BluJay SOAR 2019: Key Takeaways

“BluJay is a good company today. We want to make it a great company.”

That was one of the key points Andrew Kirkwood, BluJay Solutions’ relatively new CEO, communicated in his opening address at the company’s SOAR 2019 Customer Conference last month (its largest conference to date, with 550 attendees and 50+ breakout sessions).

How will BluJay (a Talking Logistics sponsor) become a great company? Andrew highlighted four areas of focus:

  • Intellectual Property: continue to invest in innovation and grow its portfolio of solutions.
  • People: continue to invest in its employees and create a culture where everyone is empowered to solve problems and meet customer needs.
  • Customer-First Perspective: focus on providing the best customer service.
  • Partners: work more collaboratively with partners to provide customers with a broader value proposition; this includes facilitating connectivity between BluJay solutions and partner applications via open APIs.

The Importance of Culture and Employees: Competing on Customer Experience

Unlike other CEO keynotes, there were no fancy PowerPoint slides or highly-produced videos accompanying his presentation — it was just Andrew and his message, no distractions.

What impressed me the most was that he focused more on the importance of culture and employees on BluJay’s future success than on technology. It’s not that keeping pace with technology innovations won’t be important, but my takeaway is that Andrew and the leadership team believe that delivering the best overall customer experience will be a competitive differentiator — and that’s where culture, employees, and taking a customer-first perspective come in.

Chris Timmer, BluJay’s new Chief Revenue Officer, underscored this message in his remarks. He talked about the “BluJay Way” and the attributes of a winning team:

  • Ability to learn: people with inquisitive minds.
  • Ability to teach: people willing to share their experience and knowledge.
  • Being Creative: to find new solutions to problems and opportunities.
  • Being Quick and Agile: to keep pace with changing customer needs.
  • Having Grit: doing whatever it takes to serve the customer.

(Side note: While Chris is in a newly created position at BluJay, he is no stranger to the company. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President of Value-Added Services for Lineage Logistics, but before that he was Chief Commercial Officer at LeanLogistics, which BluJay (then Kewill Solutions) acquired in May 2016.)

The Importance of UI/UX

David Landau, BluJay’s Chief Product Officer, is another new addition to the leadership team. Prior to joining BluJay just days before the conference, he was Executive Vice President at Cloud Logistics (acquired by E2Open), and before that he was Vice President of Product Management at Manhattan Associates, leading product planning, strategy, and marketing efforts.

David focused his comments on two main points. First, he talked about the importance of user interfaces (UI) and user experience (UX). Your software can have the most sophisticated and powerful algorithms in the market, but if it’s not easy to use, you won’t realize its full value — mainly because people won’t use it (or use it correctly). Therefore, UI/UX will remain an important focus for the company.

The Importance of Data: BluDex

Second, David talked about the importance of data, which is what machine learning and artificial intelligence depend on to deliver their value. And it’s not just having large amounts of data; it’s about having the right data.

This is where BluJay’s Global Trade Network (GTN) and its 40K+ connected members come in. David highlighted the company’s BluDex solution as an example. BluDex is a transportation benchmark for rates and service KPIs based on the $17 billion of freight managed through its network-based transportation management system (TMS). BluDex aggregates shipper and carrier transactions for dry van and refrigerated shipments across North America and it tracks contract as well as spot market rates. Customers, including its own managed transportation group, use BluDex not only for procurement planning, but for network design and other continuous improvement initiatives. Using BluDex, for example, BluJay identified over $150 million in potential savings across its Logistics-as-a-Service clients.

BluDex is a perfect example of network-based business intelligence and analytics, a key differentiator of multi-tenant, cloud-based transportation management systems. When it comes to benchmarking, comparing your current performance to last year or to plan is not too difficult (assuming you have a TMS and the data). The challenge most companies face is comparing their performance to others in the market. By leveraging the data from many shippers and carriers connected to its network, based on billions of dollars of freight transactions, BluDex provides an external, continuously-updating benchmark companies can use to more effectively monitor their performance and identify opportunities for improvement.

BluDex was probably the solution I heard clients talking about the most at the conference, both in terms of the value it’s currently providing them and in terms of new capabilities they would like to see moving forward. This is certainly one of BluJay’s key differentiators in the TMS market.

Logistics-as-a-Service (LAAS): Rich Products and Sabra

BluJay has a relatively broad solution suite, which includes transportation management, warehouse management, yard management, customs management, commerce, and control tower. The company also has a Logistics-as-a-Service (LAAS) offering that provides managed transportation and other services to clients. It’s a sizeable operation:

  • >$2.5 billion in annualized freight under management in North America
  • Manages over 2.7 million shipments annually
  • Partnered with 1,564 distinct carriers
  • Moved goods 931 million miles last year
  • 21 shipper clients supported by 190 supply chain professionals

At the conference, I attended two LAAS sessions featuring customer case studies. One was with Rich Products, a leading food company headquartered in Buffalo, NY with 24 production sites in the United States. The company has been a LAAS client since 2005, with BluJay managing daily shipments and exceptions.

Shawn Wolf, Logistics Manager at Rich Products, shared some details about the relationship. What he emphasized the most is how he and his team leverage the dashboards and reports provided by the BluJay team. One example: they look at their top 35 lanes and compare them to BluDex to keep a pulse on how they’re performing relative to the broader market. Shawn also talked about how they leverage the data and insights obtained to drive continuous improvement, such as converting truckload into intermodal moves and shifting ship dates to unlock lower-cost mode selection.

The other case study presentation featured Sabra Dipping Company, which produces Middle Eastern-style and other food products, including hummus and guacamole. In this case, BluJay’s LAAS team supported Sabra with network modeling. Specifically, Sabra was interested in answering the following questions:

  • Are we set up in the right locations to best service our customers? Key factors to consider included lead time from production facility to customers, shelf-life limitations, and transit time.
  • Are we in the right locations to service our customers at the best cost? Key factors to consider included warehouse storage/handling costs and transportation costs.

Among other data and assumptions, the model used a year’s worth of shipment data from the TMS as well as truckload rates from BluDex that were indexed to match Sabra’s incurred costs. As one of the Sabra executives stated, by using BluDex data, the model was able to produce more realistic results.

In short, the network modeling exercise identified over $1 million in savings in the optimal scenario. However, since the optimal scenario was not possible for several reasons, the achievable savings was about $600,000 — a significant savings nonetheless!

As I wrote almost five years ago in “Managed Services: The ‘Stretch Armstrong’ of Logistics,” managed services enable companies to tap resources and technology as required to address their evolving needs. What we’re seeing, in effect, and what customers are demanding, is the convergence of business models, specifically the business models of logistics service providers, technology companies, and consulting firms. BluJay’s Logistics-as-a-Service offering is a perfect example of this convergence in action.

Stay Tuned

For supply chain and logistics solution providers, there are plenty of growth opportunities in the market today. But the competition is also intensifying. How do you differentiate yourself? Where do you focus? Which capabilities do you build yourself, which ones do you acquire, and which ones do you offer via partnerships? Those are the questions all solution providers are asking themselves today, including BluJay.

The new leadership team at BluJay is highly experienced, energetic, and motivated to take the company to a higher level of growth and performance. And the company, backed by Francisco Partners and Temasek, has plenty of money to invest in acquisitions and other strategic initiatives to get them there.

Will competing on customer experience ultimately become a differentiator for BluJay? Stay tuned.

Also, stay tuned for this year’s update of our research on customer experience and supply chain innovation. The survey results and report will be published soon!