Warehouse Administration Programs are Essential for Buyer-Centricity within the Submit-COVID 19 Period

As e-commerce growth is continuing at a rapid pace, companies are having to rapidly change their logistics footprint (both operational and physical) and fulfillment to match rising customer expectations. As we move into a post-COVID-19 environment, logistics executives plan to implement or enhance their technology, including warehouse management systems (WMS), transportation management system (TMS), artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) capabilities, and cloud infrastructure, as highlighted by the recent 2021 Blue Yonder Logistics Executive Survey.

Top of mind are logistics systems related to the fulfillment process improvement and the scalability of IT infrastructure, as customer-centricity has become the way to win. Per our understanding, this current landscape is also reflected in the recently released 2021 Gartner Critical Capabilities for Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) report[1] where per our understanding innovation is continuing to differentiate WMS offerings and technology sophistication is a key criterion.

Blue Yonder WMS

We are excited to highlight that Blue Yonder has been again named in the Critical Capabilities for WMS report and has been scored amongst highest 3 evaluated vendors across Level 3 and Level 4 Warehouse Operations use cases. The Gartner findings and identified trends we believe support our directions and commitment to innovate in order to enable our customers to operationalize and unify digital distribution across warehouse, labor, automation, and transportation.

Blue Yonder’s recognition includes:

Received second highest rank in Level 3 Warehouse Operation use caseReceived the third highest rank in the Level 4 Warehouse Operation use caseScored in highest 4 for Level 5 Warehouse Operation use case

We believe that our recognized strong labor and workforce management, analytics, mobile reporting, exception monitoring, and usability are helping our customers to enhance operational efficiencies and agility. We also believe that our strong implementation and system management tools, adaptability, templatizations (such as graphical workflow visualization tools), and integration utilities (with more than 200 APIs) reflect our ability to enhance our customers’ digital transformation.

Expanding Capabilities to Match Customer Needs Post-Pandemic

Based on our understanding, the Gartner report emphasizes technology trends such as labor management, work planning and optimization, multitenant cloud solutions, and robot integration capabilities, as customers, per our interpretation, are seeking a differentiated set of WMS capabilities to better compete, particularly as the world begins to emerge from the pandemic.

To match the customer trends highlighted in the report, we believe Blue Yonder is:

Leveraging its AI domain expertise for Warehouse Tasking (see also Warehouse Tasking animation video) to greatly improving delivery performance resource utilization and Robotics Hub (see also Robotics Hub animation video) to accelerate onboarding of multiple robotics vendorsEnabling an API-centric approach through its Luminate™ Platform to connect its WMS with transportation management, and Luminate Control Tower to enable Unified Logistics.Continuing to innovate with the upcoming launch of its Luminate WMS, a SaaS-native solution powered by microservices such as Fulfillment-as-a-Serviceto enable last- and middle-mile fulfillment including micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) and dark stores.Launching its Warehouse Execution System, amulti-tenant, API-led solution to intelligently synchronize, sequence, and assign work to both labor and machine.

Warehouse Tasking Video:

Robotics Video:

To learn more, download the 2021 Gartner Critical Capabilities for Warehouse Management Systems and 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems reports[2]. Also, learn more about Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Management and Labor Management solutions.

Related Content

Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems,” Simon Tunstall and Dwight Klappich, 30 June 2021

Gartner, Critical Capabilities for Warehouse Management Systems, Simon Tunstall, Dwight Klappich, 28 July 2021

Gartner and Magic Quadrant are registered trademarks of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose

[1] Gartner, Critical Capabilities for Warehouse Management Systems, Simon Tunstall, Dwight Klappich, 28 July 2021

[2] Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems,” Simon Tunstall and Dwight Klappich, 30 June 2021

3 Logistics Outsourcing Errors

There are many common mistakes made in Logistics Outsourcing. Often companies rush into Logistics Outsourcing without doing all the homework.With me is Urszula Kelly, our Supply Chain and Logistics specialist, to discuss the details and to share tips for you to avoid this type of situation.[embedded content]Related articles on this topic have appeared throughout our website, check them out:Best Regards,Rob O’ByrneEmail: [email protected]Phone: +61 417 417 307

Christmas in March? How One Chinese language Port Would possibly Shake Up Your Vacation Plans

Nintendo Switch, iPhone, Tamagotchi, and Teddy Ruxpin… these have all been the hottest retail items in holidays past, and they all happen to be electronics too. Coincidence? Nope. And with online electronics sales up 145% during the 2020 holiday shopping season, this trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

But what if I told you that 90% of the world’s electronics go through the same port? And what if I told you that port had a recent COVID-19 outbreak, leaving a backlog of over 160,000 40-foot containers, causing a domino effect on the entire shipping industry that might take a year to get sorted out?  

Well, friends, let’s talk about the Port of Yantian. 

Yantian, a port just north of Hong Kong, was shut down for almost a week at the end of May due to a spread of coronavirus amongst dock workers. And while, thankfully, the infection rate has since improved and many operations have resumed — the damage has been done.  

The backlog is being felt all over the world. From ships waiting to dock in Guangdong to empty containers stockpiling in the U.S., the already-stressed-out shipping industry is spread so thin from the pandemic that just one event, like what’s happening at Yantian, can cause lasting waves to a very delicate ecosystem. And this is one storm that might take months, or up to a year, to calm. 

So what do we do now? How do we save the holidays, and — more important — how do we help resolve these supply chain fractures? 

Balance Efficiency with Resilience 

Let’s start by asking ourselves, “Why do 90% of the world’s electronics go through the same port in the first place?” It’s because supply chains are designed to be hyper-efficient, and in this case, using the Port of Yantian has become the quickest and most cost-efficient way for shippers to send the next holiday crazy all over the globe. Until now. 

In order to build resilient supply chains that can withstand pandemics, natural disasters, and political unrest, there must be trade-offs for efficiency — resilience comes at a cost. For example, manufacturing everything in China might seem like the cheapest option, but having some diversification with near-shore sourcing would certainly make the current situation a bit less painful.  

The same theory applies to diversity in shipping ports. Sure, it might make the most short-term financial sense to use the same Chinese port for goods made in China, but this line of thinking certainly won’t make a resilient supply chain. Instead, we must start leveraging some different routes to spread capacity across multiple ports — even if it’s not the most efficient method. Otherwise, we run the risk of big delays when a disruption hits. 

Gain Visibility Into Downstream Impacts 

Designing a resilient supply chain helps in the long run, but what about a disruption that’s happening right now? Identifying an event, like the current situation in China, is the first step. That’s visibility. But here at Blue Yonder, we talk a lot about end-to-end visibility, and that means providing context to see downstream impacts. 

For example, let’s say you have one of the containers in the logjam at Yantian. You need to know the impacts to inventory, production capacity and sales. The modern-day supply chain uses AI and ML to guide and inform human decision-making by providing insights to see, understand, act, and learn on real-time information from the entire digital ecosystem.  

Break Down Silos 

Historically, supply chains have been comprised of silos that don’t share data across systems, departments or suppliers. But now that we’re looking at visibility holistically, we can start to coordinate across the verticals and break down those silos. By sharing real-time disruptions, inventory and forecasts, communication is greatly improved and decision-making can be dynamic — rather than always reactive. 

Removing the silos leads to a more collaborative supply chain. This collaboration ensures events are identified and downstream impacts are minimized, whether this is the Port of Yantian, the Suez Canal, or the next global shipping disruption.  

Blue Yonder’s SaaS-based supply chain solutions can help solve strategic shipping issues, like balancing efficiency with resilience, but we also can help navigate short-term disruptions — like getting the most-popular electronics from China delivered to the right places, just in time for the holidays.  

To learn more about building a resilient supply chain, head over to our thought leadership hub. 

Enterprise and Know-how Insights from the 2021 State of Provide Chain Execution Report, Half 1

Customer centricity, e-commerce, Direct-to-Consumer (D2C), and the risk of financial peril are propelling shippers (manufacturers and retailers) and logistics service providers (LSPs) to digitally transform. 2020 and the first half of 2021 saw an acceleration in many emerging digital trends pre-dating the pandemic.

Today we are releasing the results from the 2021 State of Supply Chain Execution Report, which provides the latest market insights around:

Will e-commerce growth brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic continue?What are the biggest supply chain execution/logistics challenges facing shippers and LSPs?Which technologies are getting attention and investments?

Our survey questions were focused on four areas: E-commerce, Risk and Resiliency, Technology and Innovation, and Collaboration and Change Management. We partnered with Reuters Events Supply Chain to interview close to 600 supply chain professionals from around the world and they were surveyed between May and June 2021 for this report.


Digital trends dominate industry and company discussions as all are seeing an overwhelming period of e-commerce growth that necessitates wholesale changes to survive and drive competitive advantages in the post-pandemic era. This growth has sparked disruptions due to the lack of availability of raw materials, transportation capacity, and visibility needed to produce and move essential products.

Supply chain execution / logistics operations have risen to the occasion this year and last year in serving the changing needs of the economy during the pandemic, absorbing rapid changes in priorities and shocks in demand and supply patterns. With the expectation of continued growth, how can companies enhance capabilities rather than just throw scarce resources at difficult situations?

In this report, you will get insights into the thinking of logistics executives into the e-commerce growth picture. You will also observe that shippers and LSPs are renewing themselves to address the prevailing trends of customer-first and omni-channel. In this new environment, as brands and manufacturers gain digital maturity, they are converging upon D2C models to drive loyalty while retailers are branching out to push home-grown labels to consumers. The rise of D2C is taking shape. To respond to this new opportunity, how are brands and their LSPs rising to the challenge? In addition to sharing the findings, we asked several industry executives to share their observations and points of views.

Risk and Resiliency

The siloed nature of operations has increasingly prevented businesses from accessing the data they need to make timely and wise decision in crucial moments. Just-in-time (JIT) enabled the development of the cost-optimized supply chain, yet, the over-emphasis on such efficiency caused companies to insufficiently address risk management, especially for logistics network risks beyond the four walls. This presents much risk on the supply side. It is therefore very interesting to observe the top concerns for shippers and LSPs in their respective roles in our report. For example, what supply chain risk management processes are they currently investing in?

Supply chain risk and resiliency have gained greater attention in the past 18 months. Due to the lack of preparation that many companies had for both the pandemic and the resulting health crisis, there were many disruptions to different supply chain execution processes and operations. The survey results demonstrate a clear desire for businesses to build capabilities enabling much better focus on visibility, capacity, and transparency to respond to issues and risks. There is a clear message about the importance of diversification strategies and the necessity to tackle capacity shortages and prolonged lack of sustainability investment.

Raj Patel, Senior Director, 3PL Global Industry Strategy, Blue Yonder, share his industry perspectives: “When we think of risk management, cybersecurity is often front and center of people’s concern, often for good reason. However, risk management involves a much more expansive appraisal of your business. For example, sustainability issues can expose you to financial and legal risk, just as single-sourcing can heighten exposure on the supply side.”

Technology and Innovation

To maximize omni-channel opportunities presented by the growing volume of e-commerce sales, LSPs must offer up unique services that meet the needs of e-commerce and traditional retailers. Investment in modern technologies and new approaches to working are essential for businesses looking to adjust to changing trends and customer expectations.

At minimum, companies must seek to have a more holistic technical infrastructure in place. Integrating the Warehouse Management System (WMS), Transportation Management System (TMS), and Order Management System (OMS) is essential. While the digital logistics landscape is still be relatively young, companies can use this fractured space as an inroad.

To find out more about the actions that will enable shippers and LSPs to better serve this new era, we asked the respondents two questions about their investment in modern technologies and new approaches. First, both shippers and LSPs shared that changing customer demands and pressures to reduce supply chain costs are the top factors driving supply chain technology investment decisions. Next, the survey respondents shared which technologies are yielding the best ROI currently and in the next 18 months.  At present, investing in end-to-end visibility was a must for most shippers and LSPs. The report discusses more insights into the pressures and technologies.

Collaboration and Change Management

The rise of e-commerce has led to a dramatic improvement in inter-departmental collaboration and communication. To advance into a truly digital age, respondents informed us that the biggest

challenges in the speed of new technology adoption. The survey also touched on whether labor capacity shortages continue to impact operations and what labor strategies companies are employing to manage it.

Jim Bralsford, Senior Industry Strategies Director, EMEA, Blue Yonder, shared his perspectives: “The one thing that’s certain in this world, and particularly in supply chain right now is you’ve got to keep changing to stay current. That’s a scary proposition for many organizations. Legacy systems are obviously inherently inflexible. They’ve been customized over time, and people get comfortable with doing it this way. The advice I’d give is never fear to ask, ‘Why do you do it that way?’ Because its’s always been that way? Could it be improved upon? No matter the size and complexity of the task at hand, develop a roadmap and recognize this isn’t going to be a ’big bang’ change. Be willing to pivot and augment that roadmap along the way.”

Start Your Digital Transformation

In the post-COVID-19 world, companies are finding it very challenging to handle the higher volume of orders that come with increased e-commerce activities and more frequent changes and disruptions. A new level of control, agility and resilience is needed in logistics operations. The breakdown of silos among partners in the ecosystem and a new level of intelligence brought on by digital systems and devices will help companies shift their logistics operations to be more competitive and customer-centric. Autonomous supply chain execution especially in transportation and warehouse management needs to be something companies are striving for now. This is described further in the Future of Logistics eBook.

Customer expectations around the speed of click-to-deliver motions will drive significant changes in supply chain network footprints, where the inventory is held, and how the fulfillment and delivery happen, while keeping the focus on cash flows, fulfillment costs and sustainability. The new way of thinking is described in the Unified Logistics eBook.

Additional Insights

In an upcoming LinkedIn Live session on Aug. 17, 2021, I will speak with Jim Bralsford and Raj Patel about the acceleration in many emerging digital trends and how companies are enhancing supply chain execution capabilities to address disruptions, resilience, and prevailing trends in e-commerce. In an upcoming Part 2 blog, we will discuss the survey results and insights in more detail.

For more information about the 2021 State of Supply Chain Execution Report:

Learn more about how Luminate Logistics provides an end-to-end execution platform to help drive flexible, fully autonomous distribution networks.

The Pullback From China: Will it Be Tougher for SMEs?

Whether to relocate supply or manufacturing from China to another low-cost country or switch to a near-shoring or re-shoring strategy is not a decision to take lightly. That makes the slow but steady increase in the number of large companies doing just that all the more notable.A combination of geopolitical instability and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic has many companies, large and small, second-guessing their commitment to China as a center for offshore manufacture.If the exodus continues, will smaller businesses find the cost of near-shoring or re-shoring becoming impossibly prohibitive? Let’s see what the evidence suggests.Which Large Enterprises are Pulling Back From China?We’ll begin with a look at which of the larger, most well-known companies have already shifted some of their supply chain activity away from China, are in the process currently, or have announced plans to do so. Some of the most notable include: Steve Madden, shoe and bag retailer: Moving production to Cambodia, Brazil, Mexico, and Vietnam. The transition was scheduled to begin this year. Nike: The world-famous sportswear brand has been moving manufacturing from China to some African and Southeast Asian countries. Under Armour: Another apparel brand forsaking China, Under Armour plans to reduce production in the country from 18% to a mere 7%. Target countries for new production facilities include Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Jordan. Apple: The mighty tech brand has begun encouraging many of its suppliers to move their manufacturing facilities from China. Contract manufacturers for Apple, including Foxconn, are relocating some production to India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. That said, it’s expected that the majority of manufacturing capacity will remain in China. Nintendo: One of the world’s most well-known console brands has moved some of its production from China to Vietnam, primarily as a diversification move. Samsung: The electronics giant has moved all smartphone, TV, and PC production out of China. Sony: Japan’s best-known tech company relocated its smartphone manufacturing from China to Thailand, citing rising costs in China as a primary reason for the decision. LG Electronics: Hit by tariffs on its refrigerators for the United States market, this South Korean enterprise re-shored manufacturing of those appliances. Intel: A household name in microchip technology, Intel has moved some of its manufacturing from China to Vietnam, and plans to commission some new production facilities in the United States. Adidas: Vietnam is one of the countries benefitting most from Adidas’ drawn-out retreat from Chinese manufacturing, which has been underway since 2010. In that time, the company has reduced manufacturing in China by around 50%. GoPro: This camera company from the United States began moving manufacturing from China to Mexico back in 2018. Puma: Like its rival, Adidas, Puma is reducing reliance on China for manufacturing. US import tariffs and the desire to diversify manufacturing locations are the key drivers of the move, which will see some of the company’s production transferred to Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. Microsoft: Although it’s not talking much about it, Microsoft was said last year to be moving some of its PC and laptop manufacturing capacity from China to North Vietnam. Hasbro: The famous American toymaker has moved a substantial portion of its manufacturing activity from China, relocating it to India and Vietnam. Alphabet: The parent company of Google has moved the manufacture of its Pixel smartphone to Vietnam. Other products, such as motherboards and smart-home components, will no longer be produced in China either, as Alphabet plans to move their manufacture to Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia.The above list of large corporations moving production away from China is by no means exhaustive, and remarkably, almost all of them were in the process of doing so before the pandemic struck.In the wake of COVID-19, as enterprises with global supply chains count the cost of the crisis and consider ways to increase resilience, many more large companies are expected to move at least some of their manufacturing to other low-cost countries, or locations nearer to home.Key reasons for the steady exodus include lessons learned from the pandemic’s global supply chain disruption, tariffs imposed due to the US/China trade war, rising costs in China, and the worsening geopolitical situation.The Governmental InfluenceFar from staying impartial to China’s fall from manufacturing favour, some national governments are actively encouraging their countries’ large companies to bring production home or at least, to move it away from China.For example, the United States Government’s imposition of tariffs speaks for itself, even if former President Trump hadn’t repeatedly told companies to bring manufacturing home.Meanwhile, in JapanThe Japanese government allocated more than $2 billion (USD) of its economic stimulus package to aiding its manufacturers to move back onto home soil. Although there is little evidence that the incentive has stimulated re-shoring to any great extent, some 900 Japanese companies have chosen to begin procuring supplies from countries other than China.Germany’s Pullback From ChinaGerman companies, it seems, don’t need too much governmental incentive to persuade them to pull back from China.In 2019, close to 25% of all German companies, including Adidas and Puma, had announced plans to remove operations from the People’s Republic.Nevertheless, it’s no secret that the German government is keen to see its nation’s businesses become less dependent on China as a supplier, so some of those enterprises considering a move may well be doing so in the expectation of future state-sponsored initiatives.Opinions differ as to whether the trickle of companies reducing or eliminating their presence in China will become a flood. However, given recent events in the political arena, it’s conceivable that even those companies in China as much for access to its vast domestic market as its manufacturing prowess might think long and hard about the choice to remain or pull out.SMEs With China Manufacturing: Is There a Danger in Staying Too Long?With all the moving and shaking going on among the larger corporates with manufacturing facilities in China, it’s clear that other nations will continue to see an influx of manufacturing activity.Whether these giant enterprises choose to pull out totally or partially, re-shore, relocate to alternative near-shore or offshore locations or exclude China from future manufacturing plans, there will be some effects on the new destinations chosen.A Tough, But Necessary, Decision for SMEsSo, where does that leave smaller enterprises with a will to pull back from China? After all, a significant number of SMEs have contracted their production out to Chinese manufacturers. They’re also subject to the same problems and issues faced by their corporate brethren.Tariffs, geopolitical troubles, pandemics, rising labour costs; none of these ills spare a business based on its size. However, if anything, smaller businesses will be the ones to feel the effects more acutely—and will have fewer options to reduce or avoid them.Recognition of that fact seems abundant. According to one survey, more than half the small businesses in North America with suppliers in China are looking to end their relationships, with Mexico being a popular—and closer—alternative under consideration.For many SMEs, now might be the time to decide whether to make the move imminently or wait a while and see how things develop.Is There a Cost for Those That Wait?On the one hand, SMEs have several advantages over larger enterprises when it comes to moving out. They are more nimble than large conglomerates, probably haven’t invested large amounts of capital into Chinese manufacturing, and are less likely to experience punitive retaliation from Beijing—all of which make relocation more practical, not to mention faster.On the other, it’s unwise to underestimate the costs of switching procurement from one country to another. Smaller companies may find relocation unaffordable, especially while battling with pandemic fallout.For those SMEs that wait, though, sourcing costs might become an even more significant factor in the pullback from China. American SMEs, for example, might find the cost of sourcing from Mexico to be less attractive in a couple of years than it is right now.The same might be said for Japanese and Australian firms that choose to wait before relocating procurement, production, and manufacturing to countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand.After all, with larger companies pouring investment into these countries and creating demand for industrial real estate, labour, raw materials, components, and other resources, price increases are likely to be inevitable over time.Not an Easy Call to MakeIn reality, there are so many factors in play that it’s not realistic to predict how the exodus of larger companies from China will impact the cost of sourcing elsewhere for smaller businesses.For example, while an increase in demand for labour could push wage costs up, the pace at which automation and commercial robotics is developing could help to curb such a demand. Moreover, for SMEs that choose to near-shore, some additional sourcing costs could be offset by transport-cost reductions.Similarly, there is always the possibility that labour rates in China could fall again as demand reduces or that the rate of increase slows compared to other outsourced manufacturing destinations. In that case, companies deciding to wait might find that the incentive to keep their manufacturing in the People’s Republic actually grows in the interim.What Are Your Business’ Plans for Future Sourcing?As the dynamics of international sourcing continue to play out, it seems that the only sure thing is the continuation of uncertainty.Should SMEs turn their backs on China as a supply source, or merely reduce reliance on the country and diversify their supply chains? Is it better to move now before costs start to increase too much, or to stick with China and see what happens?What’s to say the next black swan event won’t disrupt sources in a different country or region, and who knows when that event may occur? Perhaps a re-shoring policy, or strategy in which future sourcing will all be domestic, is the only safe route to take?What do you see as the future of sourcing for small to medium-sized businesses? Do you believe the cost to relocate to suppliers or manufacturers in other countries will increase? Is it viable to pull away from China?I’m always interested to know the views of supply chain professionals when it comes to the dynamics of globalization, so please do share your thoughts in the comments section below.Best Regards,Rob O’ByrneEmail: [email protected]Phone: +61 417 417 307

Blue Yonder Wins AI Breakthrough Award

Leading logistics teams are leveraging robotics, collaborative robots (cobots), drones, and a variety of automation tools such as picking bots to complement their human capabilities. These teams are also adding artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), smart machines, and IoT solutions to their digital toolboxes to support more intelligent, more responsive operations1.

According to the 2021 Logistics Executive Survey, conducted by Blue Yonder earlier this year, to meet growing demands while reducing costs, nearly 42% of logistics executives plan to implement AI and/or ML and nearly half (48%) plan to implement and/or enhance their warehouse management systems (WMS) and cloud infrastructure in the next 12 months2.

By 2025, according to ABI Research3, over 4 million commercial robots will be installed in over 50,000 warehouses, up from just under 4,000 robotic warehouses in 2018. But, combining these technologies into successful initiatives and getting them to work with existing systems are forming challenges for many organizations. For example, on-boarding robots requires highly complex, customized integrations. This may cause disparate views for operations managers to handle, leading to islands of automation within the same warehouse or distribution center (DC). Maintenance and upgrades may also be expensive.

An Award-Winning Robotics Solution

To assist warehouse operations in achieving this vision and to tackle the on-boarding challenges, Blue Yonder developed its Robotics Hub solution together with its long-time customer DHL Supply Chain and its strategic partner Microsoft.

The solution was selected as the winner of “Best Robotic Process Automation Solution” in the fourth annual AI Breakthrough Awards program4, conducted by AI Breakthrough, a leading market intelligence organization that recognizes the top companies, technologies and products in the global Artificial Intelligence (AI) market today.

At a time when fulfillment solutions have never been more important, the Robotics Hub helps improve visibility across different automation solutions. It is now easy to integrate new robots into existing platforms and connect to their customers’ various warehouse management systems (WMS).

According to James Johnson, AI Breakthrough’s managing director, “Organizations are challenged as different robot vendors manage their own robots, causing different views for operations managers to handle leading to islands of automation within the same warehouse.”

Important Elements

Robotics Hub:

Augments the shrinking workforce with robotics.Increases speed to value by reducing the onboarding process and achieve a faster ROI.Gains insights about your operations across multiple robotics vendors from a single dashboard.Offers organizations the ability to onboard multiple robotics vendors with different capabilities, increasing operational flexibility and avoiding getting tied down to one vendor.Gains out of the box AI and ML capabilities to improve efficiency.

The solution implements standard workflows and application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be re-used across different automation solutions. An API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to communicate with each other. Robotics Hub on one side connects with WMS and on the other with different robotics and automation providers through a standard set of RESTful APIs. The technology leveraged here (RESTful APIs) was mainly for performance/bandwidth reasons and is the same technology Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter use for their websites.

Innovation Comes to Life with DHL

DHL’s Accelerated Digitalization Initiative aims to rapidly establish its technology leadership. A key goal of the initiative is to incorporate automation and robotics at more than 2,000 sites, orchestrating this implementation from a global perspective.

However, a critical factor to accomplishing this was a solution that would be compatible with DHL’s existing Blue Yonder WMS and allow multiple robotics vendors to integrate easily. From an initial conversation between DHL Supply Chain and Blue Yonder in October 2019, the idea for Robotics Hub was born.

Built on Blue Yonder’s Luminate Platform, which is powered by Microsoft Azure, the SaaS-native application was first implemented in a DHL warehouse in Madrid, Spain, going live in May 2020. This first implementation resulted in a 60% reduction in implementation time for robotics, resulting in faster delivery of ROI in the first six months. DHL is rolling out the solution at more sites this year. With subsequent deployments, DHL foresees further improvements of up to 90%.

This video highlights the successful, first implementation.

[embedded content]

An Emerging Trend

Humans and machines are learning to work together in seamless, fluid ways, where the best resource is chosen for the task at hand, in real-time, as conditions change. Smart orchestration engines continuously monitor new orders and other changes, then apply constraints such as asset availability, human skillsets, employee availability, and equipment capacity. These engines autonomously deliver an optimized work plan with detailed tasks, such as pick lists, that will support on-time, in-full deliveries. Orchestration engines also leverage ML, digitized warehouse maps, travel paths, and labor standards to fine-tune the effort for each work item.

Through dynamic resource adjustment the engines can autonomously update the plan in a way that optimizes the balance between customer service and financial impacts. The results also include improved accuracy, productivity, and agility in warehouses and other facilities.

Learn more about the Robotics Hub and the topic of human and machine through the Future of Logistics eBook. For more information about the AI Breakthrough Award, please review this press release.

1 “Future of Logistics eBook”, by Blue Yonder

2 “Insights from the 2021 Logistics Executive Survey: The New Normal of Logistics”, by Terence Leung, Blue Yonder

3  “Robotics in E-Commerce Fulfillment”, ABI Research

4   The mission of the AI Breakthrough Awards is to honor excellence and recognize the innovation, hard work and success in a range of AI and machine learning related categories, including AI platforms, Deep Learning, Smart Robotics, Business Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, industry specific AI applications and many more. This year’s program attracted more than 2,850 nominations from over 17 different countries throughout the world.   

ICON Session Recap: TRAXION’s E-Commerce-Calibre Providers and Digital Provide Chain Execution Options

During ICON 2021, I had the pleasure to speak with Nestor del Rio, Logistics Director at TRAXION Logistics, a leading transportation and logistics company based in Mexico, during the session “E-Commerce-Calibre Services and Digital Supply Chain Execution Solutions.” Here is a recap of the key topics Nestor and I covered during the session.

The Next Wave of Digital Transformation Initiatives

TRAXION is very advanced in leveraging logistics and supply chain technologies. Please tell us about the company and what digital transformation initiatives you have planned?

Nestor: TRAXION consists of different divisions. The Personnel and Student Transportation Division has around 5,800 power units for personnel and school transportation. Another is the Freight Division where we handle logistics with 2,800 power units dedicated to moving people and things from one place to another, both domestically and internationally. Our newest division, Logistics and Technology, is where we developed and created a one-stop logistics solution, integrating warehousing, distribution, and transportation for our 3PL and 4PL capabilities in Mexico. This division offers contract logistics, distribution services, digital brokerage services, parcel services, and 4PL services.

The company has invested heavily in technology as the main capability for our 3PL/4PL services. With our supply chain partner Blue Yonder, our digital path includes:

Cloud: Grow everything in the cloud to allow for a digital transformation.Integration with Customers: Provide customers with the easiest way to connect into our network.Digital Customer Engagement: Make it easy for customers to interact with us. Previously, interactions were offline; digital allows customers to feel that we are one entity.Aggregation: Partner with all the transportation companies that work with us on freight capacity, warehouse capabilities, and customs capabilities.IoT: Digitalize our fleet and warehouse assets as much as possible.Democratized Analytics: Have the ability to provide data to customers and partners to make quick and informed decisions.Omni-channel Readiness: Be an enabler for omni-channel parcel, transportation, and warehouse systems, as well as a service for customers.Digital Supply Chain: Provide customers with end-to-end supply chain visibility. Luminate Control Tower has helped give customers visibility into trucks and freight lanes through a digital connection with us.Predictive AI: Plan to leverage Luminate Platform’s AI capabilities.Sustainable and Green Concept: Use the digital path to track and leverage green and sustainable initiatives.

The Solutions

What has TRAXION been able to achieve thanks to Blue Yonder’s Transportation Management System (TMS) that gives the team the confidence to move to the next stage of the digital journey?

Nestor: When we decided to partner with Blue Yonder, we targeted five objectives to help create the Logistics and Technology Division:

Customer Centricity: Enable our sales force through the technology.Wide Scope of Services: Provide more advanced digital capabilities.Visibility and Connectivity: Integrate into one platform: carriers, warehouses, orders, shipments, GPS and security.Disruption, Prediction, and Collaboration: Combine carriers and shippers into one platform for logistics resources with a service called TRAXPORT.Omni-channel: End-to-end services for storage, product transformation, distribution, and last mile.

With the Blue Yonder TMS, we acquired a platform that enables us to manage, control, interact, and grow to be able to brokerage services, optimize loads, and optimize freight, creating a seamless solution for cross-border transportation between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Also, the end-to-end visibility it offers was the cherry on the cake.

While many 3PLs use the Blue Yonder TMS, not many have an integrated solution combining TMS and a control tower solution. With this combination, we can create full collaboration and transparency with customers, as well as integrate with carriers that help us to sell the services. We then found out that the freight carriers like having more interaction with us.

With the TMS carrier services, we can function as digital brokers. As a result, with the help of TMS and Luminate Control Tower, we can get into a market that we did not expect to via TRAXPORT. In addition, these combined Blue Yonder solutions have enabled us to provide end-to-end omni-channel services.

We are also able to offer Transportation Modeling and Network Design to enable our consultative selling team of engineers to design the right solutions for our customers.

That is a very comprehensive footprint. Did Blue Yonder’s solutions provide you with the confidence to take these new capabilities further?

Nestor: It is always difficult to find the right partner. In this case, we chose Blue Yonder because of the company’s extensive experience in the supply chain business and TMS, as well as the amazing team who help us solve many implementation challenges. Also, the solutions’ capabilities and how they could help us reach our future goals was another key reason we selected Blue Yonder.

Blue Yonder’s TMS is also a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for TMS. However, more importantly, the company’s credibility in implementation and in exceeding expectations was very important as we needed to implement and deploy new business fast. To do this we needed the right supply chain partner that understands our country and geography. Thanks to our strong partnership, the team broke a lot of records on implementation!

I like to use the phrase from the Olympics: faster, higher, stronger. In many cases working with a big corporation, we observe bureaucratic and slow behavior. But we found Blue Yonder to be very agile with the capability to help us deploy and deliver quickly and efficiently. We now have a Ferrari (or a Land Rover!) that can do almost everything.

What’s Next

What challenges and areas of improvements are you tackling next?

Nestor: The next wave is moving faster than what we expected. We believed the market was going to slow down after the pandemic; however, it is not slowing down! The 3PL market in Mexico and Latin America are moving faster than before. The growth of the market can be 10-25% every year. The customers are growing and transforming and needing us to grow and transform. Last year, with the pandemic, the e-commerce market in Mexico doubled in size and compressed three years into one year. Now our challenges mainly come from how to deploy faster solutions to meet omni-channel needs and how to help customers to do better. We have the challenge of how to enable new wave of technologies in less than one year and how to train the team to use the technologies. That’s where we want to go.

What advice would you like to give others on leveraging solutions to attain success in their digital journey?

Nestor: What I have learned:

Implementing a new technology platform takes time. In our case, it took two years.Treat the solution as an MVP, minimum viable solution, that you want to implement and start to exploit the benefits right away – even if it is not totally perfectly. This helped us to make amazing developments, create new business, enable new companies, and achieve new revenue streams.Take a lean approach of using the tools and let the team innovate every month or few months.And, the best lesson learned: Let the team understand how to – and empower them to – build more solutions!

Learn more about Blue Yonder’s transportation management and unified logistics.  For more insights from ICON 21, please go here.

Half 2, Insights from the 2021 Logistics Govt Survey: The New Regular of Logistics

Our recently launched 2021 Logistics Executive Survey aims to seek out the “New Normal of Logistics.”  The survey tracks the pulse of the market as logistics operations are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic to periods of adjustments, redefinition, and eventually a new equilibrium.

In Part 1, we looked at the drivers for investment, logistics technologies and the tightening labor situation. In Part 2, we examine the survey results further and highlight the key points from the LinkedIn Live session on the same topic. During the session, I spoke with two logistics and technologic experts from Blue Yonder: Fab Brasca, GVP, Global Solutions, and Raj Patel, Senior Director of 3PL Global Industry Strategy.

Importance of Sustainability is Growing in Logistics

The survey results highlight the growing importance of sustainability, with 59% of logistics executives (and within that group 71% of those in consumer manufacturing industry) planning to offer flexible delivery windows for online orders to maximize sustainability. The second highlight is the emphasis on identifying sustainable upstream operations in material sourcing, suppliers, and manufacturing.

There are two factors that are driving up the priority of sustainability for organizations, according to Fab:

The first is legislation, with more and more regions actively formulating laws.The second factor is a shift in consumer sentiment.

Fab points out that consumers are now looking to make choices based on sustainability. This in turn effects how companies behave. In the world of logistics, it is easy to make the correlation between sustainability and efficiency in logistics: increasing the efficiency of asset utilization and reduction of empty miles not only reduce the cost of serve, but also drives towards a lower carbon footprint and sustainability metric.

The interesting thing will be how far organizations are willing to go. Will organizations just continue with business as usual and then tag on to the sustainability gains, based upon their own reduction of cost to serve metrics? Or will they start to make decisions that may impact or increase their costs but can drive a lower carbon footprint? For example, if a company is making carrier decisions, will it select a higher cost carrier because the carrier has newer equipment? How will they make decisions to invest in electric vehicles? The clear question ahead will be whether consumer sentiment is enough to force many organizations to make these types of advanced investments.

Raj points out that logistics and manufacturing customers are looking at their supply chain results, resiliency, agility, and now sustainability in order to make sourcing or dual sourcing decisions. North American companies are comparing sourcing products from Asia, which has multiple modes of emissions, to building/sourcing products in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. If companies pay a little bit more per unit to produce products in North America thus reducing the transit time and carbon emission, is the potential extra cost worth the change? Will companies award business to transportation providers because they have electric vehicles and new equipment? How will these factors be measured and how will sustainability be entered into the decision-making process?

The survey results also show that logistics executives are implementing eco-friendly packaging options. From Raj’s perspectives, consumers are definitely making sustainability a factor in their selection process. More and more consumers are buying based on: what they hear about sustainability, eco-friendly packaging, and sustainability tags on products (these tags showcase what percentage of recycled/sustainable material was used to make the product).

For those who put their sustainability efforts on hold during the pandemic, the survey showed that they plan to resume their efforts in the next 12 to 18 months. This means we might know who the real sustainability players are in the logistics space in the next year to two years. If the consumer has anything to say about it, a lot of companies will have to step up their sustainability game. Consumers will keep all that in mind when they’re making that selection, whether online or in stores.

Additional Points of View on Drivers for Investment

In Part 1, we discussed that meeting growing customer expectations is the top priority for logistics executives. Reducing service costs for transportation, warehousing, and labor and improving resiliency toward disruption are the second and third priorities. From Fab’s point of view, many consumers, including himself, used to drive short distances to major retailers to have the experience of seeing and touching products. During the pandemic, we saw a whole wave of consumers making the shift to online engagement and not really venturing out at all.

This is forcing organizations to look at how they can improve their technologies and supply chains. Interestingly, Fab saw an acceleration of digital transformation projects across Blue Yonder’s customer base, as these organizations wanted to solve the following problems right away:

How do I get closer to the customer?How do I deliver better customer experiences?How will new initiatives affect the cost of service, which is still a paramount metric?

To drill down further on the topic of customer experiences, the survey team wanted to understand the most important factors to enhance the experience as the economy transitions to a post-pandemic environment. Logistics executives responded that the most important factor for enhancing consumer experiences post-COVID-19 is maintaining and optimizing convenient fulfillment options, including curbside pickup, BOPIS, and at-home delivery. The Future of Logistics eBook covers how by unifying logistics, organizations have the opportunity to leverage top technologies to achieve omni-channel execution performance and customer-centric supply chain.

Rather surprisingly, the second most important priority is increasing sustainable delivery options. Raj has a unique way to explain the results: what COVID-19 did was to compound five years of e-commerce growth all into one year. Customers are getting used to what he calls the new norm: options. Customers wants to have options, period.

Today, a consumer might buy online and have it delivered. But tomorrow the same consumer might buy online and pick it up at the store. This is happening not just at fashion retailers but grocery stores, restaurants, and boutique retail stores. Raj imagines this trend is going to continue to grow.

The second aspect is that at these stores, there is a separate area dedicated for pick-up. A consumer walks in and picks up whatever he/she ordered online or at the store – and at some stores without speaking to an associate. As a result, retailers are changing their footprints to offer a dedicated line for online order pick-ups. In addition, stores have to cater to curbside pick-ups.

More to Come on Expectation Setting and Expectation Meeting

The third aspect is home delivery. The topic can be divided into two distinct parts: parcel and big bulky. The delivery window is getting tighter and tighter. What are logistics executives tackling increasing customer expectations? In an upcoming blog, we will continue to discuss the technology investment trends and the importance of setting and meeting expectations.

In the meantime, for more information about the Logistics Executive Survey:

Learn more about how Luminate Logistics provides an end-to-end execution platform to help drive flexible, fully autonomous distribution networks.