At the end of March, a LogTech start-up emerged from stealth mode with $25m in funding and an ambitious plan: to create an end-to-end collaboration platform for the entire supply chain.
Turvo, based in Sunnyvale, California, offers a set of benefits common to many cloud-based software solutions; automated booking and quotation, streamlined integration with other systems and visibility. The company’s software is available as a mobile app, and designed to support task management, messaging, payments and invoicing within the same platform.
But is this particularly special?
The idea of connecting multiple supply chain partners is not new. Cloud-based systems set up to connect trading partners have existed in many forms since the late 1990’s, with each iteration of development bringing more advanced functionality. Such companies are known as ‘Supply Chain Operating Networks’, as they connect multiple ‘nodes’ in a network of suppliers.
Many of the first Supply Chain Operating Networks developed from a relatively unsophisticated technology, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which enabled little more than a means of exchanging information to automate certain business processes. Over time, this has developed to allow businesses to actively cooperate on the operation of an entire supply chain, rather than focusing on their own individual ‘link’, and updating their partners on what they are doing.
The latest Supply Chain Operating Network platforms offered by leading players in the market have extended their capabilities to encompass advanced functionality such as demand-sensing, forecasting and replenishment. Traditionally, these supply chain capabilities would have been delivered as distinct applications served in an ‘off the shelf’ package. However, as vendors continue to develop systems based on cloud technology, it is likely that more and more applications will instead sit on top of multi-enterprise platforms, benefitting from ready-made integration.
Companies such as E2open and One Network Enterprises have been playing this game for a long time, cultivating substantial networks with many customers. Whilst start-ups such as Turvo may offer a fresh approach to the problem of supply chain management, based on newer technologies, the older companies have the means to fend them off, should they continue to commit to innovation.
Turvo is built for the Internet of Things (IoT), and leverages machine learning technology to submit predictions and recommendations to its users based on context. However, One Network has also deployed these technologies in the field, notably supporting the MRO operations of the US Marine Corps in Afghanistan with predictive maintenance and automated replenishment. Beyond offering recommendations, One Network’s platform can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents to execute decisions without human intervention, and learns from each experience.
It is important to underline that this technology is still in its nascent stage. As such, not all Supply Chain Operating Networks have this capability, but AI is an increasingly relevant consideration for all of them.
Ti’s latest report, Global Contract Logistics 2017, reviews the current leaders in the Supply Chain Operating Network space, analysing the capabilities and limits of the concept and the players executing it. The report looks at the relevance of these networks in the context of the wider contract logistics industry, and at the emergence of technologies that may serve to empower such platforms further.
Source: Transport Intelligence, April 11, 2017
Author: Alex Le Roy
GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN INTELLIGENCE (GSCi)