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New Acquisitions Occurring Involving Integrated Supply Chain Planning and Execution Technology

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Acquisition interest focused on integrated supply chain planning and execution technology has indeed re-energized during this Q3 period. We previously alerted our Supply Chain Matters readership to last week’s published report indicating that Honeywell was in talks to acquire JDA Software. Also last week, mid-market ERP technology provider Plex Systems announced that it had acquired supply chain planning technology provider DemandCaster.

Last week’s blockbuster news regarding the potential acquisition of JDA Software came from an exclusive report published by Reuters which cited unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations. Today, The Wall Street Journal, further citing its own sources, reports that a deal is near among the two parties. The report further highlights JDA’s former strategy for integrating planning and execution including its prior acquisition of RedPrairie. The WSJ confirms that the deal values JDA at around $3 billion and could be announced rather shortly.  The acquisition would reportedly boost Honeywell’s efforts to enter the software area with an integrated supply chain planning and execution provider.

Our Supply Chain Matters view of this latest report leads us to believe that Honeywell may be making a play to penetrate the Internet-of-Things (IoT) segment with a concentration on supply chain management and execution focused processes, We will know more once a deal is announced and consummated. Keep in-mind that another suitor could surface by the revelation of the very significant $2 billion debt burden of JDA places a high hurdle, one that only a large enterprise software vendor would undertake.

Plex’s Acquisition of DemandCaster

Plex’s acquisition, on the other hand, is focused on further enhancing its Cloud-based ERP platform with broader capabilities in supply chain and sales and operations planning support for its traditional manufacturing based customers. Since both firms are privately-held, no financial terms were disclosed.

For those unfamiliar, Plex has its original roots in support for the Automotive industry supply chain, specially multi-tier suppliers that constantly respond to changing component demand and replenishment signals from various OEM’s. The firm’s technology has had an end-to-end focus that includes a strong concentration and linkage of ERP to manufacturing execution systems (MES). The mid-market ERP provider has since branched out to other manufacturing industry verticals including after-market services and support.

DemandCaster was founded in 2004 principally by a former manufacturing operations executive who had a vision for a more user-friendly approach in supply chain and manufacturing support needs. Many former supply chain planning providers were founded by entrepreneurs with operations research or academic resumes. Its approach to the market is somewhat novel in that DemandCaster offers all of its customers the option to cancel their subscription at any time if the service is not providing expected value.  The firm and its founders pride themselves in their intuitive end-user interfaces included within applications. The firm’s technology is native Microsoft Cloud multi-tenant based, providing a familiar MS Office and Microsoft Azure based look and feel. The founders additionally have shunned external financial investment partners electing a pure organic growth strategy.

Supply chain focused technology applications include support for basic forecasting and inventory planning, inventory optimization, distribution requirements planning (DRP) and capacity planning. A sales and operations application includes support for demand and supply planning. DemandCaster actually partnered with Plex about a year ago in an OEM arrangement. Earlier, the firm also partnered with Cloud-based ERP provider NetSuite as a supply chain planning focused extension application in a referral arrangement.

This author had the opportunity to directly speak with Jim Shepherd, Plex’s Vice-President of Strategy who confirmed that Plex had initiated its interest in DemandCaster prior to the recent announcement by Oracle of its intent to acquire NetSuite.  Most all of Plex’s customers have global based supply chains that require more responsive capabilities to constantly changing product demand and supply needs. Plex was further attracted to the user-friendliness of various supply chain planning modules, the native Cloud based technology as well as the built-in integration to other ERP or best-of-breed SCM focused platforms. Plex having the established one-year relationship provided further awareness to the attractiveness of DemandCaster’s approach to supply chain planning and execution capabilities.

We would quickly add that from our lens, DeamndCaster has more appeal to line-of-business buyer teams who often weigh user-friendliness and time-to-technology value higher in the ultimate buying decision. Shepherd further confirmed that DemandCaster will remain an independent brand, as well as an inherent part of Plex’s future ERP capabilities. This is a similar strategy that ERP providers such as Oracle and QAD have employed in acquisitions specifically related to supply chain management focused technology. Such a strategy opens the door for cross-selling into other ERP or best-of-breed supply chain dominant environments.

Shepherd reiterated that a long list of planned additional investments is planned for DemandCaster, investments that could not be achieved without an external investor. Mentioned were building-out comprehensive analytics capabilities directly related to S&OP focused processes, and that DemandCaster would part of future supply chain focused analytics down the road.

What it Means

While both of these new developments come from somewhat different strategic motivations, they point to renewed and building market interest in integrated supply chain planning and execution capabilities that can be tied to future needs in enhanced analytics driven decision-making, more integrated business planning and abilities to support future IoT based business models that provide enhanced decision-making based on connecting physical and digital processes. By our lens, it will place additional pressures on existing best-of-breed supply chain technology players to further enhance their integration to physical supply chain execution.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2016. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.

 


The U.S. Postal Service Has Reached a Critical Crossroads

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This week, the United States Postal Service (USPS) reported its financial performance for the latest quarter, and from our lens, there are distinct indications that the agency has reached a critical juncture in its ability to be a sustaining competitor and service provider to the world of online fulfillment. As the agency handles more and more package volumes, its transportation and operating costs have risen significantly. Readers, those residing in small and medium as well as large businesses, need to continue to be aware of the implications of this trend.  USPS Delivery_sized

In September of 2014, Supply Chain Matters declared that the USPS had suddenly changed the industry dynamics of parcel shipping, online commerce and customer fulfillment.  The agency established a whole different dynamic for B2C/B2B online commerce by aggressively reducing parcel shipping rates and by declaring to online retailers and businesses that the USPS intended to be a parcel transportation and last-mile delivery partner in the ongoing explosion of online. Suddenly, e-retailers who wanted to maintain attractive free shipping options discovered a potential new alternative to control costs of such programs, and entities such as Amazon were quick to make leverage.  Both FedEx and UPS were not all that pleased with the pricing move and began logging protests claiming foul, even though both relied on the agency for completing more costly last-mile delivery needs.  However, both were forced to deal with a different competitive landscape in terms of rates and customer alternatives.

Then we viewed the evidence of the results from the all-important 2015 holiday fulfillment quarter, as the agency actually surpassed UPS in total delivered packages. USPS letter carriers delivered about 660 million packages, up from an initial anticipated volume of 600 million packages. UPS reportedly delivered 612 million packages as compared to its initial forecast of 630 million. The postal agency offered the equivalent of as many as 25,000 Sunday delivery routes, up from a normal 4000 pattern.  In essence, the USPS became the de-facto go-to carrier for Amazon’s needs for Sunday deliveries. Financially, the agency recorded its first quarterly profit since 2011, earning $307 million, a significant milestone.

In the latest June ending quarter, while total revenues increased 7 percent, the agency reported a controllable loss of $552 million compared with a year-earlier controllable loss of $197 million. Overall volumes were down slightly while package volumes increased 14 percent, an indication of offsetting declining volume in standard mail. The agency reports that it is now delivering to one million additional addresses across the U.S..

In the latest quarter, operating expenses increased 12 percent. The agency’s CFO indicated that transportation and compensation costs continue to rise despite strict cost controls, and according to The Wall Street Journal, the majority of compensation cost increases were related to the growth in package volumes.  Further noted was that transportation costs rose in part due to added air freight expenses to meet customer expectations.  According to a statement from the Postmaster General, while a recent package rate increase helped to boost revenues in that segment, it was not enough to offset rising costs. By the way, the principle air freight services provider to the agency is FedEx, who obviously benefitted from increased USPS package volumes.

From our lens, the USPS cannot continue to sustain its growth in package deliveries related to current and more expanded online commerce package volumes without investments in newer equipment, systems, and more flexible people resources. Most current delivery vans are over 20 years old and added package volumes are obviously taking a toll on these trucks. The agency is close to awarding contracts in evaluating new delivery van prototypes with larger cargo capacities while consuming less fuel, but the timetable obviously needs to accelerate.  Most of the agencies inter-city and cross-country surface delivery needs are established with external transportation firms or independent trucking contractors. As noted, air freight resources are contracted as well.

Scalability of this model does not equate to added efficiencies and cost control. As a government agency, beholden to the U.S. Congress, there are obvious political constraints.  Some in Congress want to be rid of direct government ownership yet many current and retired postal workers as well as associated contractors are voters who expect their interests to be considered. Add to this a heightened and highly partisan Presidential campaign environment and readers can get the picture.

The agency and its associated postal workforce have proven viability as an option in package delivery and last-mile fulfillment. The latest TV commercials depicting USPS vans branded with virtual retail branding has purposeful meaning for online consumers. But, the crossroads has been reached in terms of added scalability without losing additional monies.

It is time for the U.S. Congress to act.  Either allow the agency to manage, invest and compete as an alternative e-commerce delivery provider or take action on other options.

The analogy is perhaps a teenager that proves to his or her parents that they have finally grown-up and matured, and desire to launch on a chosen career, and seek the support to do so. So is the situation with the USPS and the Congress. The crossroads is at-hand.

In the meantime, businesses need to stay aware to the implications of these trends especially in the light of continual evidence indicating that supporting online customer fulfillment has become more expensive with every passing campaign.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2016. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved

 


Oracle Reports Fiscal Q4 and Full Year 2016 Financial Performance- It’s All About Cloud Momentum

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Oracle reported both fiscal 2016 fourth quarter and full year financial performance with executives indicating they were thrilled by the results as well as the current momentum of this enterprise technology provider. Oracle CEO Safra Katz indicated her optimism that the company is working to position Oracle as a customer strategic partner for the Cloud.

In its fiscal fourth quarter, Oracle reported $10.6 billion in total revenues, down 1 percent in U.S. dollars and flat in constant currency. Of that total number, Cloud based revenue in the quarter was $859 million, up 51 percent from last year. Total on premise software revenues were $7.6 billion with software updates and product support revenues at $4.8 billion, up 4 percent from last year. Operating income for the fourth quarter was $4 billion and net income was reported as $2.8 million. Operating margin in the fiscal fourth quarter was 37 percent.

For the full fiscal year, total software and cloud revenues for Oracle totaled $37 billion, representing a growth rate of 2 percent in constant currency. Cloud, SaaS and PaaS segment revenues were reported as $2.2 billion, growing 52 percent. Cloud infrastructure as a service was $646 million, growing 11 percent. On-premise software grew slightly in constant currency to $26.1 billion, as continued growth in software support offset could-related declines in new software licenses.

Co-CEO Mark Hurd indicated that Oracle currently has nearly 2600 Fusion ERP customers operating on the Oracle Public Cloud, with more than 2000 new PaaS added in Q4 alone.

Oracle further raised its financial guidance for the current Q1-FY17 quarter

From an overall strategic growth perspective, Oracle Founder, Executive Chairmen and CTO Larry Ellison outlined two specific longer-term strategies. The first is to continue to accelerate the enterprise technology provider’s SaaS and PaaS ongoing growth rates with a goal to at least double the growth rate of the company’s closest competitors. He indicated to analysts that Oracle has a fighting chance to be the first SaaS company to make it to $10 billion in revenue and to dominate this market segment. He felt Oracle was a major player in ERP, HCM and CRM, along with Service Management and almost the only player in supply chain and manufacturing.

That latter observation is one that Supply Chain Matters shared in our coverage of Oracle Open World last fall, our belief that Oracle is currently the only enterprise technology provider offering a full suite of supply chain and manufacturing applications available on a public or private cloud platform. Once more, Oracle can provide added options for infrastructure and database hosting needs, either private or public. This can be especially attractive to up and coming industry disruptors or mid-marker manufacturers and services providers looking to gain advanced technology at lower cost.

The second major point of focus outlined by Ellison is that of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) data centers that are now being converted to next generation technology providing broader compute power and efficiencies at lower cost. Ellison observed that a huge amount of interest and demand related to IaaS stems from existing and new SaaS customers and even larger amounts of customer interest and demand originating from Oracle database customers looking for opportunities for decreased operating costs and higher efficiencies. In the financial performance briefing he noted:

Our database customers want to move their application into our cloud putting their database on to our platform as a service and then their applications, so a lot of custom applications on to our infrastructure as a service, these two things go together.

For supply chain functional and line-of-business teams, this is indication that IT teams continue to seek broader cost reduction and service enhancement opportunities in managing data management and reporting needs. With Oracle databases so prevalent across supply chain and product management applications areas, this is an important trend to monitor.  From our lens, Oracle’s efforts are now clearly focused on moving existing and future customers to Cloud based applications and computing, a core strength of this enterprise technology provider.

It further represents an indication that Oracle will counter SAP’s HANA efforts with additional options to allow Oracle database platforms the ability to support applications and analytics needs in Cloud based environments.

No doubt, during Oracle’s upcoming annual Open World customer conference being held in September, there will be more information regarding Oracle’s efforts to accelerate its march to the Cloud.

Bob Ferrari

© Copyright 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


Pending Transportation Industry Disruption Will Require Industry Supply Chain Management Attention

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Looking back at the 2015 holiday fulfillment period, there were two significant supply chain and Omni-channel fulfillment trends that made their presence. These trends will continue to unfold in 2016 and beyond with significant implications for industry supply chains.

The first was Amazon, and from a number of dimensions. As noted in our Supply Chain Matters commentary earlier this month reflecting on the online retailer’s latest financial performance, Amazon will increasingly play an industry disruptor role in 2016 and beyond.  Certain sectors of B2C / B2B online fulfillment, parcel logistics and transportation are ripe for process innovation facilitated by more innovative Cloud-based technology. We believe that Amazon is showing all of the tendencies to be that disruptor and existing industry players should be prepared. Just like Amazon Web Services (AWS) provided a new model for utility based information technology services, Fulfilled by Amazon will continue to be the next disruption. Yesterday, a report published by Bloomberg reinforced this disruptor trend in its headline: Amazon Building Global Delivery Business to Take On Alibaba. The article discloses a far bolder plan originally conceived in 2013 that outlines an aggressive global expansion of Fulfillment By Amazon services that includes a global delivery network capability that controls the flow of goods from factories in China and India to customer doorsteps throughout the world. A profound statement included in the report was: “The ambitious strategy promises to turn FedEx and UPS into Amazon rivals, but also pit the Seattle giant against Chinese counterpart Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.” The report goes on to describe a strategy that places Amazon at the center of a logistics capability that today controls legions of middlemen who handle transnational world trade, and is ripe for a new model. Through its control of large amounts of online volumes, the online retailer can acquire transportation and logistics capability at lower wholesale rates while transforming Fulfilled by Amazon into a virtual online fulfillment and delivery services platform.

The second compelling trend reinforces the first in some respects. This week, the United States Postal Service (USPS) reported its financial performance for the holiday quarter and recorded its first quarterly profit since 2011, earning $307 million  Included in this reporting was a compelling statistic. During the 2015 holiday period, the USPS surpassed UPS in total delivered packages.  Letter carriers delivered about 660 million packages, up from an initial anticipated volume of 600 million packages. In contrast, UPS reportedly delivered 612 million packages as compared to its initial forecast of 630 million. The postal agency offered the equivalent of as many as 25,000 Sunday delivery routes, up from a normal 4000 pattern.  In essence, the USPS became a go-to carrier for Amazon’s needs for Sunday deliveries.

Just before the start of the 2015 holiday fulfillment period, Supply Chain Matters railed on both FedEx and UPS regarding their announced added rate hikes for both 2015 and 2016. Our commentary reflected on whether both global parcel logistics and delivery carriers were inching closer toward upsetting the “golden goose” of their current growth strategies, that being their participation in the boom in online B2B/B2C fulfillment. We opined that these pricing scenarios threatened Free Shipping options for online consumers and opened the door for new industry disruptors, either larger online retailers, or other transportation and parcel services providers to serve as an alternative parcel delivery mechanism in 2016 and beyond. Our belief was that retailers would have to find alternative methods to leverage localized inventory. If readers had not guessed at the time, we had Fulfilled by Amazon in-mind.

Earlier this month, UPS reported its financial performance and the Wall Street headline was a near tripling of reported profits. Deliveries to consumers accounted for roughly 60 percent of all U.S. deliveries, up from 45 percent in the prior quarter. Why, because 35 percent of Sure Post packages were transferred back into the UPS network. UPS executives set upbeat expectations for 2016 including a potential 5 to 9 percent increase in earnings per share.

As B2B customers and B2C consumers are now aware, during the 2015 holiday quarter it was a lot more expensive to ship parcels via the traditional parcel carriers, and ground delivery times were extended to compensate for lower overall amounts of temporary workers. Fuel surcharges remained in-effect despite unprecedented reductions in the current cost of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The USPS in-essence became the go-to carrier for shipping options while UPS and, to some extent, FedEx networks struggled to manage peak volumes.

We now believe that both outlined trends are indeed the prelude to pending disruption. Established parcel delivery firms have elected a strategy that will preserve profitability. Amazon is moving aggressively forward with its far reaching Fulfilled (and Shipped) by Amazon strategic plan. Alibaba will not sit idle and indeed is working on broader elements of global logistics and fulfillment capabilities that stretch beyond China. The third-party logistics sector is already undergoing merger and acquisition activity and, as Amazon’s plans continue to unfold, international freight and small package brokerage will be under attack.

Online fulfillment events are changing rapidly and there are definitive signs of pending industry disruption.

Industry supply chain teams need to pay closer attention to these evolving trends, especially those residing in small or up and coming businesses or in organizations that ship a large amount of packages.  If your business has a growing online presence, you know how compelling a Free Shipping option is to online consumer’s motivation to buy.

Up to now, it was more attractive from an overall cost and resources perspective to outsource customer fulfillment to an established logistics provider. There is now a cost vice underway that is setting the stage for change and it is important to understand the short and longer-term implications and be able to inform and navigate the business through pending changes.

Now, more than ever, industry supply chain teams need to have the tools and capabilities to be able to quantify and model total customer fulfillment costs under various channel options. It is no longer an option to assume that an online presence is the sole key to growth. Rather, online is a compelling opportunity that comes with its own set of unique profitability challenges. Supply chain teams must be prepared to avoid being the scapegoat for not educating lines of business on cost vulnerabilities or cost saving opportunities.

For our part, Supply Chain Matters will continue with our market education and advisory efforts since there are, by our lens,  few independent and objective voices concerning logistics and transportation.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.


Higher Parcel Shipping Rates Especially Impact Smaller Online Businesses

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In prior Supply Chain Matters commentary as well as 2016 predictions, we have raised awareness relative to the impact of increased parcel transportation rates on B2B and B2C online commerce. At the beginning of 2016, major parcel carriers FedEx and UPS initiated new 2016 rates and added surcharges, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) has now initiated its own 2016 rate hikes averaging 10 percent.

While our commentaries have focused on multi-industry impacts, there is certainly a small and medium business impact, one perhaps more acute relative to business impact.

Thus, we highlight perhaps one of growing representative evidence of such impacts.  A published article originating from Maine’s Portland Press Herald, brings forward such impacts. (Metered free view).  The article profiles two small but up and coming Maine based businesses, Dresden based Maine Medicinals and Winslow based Johnny’s Selected Seeds. The latter business is one that this author has been a fan of for many years.

Both businesses bring forward the realities of today’s online world, that consumers and customers incorporate shipping charges in their buying decisions. In the case of B2C online fulfillment, Free Shipping has become the norm as a result of the track record of Amazon Prime. Yet, more and more, retail executives have come to understand the new realities of increased costs associated with online fulfillment. Thus, as indicated by executives in the featured online businesses of the Press Herald report, the costs of shipping must now be adsorbed or offset by other cost efficiencies.

The other reality brought forward in the report is how the USPS was looked upon as the contingency strategy to avoid the higher transportation costs of the large parcel providers. Now, that option is off the table since the USPS needs to deal with its own needs for agency profitability on costs. More succinctly, the message brought forward is that in many cases, increased transportation costs stand to now directly impact the bottom line of many SMB businesses anchored in online commerce. Shipping fees can no longer cover the full cost of transportation and handling, and something has to give.

We suspect that among many SMB businesses, there is a hope that other viable, less costly transportation and handling options will become available.  Within these building needs, online giants such as Alibaba, Amazon, Ebay and perhaps Walmart remain continued disruptors, offering hosted fulfillment services.

Unless and until more disruptors come forward, the market swath and influence of a few online commerce dominants may well continue and SMB’s will be among those most impacted.

Bob Ferrari


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