Blue Yonder transforming warehouses, DCs and the workforce

Blue Yonder’s Daniel Kohut, Vice President Australia and New Zealand, speaks to MHD about Warehouse Labour Management, e-commerce, the effects of the pandemic on supply chain operations, remote work, and how they can support companies to respond to risks faster, smarter, and more cost effectively.

Daniel Kohut from Blue Yonder says the company’s Warehouse Labour Management, coupled with its consulting and partners’ change management programs, are helping drive optimal productivity in warehouses and distribution centres by transforming workforces towards a performance-based culture. 

“It’s especially important now with the nature of work and workforce demographics changing,” Daniel explains. “It reinvents the way managers and associates view labour management, with associates self-focused on improving performance and managers focused on removing barriers to productivity.” 

He says the result is reduced fulfilment costs, improved customer service, and increased job satisfaction. 

“Supply chain distribution managers today face key challenges not experienced by their predecessors,” he says. “On the one hand, the volatility and time pressure of satisfying customer demand in the digital economy puts new strains on distribution operations and productivity. On the other hand, the workforce needs to fulfil heightened customer demand; but it is difficult to attract, motivate and retain employees.”

Daniel notes that when companies use AI-based automation, robotics, and autonomous vehicles, they complicate labour forecasting and scheduling. 

“What’s needed to solve these many challenges is an integrated approach to flexible workforce scheduling and labour management,” Daniel says. 

He says Blue Yonder has integrated industry-leading capabilities in workforce labour management into a comprehensive approach to optimise distribution, workforces, and productivity. 

“This year, we surveyed partners across the supply chain – retailers, manufacturers, LSPs, technology solutions providers, start-ups, and media associations – to gain a better understanding and prospective of concerns, challenges, and actions.”

Daniel says some of the questions companies are now asking include: ‘Will the growth in e-commerce brought on by COVID-19 continue?’ ‘What are the biggest supply chain execution/logistics challenges facing shippers (manufacturering and retail) and logistics providers?’ ‘Will direct-to-consumer gain even more ground?’ and ‘Which technologies are getting attention and investments?’

Daniel says e-commerce is the primary driver in 2022 across all supply chain execution participants and their processes, technology, and human resources. 

He adds that because of anticipated growth, shippers and LSPs are modifying their logistics footprints, engaging in digital transformation, and renewing their business models as well as investing in the technical backend to support these processes – stating that it’s imperative to make data visible. 

He says the ability for an LSP to offer a dynamic service to its customers with clear communication is a product differentiator allowing companies to move away from the traditional transactional price-first approach.

Now, there are concerted efforts to break down silos in supply chain execution operations to enable long-term strategies and actions in logistics infrastructure and technology to help minimise future shocks. 

With respect to risk and resiliency, these considerations were often previously ignored – in favour of efficiency and support of just-in-time production – and are now gaining greater attention. 

“Our respondents across shippers and LSPs felt that their supply chain risk management processes were typical,” Daniel explains. “While different value chains operate at different levels of exposure to shocks than others, our survey demonstrated there is a clear desire for businesses to build back better post-COVID-19.” 

He says better supply chain visibility and transparency will ensure better planning and risk-resilience – a boon for retailers and customers. 

“Our shippers told us that the biggest challenge they faced in supply chain execution was in demand planning (20 per cent),” Daniel adds. “The past year has seen extraordinary shifts, both in customer demand and customer expectations (15 per cent). However, it has been fettered slightly by product sourcing issues (12 per cent) and by insufficient transport and warehouse capacity (18 per cent).” 

Blue Yonder
Blue Yonder says it appeals to customers looking to gain more supply chain visibility by providing pre-packaged industry workflows.

Daniel notes the modern supply chain is especially vulnerable to external shocks and says greater visibility and orchestration over processes and suppliers makes managing risk and modelling shock scenarios for local and global disturbances easier and more effective. 

“Investment in modern technologies and new approaches is essential for businesses looking to adjust to changing trends and customer expectations.

“Companies need a holistic technical infrastructure. Integrating WMS, TMS and OMS is essential.” 

He says while the digital logistics landscape is still relatively nascent, contract-logistics companies can use this fractured space as an inroad. 

“This can be achieved by providing integration capabilities for customisable and modular approaches to ERP systems and modern e-commerce platforms (through open APIs or extended support for legacy tech stacks).”

He notes interconnected systems are much more capable of converting insight into action, though one must be cautious not to over-analyse and -respond to granular changes that occasionally surface, especially in automated workflows. 

“By instituting experienced human oversight with automated analysis systems, you can ensure that experienced and responsible judgement is matched with efficient and responsive action; expansion of insight need not mean abdication of oversight,” Daniel says. 

“Most shippers and LSPs we surveyed were already invested in a cloud strategy with 48 per cent of shippers having a robust cloud strategy and a great many more working to implement one in the near-term.”

He says Industry 4.0 continues to accelerate supply chain transformation, with sustainability and ethical decision-making providing a framework and key objectives for the new digital era.

“Part and parcel of adopting new technologies is breaking down silos and increasing collaboration. Forecasting can only do its job if warehouse management backends are providing accurate inventory data. All this needs to be brought together in a digestible format, whether it be automatically generated analytics reports, or real-time data visualisation on company-wide dashboards.” 

“Businesses who fail to adapt to these interdependent and collaborative models are losing market share and struggling to catch up.

“Our respondents told us that they have employed a wide range of labour strategies to retain talent and reduce turnover, the most common of which was the deployment of warehouse labour management with engineering standards (62 per cent).” 

He says another common method was to be found in enabling flexible working hours (50 per cent) and remote-work.

“Additionally, organisations are finding that improved training and retention programs ensure employees stick around (32 per cent),” he adds. “Our survey also found that labour shortages were being managed by implementing automation at different scales throughout the business. 

“Whether this be for jobs such as data entry (21 per cent), or through greater investment in warehouse robotics (25 per cent), investment in emerging solutions is one method to ameliorate labour shortages, and free current and prospective workers to pursue more stimulating jobs.”

Blue Yonder’s solution also allows users to leverage risk detection and course correction to respond early to disruption with ML predictions. 

“The solution also provides AI and ML functionality to support demand forecasting and supply planning,” Daniel says. “Users gain increased end-to-end visibility with tailored dashboards to display configurable KPIs that best match their business to react to market trends faster. 

“Blue Yonder also offers users a partner advantage portal and network, where companies deploying Blue Yonder can collaborate directly with suppliers, distributors, and other trading partners from multiple tiers. 

Blue Yonder’s solution appeals to customers looking to gain more supply chain visibility by providing pre-packaged industry workflows. 

By leveraging Blue Yonder, users can gain more insight into how their decisions affect KPIs. Luminate Platform’s scalability and Luminate Control Tower’s functionality in supply chain planning and management are key value drivers and – Daniel notes – often positively cited by customers during the selection process. 

For more information on Blue Yonder, click here. 


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