An ageless tenet of responsive supply chain management is in efforts to overcome frequent imbalances in either fulfilling customer demand or supply network response. New advanced technology-enabled capabilities are now being introduced to provide various businesses augmented tools and capabilities to overcome and more quickly mitigate information and decision-making needs related to customer demand and supply network response limitations.

Background

New business imperatives for more-timely online fulfillment, overcoming constrained resource limitations, physical barriers and increased data and information flows increasingly require more leveraged use of advanced technology to bring the supply chain response network into balance on a more-timely basis. Such business imperatives impact large, and especially small and medium enterprises.

In logistics, transportation and network-wide inventory management and customer fulfillment areas, long-held paradigms of business processes are shifting like quick sand, and new advanced technology-enabled capabilities, are being introduced to provide various businesses augmented tools and capabilities to overcome limitations.

 

Disruptive Technology Examples

The ongoing desire of consumers to acquire all forms of products online has driven imbalances in the availability of warehouse and customer fulfillment center space along with needed logistics and warehouse workers. This trend will become especially painful and evident in the upcoming holiday fulfillment period. Commercial real-estate firm CBRE has estimated that U.S. warehouses and distribution centers will need an additional 452,000 workers. Such trends are driving additional equity investments in advanced logistics focused intelligent robotics providers leveraging more intelligent, artificial intelligence and machine learning enabled robotics applied to these areas.

For long-distance and urban truckers, themselves, frustrations related to lost time and process inefficiencies center on long wait times to secure a delivery dock of a large warehouse, having an online customer shipment prepared for delivery acceptance, overcoming or accounting for queuing lines at major container ports, or finding an available overnight parking slot at a highway rest point. Here again, new mobile apps powered by real-time GPS technology and information links to a variety of external systems are providing more timely information as to destination status, need for dynamic rerouting to avoid bottlenecks, providing customers with timely status of expected delivery and the ability to view and reserve overnight parking needs.

Ongoing capacity limitations for surface trucking needs in the U.S., and now increasingly in Europe, have led to growing investments in online freight brokerage digital platforms that allow businesses to obtain a near real-time status of available surface trucking resources and contract urgent loads. Nationwide and regional trucking firms and third-party logistics firms are introducing such platforms to stay competitive with a growing number of start-ups that are leveraging such capabilities.

 

Matching Merchant and Supplier Needs with a Technology Platform

United Parcel Service(UPS)  has long had a deserved reputation in its ability to leverage advanced information technology in managing its internal operations, logistics, distribution center and last-mile delivery needs.

In late August, the global parcel delivery provider announced a new on-demand U.S. fulfillment network for online B2B fulfillment needs named Ware2Go

The platform itself is directed at overcoming the imbalance of available nationwide warehouse and online customer fulfillment capability with B2B supplier or business merchant needs to provide timely response to online customer fulfillment demands.

According to the announcement, Ware2Go recruits and certifies warehouses across strategic U.S. locations, in-essence establishing a network of vetted customer fulfillment partners. SMB businesses benefit by having a more flexible investment in needed inventory stocking and customer fulfillment capabilities which can often shift with changing business needs. Merchants are further afforded the opportunity to position inventory closer to their customer needs without the need for time-consuming searching and vetting, and they gain the benefit of having to only pay one provider for such services.

The service includes storage, pick/pack fulfillment and guaranteed two-day delivery by UPS. Warehouse and customer fulfillment operators gain the benefit for adding new customers without the need for dedicated direct sales teams, get paid by a single platform aggregator, along with the ability to further monetize existing or future investments in online customer fulfillment capabilities.

Supply Chain Matters had the opportunity to speak directly with Nick Basford, Vice-President, Global Retail and E-Commerce Strategy at UPS. Basford described Ware2Go as an advanced technology platform curated by UPS. He described the analogy of what is today Airbnb, a turnkey online marketplace where user can obtain short-term, turn-key housing among various geographies. Airbnb does not own the particular real estate but serves as an online broker for residence owners seeking to monetize their investment and real-estate experience.

Speaking to the differentiated services of the new UPS platform, Basford indicated the ability for B2B merchants to have a single connecting point for rate structures, customer fulfillment and all data and information related to same, along with seller’s abilities to stay connected without the need for added intermediaries, that adds to information latency.

We were especially interested in the technology stack which Basford described as a combination of UPS developed coupled with Cloud based WMS and an available “very strong” plug-in applications for small package fulfillment management. The digital platform was incubated and developed in collaboration with BCG Digital Ventures, which reportedly owns financial stake in this platform.

Readers desiring further information in the platform can visit: www.ware2go.co

 

The Takeaway

New business imperatives for more-timely online fulfillment, overcoming constrained resource limitations, physical barriers and increased data and information flows increasingly require more leveraged use of advanced technology, Cloud based platforms and other advanced technologies to bring the supply chain response network into balance on a continuous basis.

Amazon Business, the online provider’s online B2B sales program is reportedly on-track to record upwards of $10 billion in revenues annually, providing yet another industry disruptive move.  Some B2B merchants and suppliers will need technology-enabled process alternatives and new platforms coming to market are a means to provide Amazon-like  alternatives. The good news for multi-industry supply chain teams are the variety of new offerings coming available.

 

Bob Ferrari

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