This Week in SCDigest:
Best New Supply Chain and Logistics Products of the Past Year
Supply Chain Graphic of the Week, plus more Supply Chain News Bites
SCDigest On Target e-Magazine
Expert Insight - Thinking Outside the Box by David Schneider
Guest Expert Insight - Evelyn Hum and Ray Marciano - Kurt Salmon Associates
Gilmore's Daily Jab
SCDigest Introduces "Distribution Digest"
Your Supply Chain Questions Answered! This Week's Question - What are the Pros and Cons of Using Vending Machines for MRO Items?
Trivia, Supply Chain Stock Index
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February 19, 2009 - Supply Chain Digest Newsletter



Best New Supply Chain and Logistics Products of the Past Year

For the second year in a row, we’re going to review the best new products in supply chain, logistics and related areas we saw announced roughly in the 2008 calendar year. Alright, it’s a bit late for this, but we’ve had a busy start for the year, and this is the first time I have had an open week to get this in.

Some caveats: First, we certainly didn’t see everything, and may certainly have missed many excellent new products. As with last year, if you have something to submit here, sort of after the fact, send some information to us at the Feedback button below.

Second, the process, in a sense, tends to have a bit of a bias towards new companies and or truly new products, and as a result of that, a bit of a software bias as well; it’s just hard to get too excited for “extensions” or improvements to existing products, especially in the hardware area, even if many of those incremental enhancements add a lot of value to customers.

Gilmore Says:  

“Sustainability and carbon emissions will be increasingly important factors in network design decisions, and needs now to be explicitly modeled."

What do you say?

Send us your Feedback here


Third, this is just totally subjective based on what struck me, and others, of course, may have very different opinions. Fourth, we haven’t really followed up to see how these products are working in actual deployments; often, the reality does not match the potential.

All that said, here is my list:


Smart Turn on-demand Warehouse Management System: The on-demand WMS market has been slow to take off, and there are several other on-demand offerings on the market, but Smart Turn has a unique approach in two areas: (1) its very low and straightforward pricing model, and (2) its strategy of trying to convince many companies, not only traditional distribution centers, that they should look for all the places they have inventory and try to increase their level of visibility and control over it. Think restaurant chains, hotels, service parts, MRO, retail store rooms, etc.  – many areas where there is still much manual tracking of what inventory is where and how much is being consumed.

ILOG’s carbon network design software incorporating carbon emissions calculations: ILOG, now part of IBM, released a new version of its network planning and optimization software in 2008 that took a very rigorous approach to adding Sustainability factors into the network design analysis. While there have been a number of companies announcing “carbon calculators” of one form or another, many of those are pretty “light.” Conversely, ILOG has created a very robust solution. Unquestionably, Sustainability and carbon emissions will be increasingly important factors in network design decisions, and needs now to be explicitly modeled, which this product does.

Amitive’s cross enterprise supply chain planning software: a spin-off of Japanese industrial giant Mistsui, Amitive released a new product targeted at a growing supply chain market – how to plan and manage across an increasingly outsourced manufacturing environment. There is general agreement that many existing ERP and APS modules do not handle this well. We liked the multi-level visibility, the ability to consider capacity and constraints in a way tailored to an outsourced environment, and other tools geared specifically to planning and execution in an outsourced model.

JDA Software’s new Planogram Generator product: What most struck me is that in addition to increasing the automation of this sometimes manual effort of setting store shelf and merchandising plans, the product better connects the plan to execution and store-specific requirements and constraints, and enables the plans to be rapidly changed based on fluctuations in supply and demand. This is a good example of the increasing integration of planning and execution in the consumer goods-to-retail supply chain. We will generally compliment JDA for a slew of new product releases in 2008.

HighJump Software’s new program designed to deliver a WMS implementation in just 45 days. For the program, HighJump uses what it calls a structured “playbook” implementation methodology and a “Warehouse Wizard” tool to speed system set-up and configuration. Reducing the time and cost of WMS implementations would be a very good thing for many.

Softeon’s Cross Dock solution: This supply chain execution software company released a new cross dock solution specifically geared to meet the needs of import warehouses and third party logistics hubs. It nicely simplifies what can be a complex process, and supports full cross dock operations, “DC Bypass” and related functions, as well as complex container building on the outbound side.

I will note that a number of software companies released solutions for dealing with the new “10+2” import filing requirements, so many so that it was hard to really identify any that really stood out.

Hardware/Material Handling:

Seegrid’s industrial robots: We liked the new “industrial robots” announced early in 2008 by Seegrid for moving materials in distribution and manufacturing applications. As we’ve written, this is part of an overall major trend towards increased robotics in materials handling, and what distinguished the Seegrid product is an innovative approach to using optics for guiding the vehicles, reducing cost and increasing flexibility versus traditional Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs).

I also liked a new pick-to-light system from a company called Wesley International, which seems to have spun this effort off from its core material handling business as a new unit called Alexa. A few things make it different. The lights can be flexibly mounted on existing storage racks – which means you could outfit some locations with lights (e.g., fast moving SKUs), but use bar code or voice picking for others. Interestingly, the light displays are controlled from the operators’ handheld devices and pick carts through an infrared connection, not a separate computer tied directly to the lights. These wireless terminals can also be used for voice/bar code picking as needed for the non-lighted locations, and also provides some flexibility in how batching of picks and puts are used.


Like others, we liked the new RFID reader from Mojix. The company released in 2008 a new RFID reader with super-sensitivity, which combined with a network of “exciters” around a facility can enable a company to operate with as few as one actual reader in the building, and have “passive” tags operate more like “active” ones.

Lowry Computer Product’s food safety application: This systems integrator released an end-to-end tracking system that uses wireless, RFID, bar coding and other tools to improve the traceability and visibility of the food supply chain from farm to store shelf, and has implemented the solution at one food manufacturing, starting the tagging process literally “in the field.” Others can probably do this too, but I don’t think anyone else has targeted the problem in the same way, and obviously this is a growing issue that technology can clearly help address.


We are very impressed with the new Supply Chain blog by Infosys, the global consultant and systems giant out of India. There are many supply chain blogs out there, but frankly, too many don’t say a whole lot, or just summarize what someone else said. The Infosys blog is quite good, featuring a number of contributors and original thought, and they have nicely organized it around the SCORE model processes: Plan, Buy, Make, Deliver, Return. Definitely worth giving it a read.

That’s my list. Our apologies to any noteworthy products that we missed. You can make your case at the Feedback button below.

Did you see any noteworthy new products released in the past year that we missed? Any on our list especially seem noteworthy to you? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

Let us know your thoughts.

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This Week's Supply Chain News Bites Only from SCDigest

Supply Chain Graphic of the Week: Reasons for Ending 3PL Relationships

This Week's Supply Chain by the Numbers - Empty Miles, Logistics Stimulus Spending, Megaship Daniela, P&G Ends Promotional Display Tagging


Hopeful anticipation turned to nervous disappointment last week following worse than expected unemployment numbers.  Our Supply Chain and Logistics stock index felt the impact of the broader market’s worry.

In the software group, Ariba bucked the trend with a respectable gain of 6.5%, while Logility fell 4%.  In the hardware group, Zebra was down 8.1%, while Intermec climbed 4.7%.  In the troubled transportation and logistics group, Prologis nose-dived a whopping 24%, while Yellow Roadway came out ahead 35.8% for the week.

See full stock report.

Each Week:

-Global Supply Chain
-Distribution/Material Handling
-Trends and Issues

Weekly On-Target Newsletter
February 17, 2009 Edition

Thinking Outside the Box

by David Schneider
Founder & President,
David K. Schneider & Company

Out of Stocks - You Can't Handle the Truth!

by Evelyn Hum and Ray Marciano
Kurt Salmon Associates

The Retail Supply Chain Network of the Future

Multi-Channel World Means Retail Supply Chains Must Rapidly Evolve to Optimize Inventories and Support Complex Logistics Flows


SCDigest Editor Dan Gilmore

As RFID goes Mainstream, Remembering When Bar Coding was Once Special Too

Spending Months Evaluating Bar Code Printers; RFID will soon Lose the Magic too, even as Volumes Increase

How well is Supply Chain Expertise Shared across the Globe within Large Companies?

Reader Questions Have Us Wondering; Is it Culture, or Organizational Structure that is the Barrier to Effectively Communicating and Sharing?

THIS WEEK ON Distribution Digest


HolsteHolste's Blog: The Distribution and Materials Handling World Looks Different Depending on Where You Sit

>> Top Story: Guidelines for Successful Distribution Center Audits
>> Vendor News: New Dematic Mini-Load AS/RS Order Fulfillment Solution Features Design that Enables Flexible, Scalable Deployments

If you can only have one distribution center, where do you put it to minimize total lead times to customers (based on U.S population spread)?

A. Click to find the answer below


Have supply chain or logistics-related questions you need answered?
Ask our panel of experts. Share your insight!

Featured Question and Answer:

What are the Pros and Cons of Using Vending Machines for MRO Items?

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Publishing letters on a variety of topics this week. We received a few letters on our graphic of the week showing that companies are still mostly unsatisfied with the IT capabilities of 3PLs. That includes our Feedback of the Week from Mike Entner of Dow Chemical, who says that the chart actually under represents the dissatisfaction.

Another reader agrees, while one says the survey didn’t really provide a lot of clarity on the real questions. 

We also have feedback on our piece on Supplier Relationship 2.0, which suggested that rethinking the organizational structure for offshore manufacturing could significantly improve results, plus others on the problems with RFID market sizing studies and a concept called Profitable Proximity Sourcing.

Feedback of the Week on 3PL IT Capabilities:

Not only is there a challenge in the IT capabilities, the graph presented is a misrepresentation of the data.

The graph shows a line through the satisfaction scores, which one might take as a trend line showing an improvement. With an R squared of 0.32, the data does not support a trend and a more accurate picture would be of the mean of the satisfaction values.

The report's writers seem to be trying to paint a better picture than what the data indicates. Not only is there a gap, the satisfaction scores have not statistically changed in 6 years.

Heading into a slow economy, they are not likely to change in the next several years if $ are needed to change the game.

Mike Entner, CPIM
Dow Chemical

More on 3PL IT Capabilities:

What do they want out of improved IT capabilities? Specifically, where is the need? Where is the potential value? What are they missing out on?

It’s a very vague generalization to say that 3PLs need better IT capabilities. Maybe there should be some data or examples of cases where IT could have improved the service value.

Ben McCambridge
Supply Chain Projects
Polarcold Stores Ltd.

Agree - Unfortunately when something new is needed, the 3PLs expect us to foot the bill for all of their expenses.

Linda Ihrig
Pioneer USA

On SRM 2.0:

There is no single solution for all industries. The SRM method may be appropriate for offshore manufacturing of consumer goods, but it unfortunately does not work for a continuous stream of created items, such as software.

Although the offshore hourly rates are lower – the order of a third of USA rates, the “product” takes almost 3 times as long to meet its final goals. This, in turn, means that the management of the project, which is onshore, will accumulate considerably greater costs than would have occurred in an onshore project, thus increasing the overall costs.

In addition, the onshore management is now working 12-16 hours a day – conference calls with India start around 10:00 pm and often go to 1:00 am. The onshore management does not receive any additional dibbs for these additional hours. Quite the reverse, as they are hounded by management for the failure to produce a high-quality product within three times the time (now built into the estimates due to experience).

However, the biggest winners are the financial controllers, and this is why the offshore process is loved. The cash flow rate is just over 1/3rd of the cash flow that would be observed if the project were onshore. This shows that IT costs can be reduced.

And the biggest Loser – the business. It cannot get changes made fast enough to remain competitive or, in many cases, to keep its ever increasingly demanding customers happy.

The reasons are simple.

The likelihood that a product will meet its final objective is a function of how detailed the level of the requirements.

The requirements normally take about 1/3rd of the project elapsed time to produce.

The better they are, the longer they take to produce, and the more rigid they are in confining the resulting product to satisfying the understood objective that was seen at the start of the project.

If the requirements are loose, the communications are loose, and the product needs a lot of corrections and bug fixes. Since these must also be performed offshore, the submissions must be turned around the testing and results and possible causes of the errors documented.

Of course, convincing a team offshore that the problems are actually caused by their construction of the product subject to their interpretation of the documentation is not an easy task. Particularly if you are dealing with a large offshore company that is simply providing bodies to make money with no vested interest in the onshore client’s  business objectives.

In the long run, an Agile US-based team will outperform an offshore team by producing a given business proposed objective (subjected to its normal evolution as it progresses) than an offshore team, in both speed and cost and the business will remain agile and competitive.

Tony Tyler
eF3 Systems, Inc.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but this SRM 2.0 org should also own the data that defines the inbound supply chain requirement, as well as its current configuration (contracts, etc.).

Given the continuous need for change, poorly data-equipped teams lose a lot of time, not to mention visibility and insight, by not having adequate data resources to support impact assessment, opportunity analysis and what-if scenarios for forward sourcing needs. The Leakage term has often been used to get at the cross-process losses against "on paper" savings; considering the global sourcing potential to results gap more broadly as a future cost reduction opportunity might help garner the best attention to it.

Bob Anson
i2 Technologies

On RFID Market Studies:

Great observation. We need to resist the temptation of taking press releases and pseudo “paid for” research studies as the absolute truth.

We need to be far more inquisitive and dig into the methodology and numbers before we all start quoting these figures in strategic plans!

Keep up the good work!

Aristides P. Smith
Next Generation Logistics, Inc.

On Profitable Proximity Sourcing:

It is good to see a move toward a more holistic approach to supply chain. A similar article in Logistics Quarterly, vol 14, issue 3, 2008, "The Power of Lead Time" by Robert Martichenko, approaches, but does not directly point out the idea that, regardless of landed cost analysis, if transportation lead time prohibits an enterprise from reaching a delivery commitment that is key to its competitive advantage, any cost reduction realized is negated by a reduction of its market space.

Jesse Porter
Manager, Inbound Logistics
Emerson Climate Technologies


Q. If you can only have one distribution center, where do you put it to minimize total lead times to customers (based on U.S population spread)?

A. Henderson, KY, according to the latest analysis from Chicago Consulting, which does this analysis each year. That is a change in 2009 from the long-time best single site of Bloomington, IN. Chicago Consulting says the switch from Bloomington to Henderson was driven by higher than average growth rates in Southeast-Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina.

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