Twitter Insights from GT Nexus Bridges 2015 Conference

Author’s Note: I was completely unplugged on vacation last week, so it wasn’t until I returned to the office on Monday that I learned Infor is acquiring GT Nexus (a Talking Logistics sponsor). I’m still digesting the news, and I haven’t had a chance to speak with anyone at Infor or GT Nexus yet, so I’ll wait to share my thoughts on the deal until Friday. Nonetheless, my takeaways below from the recent GT Nexus Bridges 2015 conference provides some insight about the company, it’s success to date, and where it’s heading (assuming Infor doesn’t make any significant changes).

The GT Nexus Bridges 2015 conference marked a first for me: it was the first conference where I tweeted soundbites and insights from the sessions I attended. I was driven by a challenge offered by GT Nexus: the person who tweets the most from the conference will win a drone. I always wanted a drone, so I tweeted away the first day to take the lead, but alas, I didn’t win the drone, which my kids were very disappointed about (although my wife was greatly relieved). The exercise, however, provided me with a great list of reminders of what I heard and learned at the conference, which I will share with you today.

One of my favorite quotes from the conference, which I believe sums up the perspective many customers have about GT Nexus, came from Joe Dixon, SVP of Supply Chain at Brooks Brothers: “SAP is our internal ERP system, GT Nexus is our external [supply chain] ERP system.”

The comment underscores a point I have been making for years: software is not enough, especially software that was originally designed for inside-the-four-walls business processes, for companies that were more vertically integrated than they are today, which is what traditional ERP symbolizes. When it comes to supply chain and logistics processes — which inherently involves the exchange of data, documents, money, and other communication between hundreds or even thousands of external trading partners, the best platform is a Supply Chain Operating Network, which brings together B2B connectivity, software applications, and (in the future) social networking capabilities in a cloud environment — and GT Nexus is one of the leading Supply Chain Operating Networks in the market.

In his keynote address, GT Nexus CEO Sean Feeney shared some statistics demonstrating the scale and scope of the GT Nexus network. In the 12 months prior to the conference…

  • $156 billion in value of goods on orders managed
  • $21 billion in direct commerce payments
  • 3.1 billion items scanned and packed
  • 12 million ocean containers managed
  • 3.6 million truck shipments
  • 2 million air shipments
  • 143 TB of transaction data
  • 100,00+ users, across 28,000 unique organizations, in 128 countries

Six of the top ten logistics service providers are GT Nexus customers, and the network is a key reason why. As Tom Boike, VP of Supplier Management at UPS, put it in a panel discussion, “The difference between old technology and new technology is the network” and its critical role in facilitating information exchange between trading partners.

Of course, software remains important too, and GT Nexus is making significant investments in expanding and enhancing its software footprint. One area in particular, which both Sean Feeney and Kurt Cavano (Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer at GT Nexus) highlighted in their keynote presentations, is Transportation Management Systems (TMS).

The company has traditionally positioned itself as a “transportation management platform” that brings together data and information dispersed across different systems and trading partners — including multiple third-party TMS applications, which is an operating reality at many global companies and 3PLs today — to enable unified visibility, analysis, and decision-making. On top of this platform, GT Nexus has provided various transportation management applications, such as transportation sourcing, which has been a strength for the company, especially in facilitating ocean transportation bids.

Moving forward, GT Nexus plans to extend and enhance its TMS footprint across the full TMS lifecycle:

  • Transportation Sourcing
  • Ready to Ship Rating, Planning, and Optimization
  • Tendering
  • In-transit Visibility
  • Freight Audit and Pay
  • Transportation Analytics

For related commentary, see TMS as a Platform: Gaining Visibility Across Modes, Partners, and Geographies.

Not surprising, mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) are also on the company’s innovation roadmap. Feeney discussed the potential value of IoT in his keynote address: “IoT data by itself is limited. When you blend IoT with operational data in GT Nexus, you get context. Now a GPS location for a transport vehicle is connected to an order or a SKU, for example.”

Solutions addressing the financial side of the supply chain, including Procure-to-Pay, is another core differentiator for GT Nexus. Due to lack of time, I didn’t attend any sessions related to these solutions, but I discussed this topic last year with Kurt Cavano on Talking Logistics (“5 Things Every Logistics Executive Should Know About the Financial Side of the Supply Chain”) and in a follow-up post, “What If the VP of Supply Chain, Treasurer, and CFO Worked Together? The Benefits of Linking the Physical and Financial Supply Chains.”

I don’t have the time or space to summarize all of the sessions that I attended, but I leave you below with my tweets from them, which at least provide some nuggets of insight and advice.

Overall, Bridges 2015 was a great event for peer-to-peer learning and networking, with a great line-up of executive speakers from leading companies such as Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Del Monte, Nestle, Williams Sonoma, Patagonia, Caterpillar, Electrolux, Sears, Cargill, UPS, DHL, and Menlo Logistics. As a proponent of Supply Chain Operating Networks, this event provided me with great insight into how companies across many industries are leveraging the power of the network to drive innovation and greater efficiency in supply chain management.

Kurt Cavano Keynotes

Next Level Supply Chain Orchestration at Lear (Todd Lance, VP Supply Chain)
Transportation Services Procurement: Maximizing Strategic Goals and Business Value (Del Monte, Hewlett-Packard, USSA)

Best Practices in Global Transportation Management (HP, Cargill, Nestle)
Managing Through Disruption: Lessons Learned from the West Coast Ports Gridlock (Williams Sonoma)

3PL Innovation Perspectives (DHL, UPS)

Your Supply Chain IT Future: Breaking Down Silos in Pursuit of the Ultimate Customer Experience (Neville Richardson, Group IT Manager, Kotahi)

Dave Adams (EVP Innovation and Adoption at GT Nexus) Keynote Address

Greg Johnsen (CMO at GT Nexus ) Presentation

 Joe Dixon from Brooks Brothers also provided this gem, a fun play on the Pledge of Allegiance: