Rumored to have become only the second company ever to make $1 trillion in a single year, Amazon’s metaphorical rise continues to head skyward, with it becoming increasingly apparent they are about to become a major disruptive force in the supply chain logistics industry. Google appears to be following Amazons lead, with it looking increasingly likely they will move into this industry in the not so distant future. Microsoft and Oracle, on the other hand, have focused on providing the software to drive industry. Both companies offer a range of products that are specific to supply chain logistics. They both also have several secondary products that indirectly create a more agile and cost-efficient supply chain. Adobe presents as somewhat of an enigma. None of the literature available suggests that Adobe has any direct contribution to supply chain management. Its products tend to be focused on creativity or marketing rather than the infrastructure and operations of companies.
a) Supply Chain Logistics
THE EXTENT OF ITS LOGISTICS OPERATION IN 2018
- In 2018, Amazon had 800 logistics sites, 300 fulfillment centers, 300 delivery stations, 80 Prime Now hubs situated in cities to enable delivery within two hours, 80 sortation centers, 20 fresh food distribution centers (mainly in the US), 12 wholefood retail centers, and an airport hub under construction in Kentucky. Amazon relies heavily on robots to fulfill orders and has a goal of 2 million operational robots by 2025.
THE SEC FILINGS
- There have been repeated and consistent rumors around Amazon launching a logistics service. Fuel was added to the fire in February 2019 when Amazon filed its annual SEC filing, with Fortune pointing out that Amazon, when discussing competitors, had said: “Companies that provide fulfillment and logistics services for themselves or for third parties, whether online or offline.” What seemingly underlined the statement was it was at complete odds with their Q4 SEC filing in 2018 that referred to Amazon Logistics as “extra capacity to dial up when needed.”
- Amazon would have to navigate a minefield were it to purse a logistics service, as it would be in direct competition with 3PL companies, many of whom give Amazon favorable rates and special shipping; companies like USPS and UPS. It has not gone unnoticed that Amazon is increasing its logistic capabilities, including internal freight options, air cargo, ocean shipping, and last-mile shipping. It seems inevitable that the dynamics of Amazon’s relationships with the 3PL companies they partner with are headed for turbulent waters.
- The CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith, has downplayed any competition from Amazon saying, “We look at Amazon as a wonderful company in service, and they’re a good customer of ours. We don’t see them as a peer competitor at this point in time for many reasons.” Amazon, too has downplayed themselves as a competitor to the traditional 3PL companies saying the “growing network of logistics resources is intended to add speed and capacity when and where needed, not to transition away from other carriers.”
- Many people are not buying into Amazon’s rhetoric, among them Morgan Stanley, who has said. “The scale of the operation so far (en route to 100 planes, 20,000 vans, several thousand truck trailers, and ramping ocean moves) does not imply a ‘peak season only‘ or ‘overflow volume only’ operation to us. With AMZN’s Logistics cost continuing to grow (~$6.7 bn spent in 4Q alone), we believe its internal logistics network can be a key source of cost savings and improved customer service.”
- Less than six weeks after the SEC filing, there were reports from TJI Research that said select shippers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles had been invited to use a new shipping service called Amazon Shipping. The report went on to say that Amazon Shipping was a ground operation and fulfilling predominantly Amazon Prime orders in situations where the two-day shipping could be completed by ground.
- Despite companies like FedEx downplaying the move, Wall Street analysts have been quick to note the threat that Amazon poses. XPO Logistics has already lost $660 million in revenue when its biggest customer, later identified as Amazon, moved its shipping in-house. The following graphic illustrates the changes Amazon made to its shipping operations between 2013 and 2018.
CHANGING THE SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT LANDSCAPE
- The Balance reported in October 2019 that Amazon, having changed the retail landscape, was looking to do the same for supply chain management. The article noted that one of Amazon’s primary driving forces was the companies’ ability to come up with and apply innovative solutions. Amazon is a success because it outsources inventory management and, in doing so, minimizes the risk to its balance sheet, shifting the burden to the supplier. Shifting the logistics and shipping in-house gives Amazon control of its supply chain and ensures its one hour or same-day shipping policies can be met. Amazon takes responsibility for its own success instead of relying on third parties.
- Amazon has already announced its intention to employ drones in its supply chain management as a delivery option for those living close to a fulfillment center. Small Business Management concluded Amazon was”making it difficult for lower-volume competitors to keep up. Amazon is forcing its major competitors to invest more in supply chain automation, lessen the overall product delivery time, increase the number of warehouses, and even engage in product manufacturing.”
- Amazon’s logistics network is based on a team of delivery partners throughout the country. The company is actively recruiting delivery partners on its website with opportunities starting from $10,000. The opportunities have an annual revenue potential of $1 million to $4.5 million, and annual profit potential of $75,000 to $300,000.
THE AMAZON SUPPLY CHAIN
- Amazon’s current supply chain is based on the company’s same model when it started its operation. Amazon has distribution and fulfillment centers globally, primarily located near major metropolitan areas, which puts distribution and inventory control in the hands of Amazon, allowing the company to fulfill orders for customers at a lesser cost rapidly. For suppliers, there are fulfillment by Amazon, fulfillment by supplier, and combination arrangements available.
- Amazon-branded vehicles carry more than 2,000 boxes per load. Products move from fulfillment to sortation centers where they are distributed based on location and delivery speed. These centers’ transportation options range from Amazon trucks and planes to partnered carriers such as UPS and the US Postal Service.
- Prime members utilize the “airplane fleet, which takes flight from more than 20 airports around the US. Each plane has the capacity to carry 30 or more containers, filled with hundreds of boxes. By ground, the company utilizes a fleet of trucks, vans, bikes, and even robots for last-mile delivery.”
- The delivery partner network is a critical component of the Amazon supply chain and represents its most recent overtures in this area. The program requires an “initial investment of $10,000 which allows an entrepreneur to start a business in the US, inclusive of drivers and leases of up to 40 vans to deliver packages from warehouses to homes. The couriers are not official Amazon employees, but they do receive access to Amazon-branded vehicles, uniforms, and more. Delivery units pick up packages from one of the 75 Amazon delivery stations.”
- Amazon’s delivery service has more than doubled over the last five years and is now thought to be worth more than $1.2 billion.
HUMANS AND AUTOMATION
- Part of the key to Amazon’s supply chain management is the deployment of innovative technologies such as automation and robotics to create efficiency and ensure streamlined processes.
- Amazon uses “robotics to pick and pack orders as well as stack and store inventory. This allows the company to expedite its processes beyond human speed while also alleviating manual labor for its employees, which frees up time and funds to be allocated to other tasks and business initiatives.” The use of robotics has enabled Amazon to store up to an additional 40% in inventory, making order fulfillment easier.
b) Business Solutions Cloud Services
AMAZON WEB SERVICES
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides global cloud services to 24 geographic regions worldwide and currently has a further nine regions in the pipeline. Amazon describes its cloud services platform as “the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, with over 175 fully-featured services from data centers globally. Customers choose AWS because it provides agility and enables innovations.
- The virtual server, Amazon Lightsail, offers both reliability and performance at a price as low as $3.50 per month (Linux) or $8 per month (Windows). The service is offered on an on-demand basis, with users mixing and matching products to meet their individual needs.
- The cloud computing component of AWS allows the delivery of IT services over the internet with payment on the go and based on the services required. AWS’s cloud services’ premise is very much based on customer demands, with customers free to customize a package that suits their needs.
- AWS offers three types of cloud computing: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).
- An extensive range of products across a range of different categories are available via AWS. These products include the following categories: analytics, application integration, AR/VR, AWS cost management, blockchain, business applications, compute, containers, customer development, database, developer tools, end user computing, front-end web & mobile, game-tech, internet of things, machine learning, management & governance, media services, migration & transfer, network content & delivery, quantum technologies, robotics, satellites, security, identity and compliance, severless, and storage.
- The industries that are serviced by the AWS product include advertising & marketing, financial, consumer packaged goods, education, energy, automotive, gaming, governance, healthcare & life sciences, manufacturing, media & entertainment, nonprofit, power & utilities, retail, telecommunications, and travel & hospitality. Despite an extensive search of the AWS website, there was no reference to any products relating directly to transportation, supply chain management, or logistics.
a) Supply Chain Logistics
HISTORIC INVOLVEMENT IN SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS
- Google has a longstanding interest and involvement in supply chain logistics. It is generally agreed, “Route density, driver costs, and inventory placement all add complexity to a parcel system that consumers increasingly expect for free. Fleets of drone delivery vehicles could enable new levels of efficiency and reliability, especially if deployed at scale.” Google has increasingly invested in things like autonomous vehicles that have the potential to be a hugely disruptive force with the supply chain logistics industry.
- Investment in robotic technology through the acquisition of companies like Boston Dynamics and Schaf signaled Google’s clear intentions in this area. Of all technologies, robotics has the potential to revolutionize the final assembly and delivery aspects of supply chain management. AI technology similarly “offers promise in the supply chain as machine learning applications like predictive ordering, supply capacity commitments, and risk event monitoring automate or enhance traditional human jobs.” This is another area Google has invested heavily in.
- “Google’s supply chain strategy has been to physically enable a platform for curious humans to ask easily and expect a quick answer.” Google has access to data for analytics that is almost unrivaled globally. This data provides them with valuable insight into supply chain logistics and provides data they can exploit to their benefit when they move into supply chain logistics in the future. The potential for the system Google is developing seems unlimited.
AUTONOMOUS TRUCKING PROGRAM
- Google and Waymo formed a partnership to launch an autonomous trucking pilot in Atlanta in March 2018 focusing on self-driving vehicles and automated logistics. The program will see the trucks transporting cargo for Googles’ data centers in the region. The logistics aspect of the pilot means the trucks can “plug into an existing system for allocating loads, connecting shippers, factories, distribution centers ports and more to have them ready to slot into the existing freight shipping ecosystem when fully ready.”
GOOGLE MOVES INTO LOGISTICS
- In June 2018, Google just purchased JD.com, and the business world was starting to realize the potential impact this could have on logistics, making Google a major player in the logistics market. For Google, logistics is a big part of a successful e-commerce operation. In addition, the JD.com purchase gave Google access to the Chinese market, a market that had previously been unable to break into.
- Both JD.com and Google focus on last-mile delivery and developing technology that could revolutionize this aspect of logistics. Analysts predicted the relationship would be a stepping stone for Google into the logistics market, saying the partnership will “unleash broad new efficiencies. Driven by data, they could bring about massive changes and trigger a rising tide that will lift all boats.”
ALPHABET ADVANCED LOGITICS SUMMIT
- At the end of October 2019, there was increasing speculation around whether Google planned an assault on the supply chain logistics market. This amplified when it became common knowledge parent company Alphabet had a secret meeting to discuss e-commerce logistics. According to an unnamed source at the meeting, in addition to Alphabet management, several internal teams and representatives from external companies, including FedEx and JD.com, were in attendance.
- Known as the Alphabet Advanced Logistics Summit, the meeting was hosted by Alphabet’s research and development unit, “X,” and it’s recently spun out infrastructure company Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners. It was confirmed to CNBC, who broke the story, the meeting’s objective was to “explore potential business models and investment opportunities in the e-commerce space with a focus on logistics and fulfillment.” When asked for comment, a Sidewalk spokesman said, “We frequently bring together stakeholders from across various industries to exchange ideas and brainstorm ways that technology can deliver innovative solutions in areas like logistics.
- Adding to the speculation sources have confirmed that “predictive analytics, order fulfillment package tracking, Bluetooth usage, and drone delivery” were among the topics discussed. Given Google’s investment in China’s second-largest e-commerce platform, it seemed unlikely the rumor mill would fall quiet any time soon.
- Information regarding the Advanced Logistics Summit was first made public in an extensive report by CNBC relating to Google’s moves into the logistic market. The report noted that while Amazon has made clear moves in this area, Google, too, was slowly moving in the same direction putting in place a range of strategies and procedures to maximize its opportunities within this area.
- CNBC’s report also noted Google had developed a range of different strategies like “Accelerating Fulfillment and Delivery” and “Automated, Advanced Warehousing,” as it considered logistic based growth opportunities.
- The report noted, “not surprisingly, last-mile logistics was a key focus area as well, with the report citing a key question from the meeting noting: As last-mile delivery alternatives proliferate with the emergence of new companies and technologies, we anticipate the emergence of a marketplace to bid last-mile delivery across a wide range of options.”
- The conclusion arrived at in the report was that “Google’s next logistics-focused moves, or initiatives, remain to be seen. But it is obvious it cannot be overlooked in any way, shape, or form. Like its counterpart, Amazon, it is truly a force to be reckoned with, and is clearly a company we all need to be keeping a close eye on, as it forges ahead on the logistics front.”
GOOGLE TO ENTER SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS MARKET?
- In August 2020, it was reported that Google was looking to enter the supply chain logistics market. This came on the back of news that Google had been awarded a patent on electronic shipping notifications. The article predicted FedEX and UPS will be watching Google’s next moves very closely.
- The wording of the patent application provide the greatest hints in respect of Google’s intentions in this space. The following are direct quotes from Google’s patent application.
- “A broker facilitates customer purchases from merchants. Shippers ship shipments containing the purchases from merchants to the customers. A shipper identifies a shipment using a shipment identifier.”
- “The broker uses the shipment identifier to obtain the status information for the shipment from the shipper. The broker analyzes the status information in combination with other information to calculate an estimate of the time that the shipment will arrive at the customer’s address.”
- “The broker sends an electronic message, such as an email or text message, to the customer prior to the estimated shipment arrival time to inform the customer of the impending arrival. The customer can thus arrange for someone to be at the shipping address to receive the shipment at the estimated arrival time.”
CREATING GROWTH THROUGH THE SUPPLY CHAIN
- Technical innovation is the foundation for Google’s growth. A key component of the Google supply chain is ensuring it is managed in a responsible and sustainable manner. Google has around 500 suppliers in its supply chain located in more than 60 countries. By working with its suppliers and empowering and assisting these suppliers to create superior growth, Google has created an environment that nurtures both its own success and that of its supplier network.
- Google’s supply chain management strategy exemplifies the following key strategies.
- Responsible sourcing is vital if any supplier is hoping to elevate their operation into the Google supply chain. An extensive range of factors has to be worked through and complied with by any supplier company. A detailed assessment is completed by Google to ensure compliance with Google’s strategies by supplier companies.
- Prospective suppliers are assessed by country-specific risks (child labor, corruption, etc.), product-specific risks (manufacturing processes, chemical compositions, etc.), supplier conviction fines, and supplier engagement records and relationships.
- Google suppliers are required to adhere to very specific conditions once they are part of the Google network.
- Compliance with international and domestic labor and wage laws and standards.
- Ensuring the health and safety of the workers within the operation. Google operates a business supplier diversity program with its supply chain, which seeks to promote the interests and development of supplier diversity. Google is committed to an inclusive supply chain.
- Using and developing strategies that empower suppliers.
b) Business Cloud Services
- Google provides business cloud solutions to 200 countries and 73 zones. The company operates 24 different cloud regions and 144 network edge locations.
- The business challenges that Google provides support and solutions for include:infrastructure modernization, data management & databases, application modernization, smart analytics, AI & machine learning, analytics, security, business applications platform, productivity & collaboration retail, financial services, healthcare & life sciences, media & entertainment, public sector, manufacturing, and gaming.
- Google lists the following as the reasons their business cloud solutions represent the best option for most businesses:
- World class security offering a layered infrastructure, intelligent monitoring & control, and privacy & transparency;
- Improved options with both hybrid and multi-cloud solutions that offer consistent performance & experiences, and speed, reliability, & productivity;
- Innovation options with both AI and data analytics;
- The opportunity to leverage Google’s own innovation;
- Option to develop fully integrated open source software; and
- Scalability alongside Google’s global network.
a) Supply Chain Logistics
MICROSOFTS MOVE INTO SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS
- There is nothing in recent media to suggest Microsoft is to move into the supply chain logistics market in the way Amazon has and Google in contemplating. Microsoft’s interest in the supply chain logistics market appears to be product-driven, the company having developed several products that will add those operating in the space.
ROBOTICS COLLABORATION WITH DHL SUPPLY CHAIN, BLUE YONDER AND MICROSOFT
- DHL Supply chain, Blue Yonder, a provider of AI-driven and end-to-end supply chain management services, and Microsoft announced in June 2020 that they had collaborated on and were currently in the process of rolling out a robotics platform.
- The platform “significantly reduces integration time and programming efforts, in order to on-board new automation devices into warehouse facilities, which, in turn, provides shippers with more flexibility in selecting robotics systems geared towards their specific business needs, while leveraging Microsoft Azure IoT and cloud platform services.”
PARTNERSHIP WITH CH ROBINSON
- Logistics services company CH Robinson and Microsoft announced they had teamed together in July 2020 to develop a real-time supply chain visibility initiative. The project will see the integration of Navisphere, CH Robinson’s logistics platform that provides end to end visibility with cloud computing service Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT, a range of cloud services controlling IoT assets.
- Historically the two companies have a longstanding relationship, with Microsoft and TMC, a branch of CH Robinson working together previously. Navisphere has been implemented across Microsoft’s global supply chain creating for Microsoft “industry-leading reliability, efficiency and real-time visibility to all inventory, at rest or in motion, anywhere in the world.
- The President of Managed Services at CH Robinson has said of Microsoft, “As a pioneer in the technology industry, Microsoft understands and recognizes innovation, connectivity, and best in class capabilities. Their decision to utilize Navisphere speaks to our ability to drive growth, innovation, and solutions for customers. Together, we’re combining our capabilities with theirs to make it even easier to scale and develop new digital solutions and services to provide shippers around the world with greater supply chain efficiency, real-time insights, and visibility.
PARTNERSHIP WITH FEDEX
- A multiyear partnership between FedEx and Microsoft was announced in May 2020. Microsoft’s intelligent cloud power is to be integrated with FedEx’s global digital and logistics network.
- FedEx’s networks are used to link 99% of the world’s gross domestic across 220 countries, while Microsoft Azure is used by 95% of Fortune 500 companies. This collaboration will give Microsoft and FedEx an “unprecedented level of control and insight into the global movement of goods.”
- Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “more than ever, organizations are counting on an efficient and capable supply chain to remain competitive and open for business. Together with FedEx, we will apply the power of Azure, Dynamics 365, and their AI capabilities to this urgent need, building new commerce experiences that transform logistics for our mutual customers around the world.”
- The project will see data and analytics used to redefine key aspects of the supply chain, improving customers’ experiences, and enabling them to compete more effectively on the digital landscape.
b) Business Cloud Services
- In addition to its Business Cloud Services, Microsoft offers two products that are very much orientated toward creating a more efficient and cost-effective supply chain.
DYNAMIC 365 SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
- Microsoft markets its Dynamic 365 with the tagline, “Build resilience with an agile supply chain.” One of the software’s functions is to address any quality issues and accelerate the time it takes a supplier/manufacturer to get their product to market. It is also designed to assist in the innovation process. Compliance with standards and regulations are also addressed with this software.
- The software put “manufacturing and warehouse management in the cloud and at the edge, enabling businesses to be run in a manner that ensures high throughput from critical processes while making sure there was continuity in remote locations without access to the cloud. The increasing trend toward third-party suppliers holding inventory is addressed to allow real-time inventory tracking.
- Users can enhance their supply chain management with a range of addons, including asset management, planning optimization, and sensor integration. Microsoft Dynamic 365 is priced at $185 per month per user.
- Microsoft Industry is described as “using sensors, networks, and ambient intelligence to create autonomous and sustainable supply chains — simplifying the delivery of complex product portfolios and services.” It enables companies to maintain total control over “multi-enterprise collaboration and logistics management tools that understand the industry supply chain network.” the company is operating within.
- Industries supported by the software product include the automotive (where Microsoft is advancing “engineering, manufacturing, customer experience and in-vehicle experience“), financial services (banking and insurance), government (public safety, justice, and defense and intelligence), health and Pharmaceuticals, and the energy, manufacturing, retail, and telecommunications sectors.
- The software provides complete control over inventory management and the costs of goods, ensuring that innovation and speed are maintained. Pricing information is not readily available.
MICROSOFT AZURE: CLOUD COMPUTING SOLUTIONS
- Microsoft Azure is the business cloud product offering by Microsoft. It is marketed with the following tagline, “Learn, connect, and explore with Azure at Microsoft Ignite. Invent with purpose.”
- The services provided by Microsoft Ignite include:
- Azure Communication Services: This service facilitates the addition of communication APIs to apps;
- Azure Defender: Enables the protection of a hybrid cloud from a single console;
- Azure Machine Learning: Supporting business to build, train, and deploy machine learning options;
- Azure Arc: The unification of on-prem hybrid and cross-cloud infrastructure;
- Azure VM Solutions: Enabling VM networks to run natively on Azure; and Windows Virtual Desktop.
- Azure’s AI and machine learning features incorporate cognitive searches and solutions, bot services, Azure Databricks, which enables the development of AI with Apache-Spark-based analytics, and Azure Kinect DI, which assists in builds for mixed reality.
- Compute solutions incorporate Azure Virtual Machines (Linux and Windows), SQL virtual machines, Azure functions providing serverless computing, and the Azure App Service.
- Container business services include Azure Kubernetes Service, which facilitates the building and development of apps, Azure Container Services to promote containers without managing servers, Azure Redhat OpenShift, and Azure Spring Cloud.
- The Internet of Things offers enormous potential. Microsoft has developed a range of business services that incorporate the IoT’s data and technology, including Azure IoT Central, Azure IoT Edge and Hub, Azure Digital Twins, Azure Sphere, and Azure Time Series Insights.
- Products are offered in a wide range of areas illustrating the diversity of the Micrsoft Azure technology. The aforementioned provide an overview of Microsoft’s key areas of focus.
a) Supply Chain Logistics
ORACLES MOVE INTO SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS
- There is nothing in recent media to suggest Oracle is to move into the supply chain logistics market in the way Amazon has and Google in contemplating. Oracles interest in the supply chain logistics market appears to be product-driven, the company having developed several products that will add those operating in the space.
GARTNER’S MAGIC QUADRANT REPORT
- Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Report for 2020 was released in March. It named Oracle a leader in Transport Management Systems for the 13th time. One of Oracle’s perceived strengths is the broad appeal the Oracle Transport Management System has across the globe, with 51% of its users being located outside of the US.
- Oracle’s customers are spread across over 20 different verticals, with no one vertical contributing more than 20% of its total customer base. A 2019 update of the product saw the introduction of “new optimization and modeling capabilities, further integration to some real-time visibility providers as well as further connectivity to digital freight broker vendors.”
- By simplifying the Oracle Transportation Management Cloud pricing model, intensifying its marketing approach, and penetrating the small and medium business market, Oracle has been able to onboard customers faster than its competition. In the past, Oracle has been criticized for its lack of transportation modeling and brokerage capabilities; however, the company has addressed this by “incorporating new modeling capabilities and strengthened its partnerships with digital freight brokers and real-time visibility providers.”
- Gartner’s Magic Triangle has been reproduced below.
ORACLE AND PROJECT 44 PARTNERSHIP
- Project44 is a Chicago based technology provider that develops interfaces for integrations with 3PLs and shippers, enabling them to connect with carriers in real-time. In November 2018, it was announced that they had partnered with Oracle to develop multi-modal options. The partnership between the two companies will “eliminate gaps in real-time visibility and power users with high-quality and trustworthy Parcel, Final Mile, Less-Than-Truckload (LTL), Volume LTL, Full Truckload, Refrigerated, Rail and Ocean data.”
- The result of this collaboration will enable the Oracle Transport Management System to “execute on-demand inventory management and enable superior customer experiences.” The Project 44 interface will allow users to “connect to the largest network of multi-modal carriers, and start saving time and money. That means immediate access to standardized, reliable, and multi-modal data that Project44 provides, setting the stage for advanced analytic capabilities.”
PARTNERSHIPS HAVE BIG ROLE IN ORACLE STRATEGY
- Derek Gittos gave an interview, VP, Supply Chain Management Product Strategy, when the 2019 Oracle product enhancements were being released. It provided some valuable insights into how Oracle improved its Supply Chain Management Cloud to incorporate new collaboration, integration, and digital assistant capabilities. He also discussed the priority partnerships are being given in Oracle’s Supply Chain strategy.
- Gittos described Oracle’s recent partnership with Loadsmart as a game changer. It enabled a process to be developed that paid real dividends for customers, resulting in increased route efficiencies, decreased “empty miles,” and reliable guaranteed price quotes.
- When describing the future face of the digital freight brokerage, Gittos said, “Transportation is an extremely expensive part of the supply chain, and any potential to reduce costs and increase efficiency is a no-brainer for shippers — which is why digital freight brokerage solutions are growing in popularity. The future of these services is tighter integration and more automation, so an Oracle Transportation Management Cloud customer can orchestrate a highly agile and efficient transportation network where the system can automatically book, process, and invoice shipments according to changes in production and customer demand. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain will enable systems to learn from every user interaction, track and orchestrate shipments and initiate smart contracts to improve efficiency and accuracy.”
- He was also asked about the most significant obstacles the industry was currently facing. Gittos said, “the biggest obstacle to progress for digital freight brokers will likely be end-user adoption. The B2B transportation sector has traditionally been slow to embrace innovation, with many companies still relying on phones and faxes for day-to-day operations. Transportation professionals have become accustomed to these traditional processes, and shifting to digital freight brokerage requires learning new systems. For this reason, we are trying to make the user experience as simple and seamless as possible, integrating it into OTM, so there are no additional applications required.”
b) Business Cloud Services
ORACLE SUPPLY CHAIN & MANUFACTURING
- Oracle offers a specific solution via its cloud services aimed at the supply chain. Oracle Fusion promotional information describes the product as follows. “When things change fast, you can be prepared with systems that improve resilience and help you plan for success beyond your next move. Oracle Fusion Cloud SCM connects your supply network with an integrated suite of cloud business applications designed and built to outpace change.”
- Oracle Fusion enables customers to “bring new products to market and effectively manage procurement, manufacturing, inventory, and logistics.”
ORACLE FUSION CLOUD SUPPLY CHAIN & MANUFACTURING UPDATED
- At the end of September 2020, Oracle announced the latest update Oracle Fusion Cloud Supply Chain & Manufacturing which will allow “customers to increase collaboration across supply networks, proactively manage supply chain assets and implement long-term supply chain planning.” The changes will help alleviate some of the issues created by the pandemic that have seen supply networks stretched to the absolute limit;
- The latest additions to Oracle Fusion Cloud include:
- Oracle Digital Assistant: Real-time supply chain management is enabled through a conversational interface.
- Oracle AI Planning Adviser: AI is integrated with supply chain planing tools to provide recommendations relating to new product introductions;
- Field Service Preventative Maintenance;
- Multi-tier Supply Chain Collaboration;
- Planning for a Project-driven Supply Chain;
- New Channel Revenue Management Capabilities; and
- Cross Product Procurement Enhancement.
CLOUD ENHANCEMENTS FOR LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT OPTIMIZATION
- In March 2019, Oracle announced a range of innovations to the Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud. These innovations were designed to help organizations create more responsive and efficient supply chains.
- A field service team was one of the innovations. This service supports customers, customer service, and field service connections to resolve any outstanding customer issues. The improved package allows for a project-driven supply chain that facilitates “accurate and timely billing upon fulfillment by integrating and automating the tracking of project attributes and related costs from a sales order.” In addition, supply chain collaboration meant replenishment was improved by a vendor-managed inventory, and there is efficient engagement allowing for the sharing of inventory.
a) Supply Chain Logistics
- Unlike the other four companies that are the subject of this research, Adobe’s involvement and contribution to supply chain logistics are not immediately obvious. No information could be located that suggested Adobe is planning a move into the supply chain logistics market. Like Microsoft and Oracle, Adobe’s principal business is product-driven.
THE ADOBE SUPPLY CHAIN
- The Adobe supply chain encompasses North America, Europe, and Asia. Adobe’s “product life cycle begins by establishing relationships with third-party vendors who share our values and represent our dedication to responsible workplace practices. The company’s commitments include compliance with federal, state and local legislation; opt-in industry-wide efforts; and company-led initiatives.”
- Over the last few years Adobe has transitioned away from a physical supply chain toward a digital one. This has resulted in a 95% in the effects their business operations have on the environment. Like Google, Adobe has developed a code of compliance and other conditions which suppliers must adhere to if they wish to become part of the Adobe supply chain.
- This provides the only reference to the supply chain on the Adobe website. The following references are all indirect, and the literature seems to support the products could be used in the development and management of the supply chain.
b) Business Cloud Services
ADOBE EXPERIENCE CLOUD
- Adobe describes its experience cloud as “offering AI-driven solutions for marketing, analytics, advertising, and commerce through the most comprehensive set of customer experience applications and services available.”
- The product is designed to be a one-stop shop for companies. It prioritizes the overall customer service. Supply chain management is referenced only indirectly in the product literature of Adobe Experience Cloud. The product provides shared real-time data, shared content and engagement workflows, and scaled personalization. The platform it is built on is both open and extensible.
- In terms of the supply chain, Adobe Experience is able to collect data from a range of sources, update the data in real-time, and develop analytics and insights through the channel.
- The indirect influence that Adobe Experience could have on supply chain management is illustrated in the following schematic.
- The schematic illustrates how the platform uses data from a range of different sources, applies it to analytical use cases, such as supply chain management, and AI models to enable the development of different applications that will facilitate the process. It should be noted this product is marketing driven so any insights will be limited. Adobe applications have the capabilities to provide Supply Chain Management solutions.
- Despite an extensive search of the Adobe website, and third party reports, commentary, and publications no further details regarding Adobe’s supply chain or products it has developed to facilitate an efficient supply chain as a business solution were able to be located. Supply Chain 24/7 is a comprehensive website that provides a detailed analysis of companies relevant to supply chain logistics. The Adobe data on this site had no references to supply chain logistics.
- Further analysis of Adobe’s business reveals they have very little influence over the supply chain of companies, the products and services the offer are driven by creativity or marketing predominantly.