Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (February 14, 2020)

I pick up my girlfriend at 4:00 am at her apartment. She doesn’t know where we’re going, but we’re heading north to Sedona, Arizona, about two hours away. We get there shortly after 6:00 am and I pull into a grocery store parking lot. It’s still dark, a bit chilly, and there’s nobody else there. 

“So, what are we doing here?” L asks me, a bit excited, a bit confused.

“Just wait, you’ll see,” I respond.

Minutes pass and nothing happens. By nothing, I mean nobody else has arrived. They told me to be here at 6:00 am sharp and they’re not here.

It’s 1995, the Dark Ages of Communication.

“Are you going to tell me what we’re doing here?” L asks me again, this time a little less excited, with a little worry mixed in.

Luckily, there’s a pay phone outside the grocery store. “Just wait,” I tell her, and I get out of the car and run to the phone. I was smart enough to write their phone number on a slip of paper before I left this morning, and by some miracle, I had a few quarters in my pocket too.

“Hi, it’s Gonzalez, I’m here at the parking lot as you requested, but it’s almost 6:15 and nobody’s here.”

“Oh,” says the guy on the other end of the line, “didn’t you get our message yesterday that we had to cancel because the other couple couldn’t make it?”

“Obviously not,” I say, trying to remain calm and polite, but the Brooklyn in me still comes out: “You think I would drive two hours through the desert in the middle of the night if I had gotten the message? Are you saying I brought my girlfriend out here for nuttin?”

And so began the very first Valentine’s Day gift I ever gave L (now my wife): a surprise hot air balloon ride over Sedona, Arizona at sunrise.

It was truly a magical experience: just the two of us and the pilot floating above the red-rock buttes. So quiet, so peaceful, so many colors I had never seen before. Time seems to stop when you float above the earth, except you can see the slow turn of the ground beneath you, and you know you’re leaving the past behind, heading who knows where.

When we touched the ground again, the pilot popped open a bottle of champagne. The sun was up, the chill in the air was gone, and we sat on a blanket, sipping warm champagne and eating cheese and crackers and grapes. The rest of the day, and lives, before us.

Yes, I set the bar too high that first Valentine’s Day. I joke that it’s been all downhill ever since. This year, we celebrated a day early: we took a long lunch break and went to the movies. It was just the two of us in the dark theater, no champagne, no cheese, no grapes. 

The previews end and the movie begins. 

Time seems to stop when you’re watching a movie, doesn’t it? Except you know the ground beneath you is still turning, ever slowly

I reach for L’s hand.

Moving on, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention today

More Supply Chain Impacts from Coronavirus

Coronavirus continues to dominate the headlines, and it continues to impact global supply chains too.

“Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. Inc. could be among the first U.S. companies to take a direct hit from the corona­virus outbreak as concerns grow about disruptions to supply chain networks in China,” write Dee DePass and Jackie Crosby in the Star Tribune. Here’s more from the article: 

Although existing inventories are strong at most of the nation’s big-box retailers, analysts from Wells Fargo warn that shoppers could start seeing empty store shelves as early as mid-April.

“We believe the time to start to worry about the supply chain risk … is here,” the report said.

Actually, it’s a bit too late to worry about this supply chain risk now; there’s only so much companies can do after the fact. In contrast, companies that have modeled and simulated these types of risks and scenarios, months or even years ago as part of their ongoing supply chain design and risk management activities, will be able to respond faster and more intelligently to these changes than their competitors.

In related news, the National Retail Federation announced that “with coronavirus causing longer Lunar New Year shutdowns of factories in China, imports at major U.S. retail container ports are expected to see a sharper-than-usual drop this month.” According to the press release:

“February is historically a slow month for imports because of Lunar New Year and the lull between retailers’ holiday season and summer, but this is an unusual situation,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Many Chinese factories have already stayed closed longer than usual, and we don’t know how soon they will reopen. U.S. retailers were already beginning to shift some sourcing to other countries because of the trade war, but if shutdowns continue, we could see an impact on supply chains.”

Meanwhile, Costas Paris in the Wall Street Journal writes:

Diminished trade as a result of the coronavirus outbreak is costing container shipping lines $350 million a week in lost volumes, a new report says, as declining activity in China begins to take a deeper toll on maritime operations from shipyards to carriers of bulk commodities.

More than 350,000 boxes have been removed from global trade networks since the disease broke out last month, Denmark-based maritime data provider Sea-Intelligence said Monday.

The longer the coronavirus outbreak lasts, the more challenges companies will face keeping their supply chains moving.

project44: Real-time Visibility Across the Pond

project44 announced this week that it has “experienced significant growth across Europe following several recent announcements, including opening an office in Paris, adding several new team members, and building partnerships with global technology leaders.” Here’s more from the press release:

Since acquiring Europe’s leading visibility provider, GateHouse Logistics, in 2018, project44 has increased global growth reaching more than 300 enterprise customers with over 20% in Europe, including leading brands such as Amazon, Coop, Coyote Logistics, and Yazaki.

“With an increased need for real-time data and visibility across the entire supply chain, shippers and logistics service providers need a single global provider,” said Michael Gross, Director IT, Supply Chain and Logistics at Yazaki. ​“We’re excited for project44’s network to grow in Europe and beyond. Their plans for expansion are critical for supporting our global supply chain.”

Just another sign that the real-time visibility space remains highly competitive, with Europe becoming the new battleground to capture market share.

JDA Software is now Blue Yonder

i2 Technologies. Manugistics. RedPrairie. 

Brands and logos that have come and gone.

And now, JDA Software. The company announced this week that “it will be named Blue Yonder effective immediately. The name change is part of a re-branding initiative to better align the Company’s name with its cloud transformation and product roadmap, embracing a future full of endless innovation, continuous improvement and outstanding customer experience.”

Here are some excerpts from the press release:

“After great contemplation and research, we have come to the conclusion that our company brand needs to reflect the major transformation that our business has undergone in recent times. We have outgrown the name and it is time for us to rename the company,” said Girish Rishi, chief executive officer, Blue Yonder. 

JDA acquired Blue Yonder, the market leader in AI and ML supply chain and retail solutions in August 2018. Evolving the JDA brand – and name – to Blue Yonder – further supports the massive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies across the supply chain, logistics and retail markets. Blue Yonder’s leading AI/ML technology powers the Company’s Luminate™ end-to-end, digital fulfillment platform.

Considering all of the acquisitions JDA (excuse me, Blue Yonder) has made over the years, and changes to its business model and focus, I think the time is right for a rebrand. Kewill’s acquisition of LeanLogistics, for example, led the company to change its name to BluJay Solutions. What I said about BluJay at the time applies here too: the whole of Blue Yonder today is greater than the sum of its i2 Technologies, Manugistics, RedPrairie, and other parts.

While a new name and brand identity will allow the company to position itself in a different light moving forward, one thing remains the same and critically important: the company has to ensure, as Rishi states in the press release, that its “investments and execution embody the essential elements that bring huge value for our 3,300 customers and our partners globally.”

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Sedona” by Houndmouth