Above The Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (November 13, 2020)

I have a woodpecker problem.

He comes a few times a day and pecks the wood shingles
outside my bedroom window. The tap tap tap tap tap of beak
tapping on wood drives me batty, so I lean out the window: 

“Yo, woodpecker, cut it out!” My inner Brooklyn comes out.
He stops and looks my way, “I hear ya,” he says and flies away.

Later, he’s back. Tap tap tap tap tap…

“I hear ya!” I yell from my study across the hall, “I hear ya!”
and I tap tap tap my head against the wall.

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

ECommerce Continues to Transform Supply Chain and Logistics

An executive from a leading retailer said that they have experienced more growth in ecommerce over the past seven months than they had expected to see in 3-5 years. Think about that. Years of ecommerce growth compressed into months, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This accelerated growth in ecommerce is also accelerating the transformation of supply chain and logistics networks, processes, and technologies.

Yesterday, for example, Greg Smith, EVP of Supply Chain at Walmart U.S., shared that the retailer is “taking space in 42 of our current Regional Distribution Centers (RDCs) and creating what we call ‘pop-up eCommerce Distribution Centers’ (eDCs) to meet the growing demand of eCommerce orders.” Here are more details from his post:

Traditionally, RDCs ship pallets of goods to our stores, which is very different than sending packages directly to customer homes. Working closely with our Technology team, who developed new and enhanced some of our existing supply chain systems, we’ve been able to increase our fulfillment throughput. This means facilities that have traditionally only supplied products to stores are now equipped to also fulfill online orders, just in time for the holidays.

Standing up the eDCs enables us to move more product to customers quickly, using the expertise of our supply chain and technology associates — without the delay of building new facilities. The flexibility to pop-up an eDC anytime our supply chain network experiences peak demand allows us to deliver for our customers when they need us the most all the while consistently following the health and safety measures we have had in place for months.

In a separate post on LinkedIn, Srini Venkatesan, Executive Vice President at Walmart Global Tech, shares details about the technology behind this new strategy: 

Our Multi-Channel Sourcing Engine (MCSE) scans the entirety of our fulfillment network in less than a second and will assign orders to these eDCs when it determines they offer the fastest and most efficient option to fulfill the order.  

Recounting some of the tech enhancements instrumental in making this happen:

– Implementing random stow for both sortable and non-sortable items
– Improving pick times to avoid congestion in aisles with frequently purchased products
– Warehouse management app compatibility on BYOD
– A single cloud-based integration platform managing multiple third-party fulfillment solutions
– Enhanced visibility into entire fulfillment operations to meet promised delivery dates

The technology we’ve developed is allowing Walmart to leverage more of our current warehouse space to meet customer demand. We anticipate up to 30% of our holiday volume being shipped from our pop-up eDCs. After the holiday, EDC’s will have the flexibility to scale up and down, and the lessons learned will be applied as we continue to further evolve our network in the future. A true transformation of our assets through technology.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Smith at the Wall Street Journal highlights how interest in micro-fulfillment centers is on the rise: 

The sites are far smaller than the typical sprawling, labor-intensive distribution centers in remote industrial parks, and they are becoming a new focus for retailers adjusting to the dizzying changes in consumer markets. Some merchants had been testing compact fulfillment sites in recent years, but the rush to online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating moves toward space-saving, automation-powered warehouses. 

Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) are also racing to remain relevant in this fast-changing landscape. GEODIS, for example, announced this week integrations with Shopify and Amazon. Here are some details from the press release:

GEODIS is now integrated directly with Shopify to fulfill online orders and ensure seamless data flow between Shopify’s digital storefront and supply chain. GEODIS can directly pull orders and push ship notifications and tracking back to Shopify. This integration provides brands with inventory sync between Shopify and GEODIS and offers full visibility from order to ship.

GEODIS also announced it is fully integrated with Amazon’s third-party marketplace with the capabilities to now provide drop shipping for its customers. This enables brands to sell products through Amazon while continuing to utilize GEODIS as its logistics partner to fulfill orders and ship directly to the end consumer.

Also this week, Bringg and SEKO Logistics announced that they are “scaling up and optimizing the delivery experience for today’s digital consumers by offering control and visibility of one of the few remaining offline touch points in a consumer’s purchasing process.” According to the press release:

Bringg will also enable SEKO to track, manage and optimize the facilitation of internal and contracted delivery fleets in real time, while the platform’s intuitive Driver App enables dynamic delivery flows and mobile inventory management. By optimizing planned and on-demand orders concurrently, SEKO has the ability to sequence every route to meet each delivery’s timing and service requirements, while improving drop density rates. Bringg also provides the capability to maximize vehicle capacity with 3D load planning and, during deliveries, keeps drivers and dispatchers on-task with real time alerts as exceptions occur.

By synchronizing data across SEKO’s TMS, WMS, CRM and Commerce platforms, Bringg uses machine learning to model delivery flows. The solution accurately predicts timing for every stage of the pickup or delivery with real time tracking across the first, middle and last mile, recording those KPIs that matter most to clients.

Okay, that’s a lot of news to digest. But the bottom line is that Ferris Bueller was right: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I hear ya.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Identical” by Phoenix