This Week in Logistics News (September 5-9, 2016)

Everything is back to normal. The kids are back at school, we have air conditioning again, and North Korea tested a nuclear bomb yesterday. “If it’s not love, then it’s the bomb that will bring us together,” Morrissey sings in this week’s Song of the Week. I’m rooting for love.

Moving on to the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week…

mercedesbenz_visionvanWhat do you get when you combine an electric van with a fully automated cargo space, drones, joystick control, and cloud-based algorithms to control order picking, the loading of packages, the automated cargo space, and route planning for the vehicle and delivery drones? The answer is the Vision Van from Mercedes-Benz Vans, “a revolutionary van study for the urban environment [that] merges a number of innovative technologies for last-mile delivery operations and thus sets the standard of performance requirements and solutions for future generations of vans.” Check out the video below for an overview:

As described in the press release:

Automatic order picking takes place at the logistics centre, for example, and consignments are loaded into special racking systems. Driverless handling vehicles load the racks by way of an automated one-shot loading process. The intelligent cargo space management system automatically transfers packages for manual delivery to the deliverer at the delivery destination by means of a package dispenser on board the vehicle. At the same time, the system supplies two drones, each with a payload capacity of two kilogrammes, with consignments for autonomous delivery within a radius of 10 km.

As part of the initiative, Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks, acquired a minority stake in drone developer Matternet, which unveiled its second generation drone this week. According to the press release:

The new Matternet M2 drone is completely autonomous [and] can transport up to 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) and travel up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) on a single battery charge. It can drop and reload a payload and battery without human interaction, and features a smart payload box that can transmit data about its contents and destination. It also has precision landing capabilities and captures proof of delivery.

While most of the headlines are focusing on the van-drone combination, it’s clear that Mercedes-Benz’s vision is much broader and meaningful. “The Vision Van evolved as part of the strategic future initiative adVANce,” the company states in the press release. “With adVANce, Mercedes-Benz Vans is evolving from a mere van manufacturer into a supplier of holistic system solutions.”

The van, in essence, is a fully automated mini-warehouse on wheels; it is also a mobile computer accessing cloud software to optimize order picking and van/drone delivery routes; it also reimagines how a van is operated, the design of the driving space, and the role of the driver. The drones, at least at this point in time considering the regulatory and technical hurdles that still remain, are like heated seats — a nice feature to have, but not necessary to make this concept interesting and worthwhile.

Moving on to software news, Oracle announced that it is acquiring LogFire, a provider of cloud-based warehouse management applications. Here are some details from Oracle’s press materials:

  • LogFire’s built-for-the-cloud solution provides an integrated warehouse, inventory and workforce management platform
  • Over 40 customers from the retail, consumer goods, third-party logistics and ecommerce sectors
  • Over 8,700 active WMS users
  • More than 100 million transactions processed in 2015
  • Over 54 million transactions YTD
  • More than 250 stores live

As depicted in the graphic below, LogFire will become part of the Oracle SCM Cloud offering, coupled with the company’s transportation management system (TMS) and global trade management (GTM) solution. How that coupling evolves from the integration of applications to a seamless platform remains to be seen, but this acquisition validates LogFire’s message to the market that WMS can exist and succeed in the cloud, and it accelerates the rollout of Oracle’s SCM Cloud strategy, much like the company’s acquisition of G-Log many years ago accelerated its TMS rollout.


Speaking of TMS, MercuryGate announced an integration partnership with CSX Transportation (CSXT) Intermodal’s RailPlus, CSXT’s door-to-door intermodal service. According to the press release, clients using MercuryGate can now access ShipCSX, CSX’s online booking tool, via their transportation management system to plan, ship and pay for intermodal shipments. Just another example of how TMS vendors, either organically or via partnerships or acquisitions, continue to add new mode capabilities to their solutions.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Ask” by The Smiths