This Week in Logistics News (March 2-6, 2015)

More than three years ago, my 14 year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). After dealing with the initial shock and fear, she committed herself to learning about the disease and managing it, and just a month after her diagnosis, she stood in front of 90+ students and teachers at her middle school (where she had just started at the time) and delivered an informative and touching presentation about T1D and how her life had changed. It was the first of many presentations she has given about the disease over the years, and this morning she is speaking to a fifth grade class at one of our elementary schools.

I have attended many conferences and sat through many keynote presentations delivered by famous and often great speakers, but none inspire me more than my daughter, which is why I’ll be pulling up a seat and sitting with fifth graders this morning to listen to her words and story yet again.

In this week’s news..

Amber Road broadened its solution footprint this week by acquiring Hong Kong-based ecVision, “a cloud-based provider of global sourcing and collaborative supply chain solutions for brand-focused companies.” As outlined in the press release, the ecVision Suite currently focuses on the following four primary business areas:

  • Vendor and Production Management – allows global brands to efficiently on-board new suppliers, monitor capacity, manage purchase orders and raw material orders, as well as monitor production status.
  • Material and Product Management – helps brands, their suppliers and tier-two material suppliers to collaborate and deliver more innovative products, by efficiently managing the sampling and testing processes, planning, forecasting and reserving raw materials and sourcing finished good production.
  • Risk and Quality Management – helps to ensure that what is produced meets international regulatory testing requirements, brand specifications and social compliance standards with comprehensive functionality to manage component and product testing, auditing and finished goods quality inspections.
  • Shipment and Logistics Management – provides a platform to document, manage and monitor all logistics activities from in-factory carton label creation, advanced shipping notice generation, carrier booking and tracking, and invoicing through receipt into the warehouse.

Customers include Li & Fung, PVH Corporation, Coach, Brown Shoe Company and VF Corporation, with underlying brands such as Calvin Klein, Timberland, The North Face and Tommy Hilfiger.

Simply put, this acquisition moves Amber Road further up into the supply chain, effectively broadening the scope and definition of global trade management. Over the past two decades, the scope and capabilities of GTM solutions have evolved significantly, from simple desktop applications focused on generating and printing export documents to cloud-based, enterprise-class solutions focused on a broad spectrum of import and export processes. Compliance — i.e., automating customs and regulatory compliance activities — is what most people associate with a GTM solution, but it’s only one component of a best-in-class global trade management solution. The other two critical components, which many companies overlook, are content and connectivity. What this acquisition demonstrates is that once you have the connectivity — or a network of connected trading partners, which is the most overlooked benefit of cloud-based solution — it greatly expands the type of content you can exchange (data, information, documents) and the supply chain processes you can enable with network-based apps.

(For related commentary, see A New Era for Global Trade Management Software?)

In other technology news, JDA announced new capabilities in JDA® Enterprise Supply Planning™. According to the press release (emphasis mine):

The newest release of JDA Enterprise Supply Planning features an Agile Control Tower (ACT) that eliminates the “guess and check” cycle that typically occurs when supply chain exceptions are flagged. Instead of simply providing a rapid what-if capability, JDA’s Agile Control Tower diagnoses the cause and suggests solutions from a pre-determined library of actions. It provides instant simulation of selected choices while respecting strategic priorities and projecting impact across the entire supply chain so planners can view actual cost and performance trade-offs before taking action. As a result, companies are able to course correct rapidly while still delivering the best possible results across the entire supply chain.

The rapid pace of change in everything involving supply chain management is putting pressure on companies to make smarter decisions faster. In response, we’re seeing software vendors starting to introduce predictive and prescriptive capabilities in their solutions — that is, don’t just have the solutions tell us what happened or what is happening, but what smart actions to take in response too — which is the direction JDA is heading based on the announced new capabilities.

Finally, I typically do not comment on executive appointments, but Transplace’s announcement this week caught my attention because of what came after the comma in the following sentence from the press release (emphasis mine): “Brooks Bentz has joined the organization as president of Transplace Consulting Services, thereby formally launching its North American consulting services practice.” Transplace has provided consulting services for many years, but as Bentz, who spent 21 years with Andersen Consulting/Accenture, commented in an interview with Logistics Management:

“[Tom Sanderson, the CEO of Transplace] really wanted to grow this part of the business. My aim is classic supply chain consulting work, and a large focus will be on transportation, I am sure, as well as general supply chain work. I think it is going to be very good and want it to be very high quality with a high level of talent and deliver really good work and grow at a moderate rate that makes sense for the business…I am going to be out recruiting the best supply chain talent I can find to help go out and do this kind of work.”

This is another example of how the business models of 3PLs, consulting firms, and software companies are converging, and why the answer to “3PLs, What Business Are You In?” is continuously changing and expanding.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Cigarette Daydreams” by Cage the Elephant

Note: Descartes, JDA, and Transplace are Talking Logistics sponsors.