Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (December 13, 2019)

According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, “Artificial Intelligence Specialist” is the fastest growing U.S. job in terms of number of hires with a 74% annual growth rate. “Robotics Engineer” (40%) and “Data Scientist” (37%) came in second and third place, respectively.

Which job topped the list last year but didn’t even crack the Top 20 this year?

I’ll share the answer at the end. In the meantime, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

Good News (Maybe) on US-China Trade War

Last night the Wall Street Journal reported that “President Trump has agreed to a limited trade agreement with Beijing that will roll back existing tariff rates on Chinese goods and cancel new levies set to take effect Sunday [December 15] as part of a deal to boost Chinese purchases of U.S. farm goods and obtain other concessions, according to people familiar with the matter.”

But this morning, the WSJ reported that “China indicated that a near-term trade agreement with the U.S. has yet to be completed despite President Trump’s signoff, highlighting the unpredictability of a negotiation process that has rattled global markets and businesses.”

So it seems like President Trump has agreed to a deal that China still hasn’t agreed to.

The new tariffs set to take effect on Sunday are off. Or maybe they’re still on.

Check your Twitter feed for the latest update on US-China trade relations. Then check it again later in the day because it might change again.

Out with NAFTA, In with USMCA

In other global trade news, it seems like USMCA is getting the green light from Congress, with Democrats signing off on the trade deal after negotiating some changes (see Washington Post article for a summary of what’s new and different compared to NAFTA agreement).

You can also check out my post from October 2018, The New NAFTA: What’s Changed? What’s The Impact? While some of the specific details have changed, the high-level changes discussed in the post have not.

What is still unclear is when USMCA will take effect. A lot of global trade management systems have to be updated to codify the changes, so the more lead time vendors get, the better.

Celadon, RIP

When New England Motor Freight (NEMF) filed for bankruptcy in February, I called it a sobering reminder that all parties ultimately come to an end. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Is the party in transportation and logistics ending? Probably not abruptly, but the festive mood is perhaps dampening a bit, as a few guests leave the party feeling a little ill.

Another guest has left the party. The big news in the trucking world this week was the abrupt bankruptcy of Celadon, leaving more than 4,000 drivers and other employees out of a job. In the days that followed, many in the industry stepped up to help drivers get home and dispatchers, mechanics, and other employees find new jobs. 

Celadon’s collapse “reflects an industrywide downturn that has taken out hundreds of other trucking companies this year,” reports CBS News. “In the first three quarters of 2019, nearly 800 carriers went out of business, more than double the count of trucking failures in 2018, according to transportation industry data firm Broughton Capital.” Here’s more from the article:

The slump also has even bigger players hitting the skids, according to Donald Broughton, founder of the analytics firm bearing his name. In 2018, 310 trucking companies with an average fleet size of nine trucks failed, pulling 2,800 trucks off the road. The 795 companies that pulled the plug in the first three quarters of 2019 averaged 30 trucks, with nearly 24,000 trucks pulled off U.S. roadways, Broughton said.

Transportation is cyclical, as Steve Raetz from C.H. Robinson discussed in yesterday’s guest commentary, and we are certainly in a new cycle today compared to 2018.

SAP and project44: Seeing the Light on Networks

In August 2015, one of my favorite quotes from the GT Nexus (now part of Infor) conference came from Joe Dixon, SVP of Supply Chain at Brooks Brothers at the time: “SAP is our internal ERP system, GT Nexus is our external [supply chain] ERP system.”

As I wrote at the time:

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.

In the years since, Supply Chain Operating Networks have been getting increased attention from both customers and investors (see Follow The Money: Investments Rise In Supply Chain Operating Networks). And now SAP has seen the light too.

Earlier this year, SAP launched its Logistics Business Network and announced a partnership with Uber Freight “to let customers access transportation rates from Uber’s digitally activated carrier network and gain real-time quotes and guaranteed freight capacity, greatly simplifying load management and execution.” 

Now SAP has formed a partnership with project44 “to offer a joint solution for key transportation processes, such as receiving and tracking, that will connect, automate and provide visibility data and insight from project44 within SAP® Logistics Business Network.” Here are some details from the press release:

project44 ingests, cleanses and normalizes high-quality data from a wide network of global carriers. SAP Logistics Business Network enables customers to manage logistics transactions, exchange documents with key partners and gain transparency across the complete value chain. Integrating project44 data will enrich SAP Logistics Business Network with access to the largest and fastest-growing global carrier network. This level of connectivity brings real-time shipment visibility and business process collaboration from contracting to settlement — starting with ready-to-run integration for road transportation visibility for North America and Europe.

The real-time visibility market remains highly competitive, so we’ll continue to see many partnerships like this in the months ahead, and perhaps a few mergers and acquisitions too. What we need now, as I argued a few years ago in Here Comes The Chief Network Effects Officer, is for companies to view supply chain management through a ‘network effects’ prism, and when they do that, we’ll see today’s supply chain leaders and teams morph into tomorrow’s Chief Network Effects Officers and Network Effects teams.  

And with that, have a happy weekend!

P.S. The job that went from first place last year to not even cracking the top 20 list this year is “Blockchain Developer.” As Jonathan Vanian states in Fortune, “It highlights how the recent craze over cryptocurrencies and blockchain created a brief demand for blockchain-related jobs, but as the hype died down, so too did demand for people with blockchain skills.”

Song of the Week: “Gotta Get To Know Ya” by Seratones