This Week in Logistics News (April 16-19, 2018)

I am in Minnesota today, at the CSCMP Twin Cities Roundtable Annual ½ Day Seminar, where I am participating in a keynote session with Rick Blasgen (President & CEO of CSCMP) and Steve Raetz (Director Research & Market Intelligence at C.H. Robinson). The focus of our session is “Today’s New Normal” — a discussion about emerging trends and technologies in the industry, everything from e-commerce to blockchain, and what it means for supply chain and logistics professionals.

There are other great sessions and speakers on the agenda, so I’m looking forward to this ½ day of learning and networking. I just have to figure out what to do during the other half of the day.

Speaking of emerging trends, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

No Clicks Better Than 1 Click

Back in 2013, I wrote the following under the banner of “Siri Comes to Enterprise Apps”:

Instead of manually executing tasks with a mouse or touch screen, why not speak them? We already see this in the consumer realm with smartphones, and in the warehouse too with voice picking technologies. It’s only a question of time before speech recognition gets embedded into other enterprise and supply chain applications. A TMS user, for example, can say to the system, “Show me all uncovered loads,” or an inventory manager can ask, “Which stores have less than three days inventory of product X?” and up come the results on the screen.

It took a few years, but it seems like the march toward reality is accelerating.

One of my supply chain and logistics predictions for 2017 was that we would start seeing the migration from traditional user interfaces to chatbots and virtual assistants. First came UPS, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in November 2016:

UPS joined a variety of companies in sectors ranging from financial services to airlines that are betting on customers interacting with artificially intelligent virtual assistants that mimic human conversation, called “chatbots.”

Customers of UPS can now ask the chatbot to find nearby UPS locations, calculate shipping rates and show the location of a package.

Then came Infor, which at its user conference last year introduced Coleman, “an enterprise-grade, industry-specific AI platform for Infor CloudSuite applications [that] mines data and uses powerful machine learning to improve processes such as inventory management, transportation routing, and predictive maintenance; Coleman also provides AI-driven recommendations and advice to enable users to make smarter business decisions more quickly.” You can watch a demo of Coleman in this YouTube video.

And now this week, as reported by Reuters, XPO Logistics “unveiled voice-enabled delivery tracking through Inc’s Echo or Alphabet Inc’s Google Home speakers.” According to the article:

XPO believes it is the first large delivery and warehousing company in the world to offer consumers the ability to get delivery tracking updates, or schedule and reschedule deliveries, using smart speakers, the company said at a conference in Atlanta.

When accessing Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, a person’s voice command to reschedule his or her delivery would trigger changes in XPO’s internal logistics tracking and dispatching software, Harik said. The new delivery time would be reflected on the truck driver’s mobile app, he said.

“It used to be that executing a task with 1 click was better than 5 clicks,” Fab Brasca from JDA Software said at the Kenco Customer Summit in October 2016, “but moving forward, no clicks will be better than 1 click.”

I think Alexa would agree.

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

Song of the Week: “Don’t Look Back” by Fine Young Cannibals