Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (March 6, 2020)

To cancel or not to cancel? 

That is the question almost all event organizers are struggling with today due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.

TPM 2020, which was supposed to begin last Sunday, was cancelled less than 24 hours before kick-off due to “the growing concerns around COVID-19.” Similarly, SAP decided to cancel all of its in-person events scheduled for this month “out of an abundance of caution related to the transmission of COVID-19.” CONECT also canceled its Northeast Trade & Transportation Conference, which was scheduled for March 31-April 2 in Newport , R.I.

The folks at HighJump Software, however, decided to move forward with its Elevate Supply Chain Conference 2020 conference this week. And as of today, MODEX 2020 is still a go for next week.

To attend or not to attend?

That is the question on the minds of many people (and sponsors) registered to attend the numerous supply chain and logistics conferences scheduled over the next few weeks. If a critical number of attendees and sponsors pull out, that might tilt the scales toward canceling or postponing an event.

Either way, a difficult decision for everyone. 

But this too shall pass — hopefully sooner rather than later.

Moving on, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week. Not surprising, coronavirus dominated the headlines once again. 

Coronavirus: The Bullwhip Effect in Supply Chains

“Supermarkets and other retailers are preparing for a surge in demand and shoppers are stocking up on staple foods and cleaning supplies as more cases of the new coronavirus appear in the U.S.,” writes Jaewon Kang in the Wall Street Journal. “Grocers are working to prevent shortages and preparing for a rise in demand for disinfectants, hand sanitizer and long-lasting items such as pasta and canned food. Some are ramping up orders from suppliers.”

How much should grocers and wholesalers order? How will they allocate the inventory across stores and distribution centers? How much should manufacturers produce? How much raw materials should they order from their suppliers? How much extra transportation capacity will be needed to move all of these goods?

When it’s all said and done, this unplanned spike in demand for products due to the coronavirus will be another case study of the “Bullwhip Effect” in supply chain management.

If you need a refresher on the Bullwhip Effect, here’s a short video featuring Professor Hau Lee from Stanford University talking about it:

For additional news and commentary about the coronavirus and its impact on supply chains, please read some of my recent posts.

BluJay Solutions and Aptean Announce Acquisitions

There’s one thing that coronavirus isn’t disrupting in the supply chain industry: acquisitions.

BluJay Solutions (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced this week that it has acquired Expedient Software, “a leading provider of customs and forwarding software for the logistics market in Australia and New Zealand. With the acquisition, BluJay broadens its customs and forwarding technology offerings, along with its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.” 

Here are some additional details from the press release:

Expedient is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, and counts among its customers many of the top couriers, multinational logistics companies, and mid-market freight forwarders in the region…Expedient Software has been in operation for 30 years. The company was the first logistics software supplier in Australia to provide a cloud-based solution. Expedient offers several modules including customs clearance and forwarding software, with transport and container management, workflow, and track and trace functionality.

BluJay is perhaps best known for its shipper TMS, Global Trade Network, and Logistics-as-a-Service offerings. But the company has strong roots in customs compliance and freight forwarding, dating back to its origins as Kewill Systems. This acquisition follows others BluJay has made in the space, including UK customs solution provider Grosvenor Systems in August 2018 and Italian customs solution provider Era System in October 2018.

Meanwhile, Aptean announced its acquisition of UK-based Paragon Software Systems, “a market-leading provider of transportation management software solutions serving the food and beverage, distribution and retail industries.” Here are some more details from the press release:

This acquisition furthers Aptean’s presence in the European market and adds purpose-built software designed to meet the expanding supply chain needs of its customers around the globe. With proven solutions that assist its customers with routing, logistics, scheduling, and home delivery, Paragon has seen strong growth in recent years due to the continuing rise in e-commerce and the rapidly expanding need for companies to support more timely and efficient deliveries.

Founded in 1991, Paragon has remained at the forefront of the industry for over 30 years with a track record of continuously investing in and delivering logistics software that helps customers solve real-world distribution challenges…With more than 4,700 systems deployed [at more than 1,400 client sites in 61 countries] today, Paragon’s solutions are already helping its more than 300 customers transform their delivery models, including many household-name brands in the food and beverage, retail, grocery, distribution and pharmaceutical sectors. 

Back in July 2016, I had the opportunity to meet with Paragon executives and clients in the U.K., including Martin Brower and Dreams. As I wrote in my trip report:

Unlike other transportation management system (TMS) vendors that have opted to go broad with their solution footprint, Paragon has opted to go deep in solving the ever-changing routing and scheduling and home delivery needs of clients in a diverse set of industries: supermarkets, food service, beverage distribution, industrial gases, third-party logistics providers, and others. As you would expect, no two companies or industries are alike when it comes to their distribution networks, business rules, and constraints. The team at Paragon walked me through various use cases, from the relatively simple (a few trucks routed from a single distribution center) to the very complex, including the ability to schedule fleets at multiple distribution centers as a single shared resource.

Follow these links to read the rest of my takeaways from the trip and to watch the video interviews I conducted with executives from Martin Brower and Dreams: “Perspectives On Last-Mile Delivery: Martin Brower And Paragon Software Systems” and “Dreams On Home Delivery Excellence: It Begins And Ends With Customer Experience.”

I’m not very familiar with Aptean, but it seems that until now, its logistics capabilities have been focused primarily on warehouse management. By acquiring Paragon, the company adds best-of-breed routing, scheduling, and home delivery capabilities, which are more important than ever for companies across many industries today. But it’s only one piece of the transportation management puzzle. Will Aptean acquire other TMS providers (offering parcel, truckload, and less-than-truckload capabilities, for example) to broaden its solution footprint? Time will tell.

Elemica Enhances Visibility, Safety, and Sustainability to Digital Supply Network Solutions

On the digital network front, Elemica (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced “the addition of extensive features to the Digital Supply Network and Supply Chain Solution suites which enhance product safety and customer experiences. Significant improvements for visibility of product shipments, track & trace, electronic proof of delivery, visual route progress, and self-service data enrichments were delivered across the Elemica Buy, Sell, Move, and See solutions.”

This new capability caught my attention:

ENRICH – Elemica’s data management solution reduces costs associated with connecting supply chain partners by offering easy to use mass update capabilities of product, location, unit of measure, and conversion mapping of data in a self-service mode.

It’s not sexy, but any capability that facilitates data quality management and the onboarding of trading partners (especially those in the long tail) is good news in my book.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Shake the Disease” by Depeche Mode