This Week in Logistics News (September 14-18, 2015)

Lots of supply chain and logistics news this week, so let’s go straight to it…

Another week, another acquisition in the third-party logistics (3PL) market. Yesterday, Transplace announced that it has acquired M33 Integrated, “a 3PL with particular strength in the packaging, chemical and advanced materials sectors.” Here are some excerpts from the press release:

M33 Integrated’s Greensboro, NC operations center and Greenville, SC technology center will become the Transplace Southeastern Center of Excellence, and will operate as part of the company’s Transportation Management business, which is led by President Frank McGuigan.

“M33 Integrated brings a strong management team, robust technology solutions and an excellent customer base, particularly within the growing flexible packaging industry, that are complementary to Transplace’s capabilities,” said Transplace CEO Tom Sanderson. “The addition of M33 Integrated complements Transplace’s current geographical footprint and deepens our middle market penetration, as well as expands on the company’s vision to deliver outstanding value to all North American shippers.”

While this acquisition is not as large or splashy as other recent deals in the 3PL industry (see, for example, XPO’s acquisition of Con-way), it aligns with Transplace’s ongoing strategy of adding talent, clients, vertical industry expertise, and technology to strengthen its solution footprint and value proposition, which is primarily focused on transportation technology and services in North America.

M33 Integrated exemplifies the convergence taking place in the industry — namely the convergence of technology, managed services, and consulting. Like Transplace, the company developed its own cloud-based transportation management system (TMS) called the Blackbeard Technology Suite, which it couples with managed services. Simply put, there is great alignment in the go-to-market approach of both companies. Will Transplace keep both TMS applications moving forward or ultimately migrate to a converged solution? I haven’t been briefed yet, so I don’t know the answer, but I expect the company will keep customers on their existing platforms for now.

Speaking of TMS, Oracle announced the release of Oracle Transportation Management 6.4 and Oracle Global Trade Management 6.4, which include enhancements “in fleet management, transportation sourcing, transportation business intelligence, transportation planning, global trade management and customs management.” According to the press release, the new TMS capabilities include:

  • New user experience brings transportation planners and customer service representatives enhanced visibility into planned and in-transit shipment information
  • Rate maintenance functionality simplifies the ability to collect, format, load and modify rates in Oracle Transportation Management; helping to enable better rate management processes and improved productivity of users when managing rates across all modes of transportation
  • Fleet enhancements including a new, configurable user workbench for fleet management activities, integrated real-time mapping, traffic, and weather services, and advanced algorithmic capabilities support the planning and utilization of fleet resources in conjunction with common carrier resources; helping to produce better fleet asset utilization, reduced transportation costs and improved productivity of personnel.
  • New RESTful web services enable customers to easily extend the functional capabilities of Oracle Transportation Management (e.g., integration of transportation data with mobile applications)

One of Oracle’s key differentiators is the fact that its TMS and global trade management (GTM) solutions are developed on the same platform, which facilitates the integration of those two business processes — a capability that is becoming increasingly important for global shippers and 3PLs. The new release also underscores another important trend in the TMS industry: the convergence of private fleet and common carrier capabilities, as shippers start to break down the silos between their transportation operations in an effort to maximize the utilization of available capacity while reducing costs in the process.

What I’m waiting to see/hear from Oracle is what changes, if any, it plans with regards to trading partner connectivity, especially in response to recent developments in the industry, specifically SAP’s partnership with Descartes for TMS connectivity and Infor’s acquisition of GT Nexus. It’s been almost six years since Oracle announced a partnership with E2open for connectivity, but at lot has happened in the market since, and a lot more will happen moving forward as traditional enterprise software vendors and customers further embrace the fact that for business processes involving many external trading partners, network-based solutions (what I call Supply Chain Operating Networks) are the best platform.

On the omni-channel front, both Manhattan Associates and HighJump Software announced new solutions and capabilities. Here are highlights from their respective press releases:

Manhattan Associates: The company announced “general availability of a fully integrated Omni-Channel Point of Sale (POS) and Clienteling solution, designed specifically to unite disparate applications in a single and intuitive mobile selling solution. This release addresses the challenge that retailers face in managing separate mobile applications, maintaining multiple integration points and presenting inconsistent user interfaces to their store associates.”

HighJump Software: The company announced HighJump Brewers’ Edge, a cloud-based suite of solutions with specific features to address the broad set of omni-channel needs from order capture to fulfillment and delivery exhibited by the fast growing craft brewing industry. The solution “delivers rich cloud-based capabilities centered on key pillars of omni-channel success, [including Trading Partner Community, Commerce Platform, Asset Tracking, Master Data Management, and Inventory and Warehouse Management].

And with that, I’m out of time and space. Have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Hard Time” by Seinabo Sey

Note: Transplace is a Talking Logistics sponsor.