This week I had the privilege of attending the Wipro analyst day in Boston. A large number of industry analysts and influencers were in attendance – it is always good to see old friends at these events. The day had the usual rhythm: general presentations in the morning followed by the speed dating process of meeting with individual members of the Wipro leadership team. One of these sessions that piqued my interest was a 1 on 1 with KR Sanjiv, Wipro’s Chief Technology Officer out of Bangalore. We discussed the emerging technologies he is focusing on for the next 2-5 years. Always a fun topic.
He gave us 5 key categories:
- Smart Machines
- Man – Machine interface
- Next Generation Architecture
What struck me the most were the middle three. Why? From my perspective these are part of a wave of digital disruption that is beginning to form in our supply chains – whether it be retail, CPG, industrial, life sciences, aerospace to name a few.
Smart Machines is really about the movement towards greater intelligence and analytics within machines. In particular wearables. I wrote a post recently that looked at this trend in supply chain management. Click here for post. There is an increasing segment of companies like Unvired from the software side and Motorola from the hardware side that are tackling the need for greater intelligence in wearable technologies that reduce friction in the supply chain. Think enhanced capabilities for pick packers in the warehouse or more decision making power for floor managers on the manufacturing floor. Wipro was showing off a device that is used to for personal health monitoring – think about how much flexibility and reach this gives health care providers. As well as the data it provides to ensure better monitoring and anticipating needs (similar to a retailer anticipating a consumers’ demand for a product).
Man – Machine interface – think of this as how we have evolved in our interactions with machines. The example we discussed was how Tom Cruise manipulates files in the movie “Minority Report.” Of course that was a movie, but the work done in this space will have a deep impact. Currently our interaction with machines, and the information they contain, is via a keyboard. More recently we have added touch screens. But this is still a flat method of interactions. When it comes to the real world…items have three dimensions. In addition to the ever growing mountains of data and information we produce and look to leverage to run our businesses and supply chains. As Mr Sanjiv stated “The new generation wants more intuitive and ‘human’ interfaces rather than the click and touch.” The amount of data that is needed to manage today’s supply chains only continues to expand – and seeing the information on a traditional screen isn’t optimized for the needs of today’s users.
Robotics is just what it sounds like. Using machines to fill in some needs gaps that humans are not capable or are not as efficient at doing as a robot. KR spoke at length about the usage of drones or even smarter robots to do jobs such as clearing sludge out of hard to reach pipes. Of course these are not ideas that other companies are not already exploring – think iRobot or Amazon with their drone project. Even DHL has announced using drones to deliver medicine to hard to reach islands in the North Sea – click here for story. Right now much of the talk of robotics is constrained to such areas test drones for delivery, using robots in utilities to fix infrastructure or companies like Kiva that are building robots to manage part of warehouses. However there is not question that robotics will have a important role to play in reducing the friction that is encountered in commerce and supply chain.
Overall a good day spent with some sharp folks from Wipro. The discussion of the pillars of emerging technology parallel much of what we are observing when it comes to addressing new disruptions and reducing friction points that are in Matrix Commerce. I will be interested to observe how Wipro’s work in these spaces come to fruition.
Earlier this week Foot Locker announced it was going to start testing same day delivery for consumer purchases. Click here for the press release. This is an excellent case study of what we at Constellation Research are discussing with Matrix Commerce. It is a prime example of where the consumer voice and needs have converged with the retailer’s supply chain.
Foot Locker will be testing the same day delivery in 5 locations between the San Francisco and the Los Angeles area. In order to address the last mile delivery challenges, Foot Locker will be partnering with Deliv for the logistics of getting the product from the stores to the consumer’s location. Think of Deliv as doing for small parcel shipping to consumers as what Uber did for personal transportation – crowdsourcing last mile transportation. A very interesting challenge and service to say the least.
The voice of the consumer continues to grow when it comes to asking for and seeking the ability to get their products where they want it and how they want it. For retailers such as Foot Locker it is imperative that they determine how they can meet these demands from their consumers. They are already addressing their customer’s needs by allowing for online ordering with in store pick up. This new pilot is the natural next step.
As Daphne Carmeli, CEO at Deliv stated, “Foot Locker who surpass their customer’s expectations by giving them the ability to receive their merchandise when they want it, including same-day…” This is one area where the likes of Foot Locker, who are brick and mortar retailers at heart, have an advantage over eCommerce giants like Amazon. Foot Locker already has a number of distribution centers (DCs) that are located close to their customers – the actual Foot Locker stores. With the likes of Deliv’s services, they can now solve the last mile delivery issue that has made such services a logistics headache.
This success of the pilot project will be interesting to observe. Some questions a retailer such as Foot Locker will have to address:
- Can the staff in their stores be able to not only service the customers that come into the physical store, but also efficiently pick and pack the orders? Store personnel are trained to service a customer in person, Foot Locker will now have to ensure proper training for this staff to have to properly prepare orders for home delivery. Not as easy as it may sound.
- How does a crowdsource delivery offering like Deliv handle customer interactions? Once you start delivering products to consumers’ home you are exposing your brand – the person doing the delivery represents your company whether or not they are on your payroll.
- If your store acts more and more as a DC, how do you handle returns and restocking issues? Again, similar to the first bullet point, your staff is trained to sell products to customers who are in the store, now you are adding tasks to their jobs. How ready are they to handle this added demand?
The ability of companies such as Foot Locker to offer same day delivery is a natural progression when it comes to Matrix Commerce (other retailers such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s also announced this week they are running same day delivery pilot projects). That does not mean the challenges aren’t there…on the contrary the complexity remains and may become increased as Foot Locker travels down the learning curve. These companies are making the correct choice when it comes to offering such services, but they need to show patience with the process. There will clearly be some growing pains. However, similar to when eCommerce exploded on the markets in the late 1990s, the genie is out of the bottle. Now it is a matter of how well retailers and their partners meet the ever increasing speed for fulfillment.
As the Foot Locker EVP of Operations, Mike Owens, stated, “We want our customers to experience speed in everything they do, from shooting hoops to on the track.” It is all about speed…just make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for speed!
Later tonight we will be reminded about the power of Apple and consumers’ apparent insatiable desire for new devices (consumers can pre-order the new iPhone). But this is not a post about the iPhone 6 and whether or not I should get the 6 or the 6 phablet…instead this is a reminder about the rise of mobility within supply chains.
Not too long ago, when Apple introduced the iPad it was viewed, rightfully, as a revolutionary consumer device. A device that would threaten the laptop market. Which it has. An unintended consequence was the iPad becoming a device that found its way onto the manufacturing floor, truck fleets, warehouses and other parts of the supply chain. Tablets gave workers on the floor a simple, mobile and connected interface with the necessary systems to allow the factory to run effectively and efficiently. Companies like GE’s Energy Storage have been leveraging tablets on their factory floor to reduce the alerting time when outages occur. Rather than having floor managers monitor everything from a central control center, they now have that computation power and communications in a portable device. Truck fleets have adopted the usage of tablets to bring more intelligence and connectivity to their vehicles. Of course none of this is a bad thing for the likes of Apple, Google, Samsung or other players in the mobile device ecosystem.
Tablets have also become a vital cog when it comes to how supply chain solution providers such as Llamasoft and JDA, offer their customers access to their offerings. Allowing for greater access to their software solutions – anywhere and anytime.
But is the world of mobility limited to tablets and smart phones? Absolutely not. On the contrary, the rise of wearables is the next wave of mobility in the supply chain. I remember walking the floor a few years ago at CSCMP’s annual event and seeing a number of companies displaying their devices – gloves, headware and other wearables – that would bring more efficiencies to supply chains. Many of these had to do with ensuring factory workers or those who pick and pack in the warehouse were as efficient as they could be. The problem is many of these devices were bulky and quite unwieldy. But similar to the adoption of consumer based tablets by companies, look for consumer wearbles to find their way onto the factory floor, warehouse and other environments. Let’s face it, consumer focused companies tend to make more aesthetically pleasing mobile devices, both in form and function.
For supply chain practitioners, do not hesitate to look to consumer device providers for your mobile needs. While there will be industry specific providers of devices, you might be able to find what you need from the likes of Apple or Samsung. Device manufacturers could consider these potential other uses, but in truth they should just focus on their primary targets – the consumer. Technology players must take into consideration what this growth in mobility for the supply chain means for them. Not only might they be asked to created apps for the devices, but how else can they take advantage of the increase in mobile and connected computing power?
New sleek gadgets like smart watches, clothing with senors, smarter tablets and phones are not only exploding in the consumer space but also for your supply chain. Interesting times we live in. Now I have to get back in line for my new iPhone.
The term journey carries many connotations. In one sense it defines an epic trip. Something that one might look forward to as a once in a lifetime adventure. For others, a journey might be seen as a difficult and arduous trip – think the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic. These connotations are not that different when it comes to supply chain. In particular with regards to such adoption as S&OP. There seems to be more S&OP journeys than any other. But are we looking at this with the wrong lens?
The other aspect that is implied with a journey is that we have a clear destination – a final goal. For those of use that see journeys as wonderful adventure – the destination maybe a tropical island for holiday or hiking in the Andes. For the passengers on the Mayflower that journey was a new home far from the oppression of England. A journey filled with disease, boredom, fear and for some death. But when it comes to technology adoption, for say S&OP, is there a true end goal? Or a constantly evolving and changing number of levels and stages we are looking to reach. With many of the systems we put in place for our supply chain, we are looking to add efficiencies in how we handle inventory, make our production more profitable, meet customer demand faster and better and the lists go on. However these are not goals, but more continuously evolving aspirations and stages. We might want to attain a 98% customer satisfaction, but once we achieve it, we cannot stop there and gloat in our achievements. The business environment is constantly shifting, so we need to maintain our nimbleness. Supply chains look to rid themselves of excess inventory, but once they have reach a specific number…the work does not stop.
Now the fact that there cannot be a true “end goal” with this journey, it does not mean service providers do not need to be held to a high level of expectations and demands from their clients. From the user stand point they must have a frank discussion with their service providers about what is realistic for different results at stepped stages.
Both service providers and their customers need to change their perspective when they mention a “journey.” Easier said than done, but don’t think about reaching an end goal but really about the key steps in that journey.
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