

It was a relatively quiet week for industry news, but here are the items that caught my attention…

Next week is the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City and you can bet that even the hot dog vendors outside the venue will have “omnichannel” posted on their carts. One day, we’ll drop the omni-channel term and just call it retailing again, but in the meantime, expect plenty of news from supply chain and logistics software vendors next week promoting their omni-channel solutions.

JDA Software kicked things off this week by announcing key enhancements to its JDA Warehouse Management solution, which “optimizes ease of use, time to deployment and warehouse productivity.” Here are some details from the press release:

Delivering an innovative user experience with rich mobile capabilities, JDA Warehouse Management presents the right information at the right time to the right user through persona-based control towers for proactive management of the warehouse’s operation…[It] also delivers faster time-to-value to customers through an enhanced JDA Configuration Manager. User friendly, prescriptive workflows deliver faster implementations, simplified process changes and easier onboarding.

This release of JDA Warehouse Management delivers key capabilities to expedite returns tracking, routing, processing and the disposition of returns inventory to reduce the time that it takes for an item to go from a return to sellable inventory, preserving profits and enabling additional opportunities to satisfy customer demand.

The enhanced returns capabilities are noteworthy. The sexy side of omni-channel retailing is “buy online, pickup at store” — the unsexy side is “buy online, return to store,” which is becoming an even greater challenge for retailers. In a press release after Christmas, UPS announced that by the end of the first full week in January, it anticipates transporting 4 million return packages in the United States. While these packages aren’t going back to stores, it at least gives a sense of how large the returns challenge is for retailers, and why they need to address it now, parallel to their sell-side initiatives.

In a post last August, I made the point that the competitive landscape in logistics today is like a single-elimination playoff game in baseball, with industry leaders facing young upstarts in a win-or-go-home battle. And I pointed to Uber as one of those upstarts, with its UberRUSH service as an example. Well, Uber is taking another step in providing logistics services with its  announcement of UberCARGO this week, which the company is testing in Hong Kong. Here are some excerpts from the blog post:

With UberCARGO, your goods travel like a VIP. The same cashless and convenient service you have grown to love through UberBLACK  and uberTAXI is now available for all your moving and delivery needs. Whether you’re going cycling in Dragon’s Back, moving a mattress to a new house, riding with a large pet, or sending items to a friend, UberCARGO is for you. If you own a business, UberCARGO provides an easy way to cover on-demand logistical needs without complicated & costly delivery arrangements [emphasis mine].

With UberCARGO, a van arrives wherever you want it to be in minutes. You can load your items in the back of the van yourself or request the driver’s assistance if you need an extra hand. Deliveries can easily be tracked in real-time through the app, the item’s location can be shared with the recipient and you can even ride along with your goods so you’ll have ease of mind that your items are safe.

Like I’ve said before, when it comes to logistics, there is a lot of experimenting going on in the industry, especially by non-traditional players like Uber, Google, Amazon, and others. Most of these experiments will fail, but you only need one to succeed to disrupt the industry. Third party logistics providers (3PLs) should not ignore or brush aside these developments, or they might find themselves locked out of new opportunities.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “eez-eh” by Kasabian