The Most Important Technology Company in Your Supply Chain Operations

When you think about Microsoft and its role in supply chain and logistics, Excel is probably the first thing that comes to mind. The Excel spreadsheet is arguably the most used software application in the field (see “5 Reasons Why Excel Is Champ Of Supply Chain Apps”). 

But over the past few years, Microsoft has grown its presence in the supply chain and logistics space via several strategic partnerships. Here are some examples:

These partners are leveraging a variety of Microsoft technologies and services, including its Azure cloud computing platform and artificial intelligence, machine learning, and business intelligence capabilities.

Yesterday, a new (actually, expanded) partnership was announced by C.H. Robinson and Microsoft. The two companies announced that “they are joining forces to digitally transform supply chains of the future by combining the power of C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere®, Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT to meet the changing demands of evolving global supply chains.” Here are some excerpts from the press release:

Through this collaboration, Navisphere — C.H. Robinson’s global multimodal transportation management platform — will now leverage Azure IoT Central to integrate IoT device monitoring that measures factors such as temperature, shock, tilt, humidity, light and pressure in shipments to give customers an even more detailed level of intelligence about goods as they move through the supply chain.

The new collaboration builds on C.H. Robinson and Microsoft’s already rich history of working together. Navisphere is currently used across Microsoft’s global supply chain, giving the company real-time visibility into inventory, at rest or in motion anywhere in the world. In addition, in collaboration with Microsoft, C.H. Robinson built Navisphere Vision, a global real-time visibility product that leverages Azure IoT solutions, machine learning and predictive analytics to assess potential disruptions across supply chains.

[C.H. Robinson] is also leveraging Dynamics 365 and Power BI to streamline its customer relationship management (CRM) platform…As part of its relationship with Microsoft, C.H. Robinson will integrate its real-time pricing, execution and transportation management tools into Dynamics 365, making these digitally-driven logistics capabilities available to Microsoft customers.

Why are companies like FedEx, C.H. Robinson, DHL, Blue Yonder, and Descartes partnering with Microsoft? Is it based solely on the strength of Microsoft’s technology? Is it to counter Amazon, particularly in cloud computing? Is Microsoft easier to work with and less expensive than other prospective partners? Is it to gain access to Microsoft’s large installed customer base, particularly in the small and midsize business (SMB) market? 

My guess is that it’s a combination of all of the above.

The bottom line is that just like Intel with its “Intel Inside” strategy of powering personal computers in the 1990s, a growing number of supply chain and logistics software applications and operations today are being powered by “Microsoft Inside” technologies and services.

In short, Microsoft might be the most important technology company in your supply chain operations without you even knowing it.

P.S. Going back to Excel, there is another partnership I neglected to mention, which was announced on April 1, 2019: “Excel Goes Blockchain (Microsoft And IBM Partnership)