This past month, JDA Software, a 35-year-old supply chain management company rebranded itself “Blue Yonder”. It’s a neat name, a play off the phrase, “Into the Wild Blue Yonder”, inducing a feeling of adventure into some mysterious and faraway place. The name itself wasn’t pulled from a hat by some clever branding intern, it was taken from a company that JDA Software acquired two years ago called Blue Yonder. Blue Yonder was a strategic acquisition for JDA Software to move into the space of artificial intelligence. The unusual step of taking the name of an acquired company was made for good reason – it signals just how important Artificial Intelligence will be to the future of supply chain management.
What is Blue Yonder?
Blue Yonder is an end to end, digital fulfillment platform powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Any company that deals with a global supply chain that influences how the product gets to the shelves faces a daunting challenge of predicting what consumers want, planning supply in advance, managing and optimizing routes, and fulfilling this demand accurately and on time. Throw into this complex puzzle the global piece; supply chains pass through multiple borders that inherently amass region-specific risk.
Blue Yonder absorbs the sea of data circulating multiple channels to include social, news and events, curates this data through machine learning algorithms, produces trends and probabilistic predictions, and finally creates actionable business insights relating to supply chains. It presents this information to users with a real-time dashboard, allowing them to deliver the right product at the right time using the right channel at the right price.
Where is the value?
The value to customers is real-time information, predictive visibility, and AI-backed recommendations. It dampens the risk of supply chain disruptions. These risks in the past were baked into company margins, so when minimized, companies see healthier bottom lines. Blue Yonder is delivering on this value proposition – serving 73 out of the top 100 retailers, 77 of the top 100 consumer goods companies, and 8 out of the top 10 global third-party logistics providers.
It is also “end to end”. It covers not only the supply chain, but also optimizes labor force management, maximizes utilization of assets, and reduces inventory waste. It’s a one-stop-shop for customers.
As an ML service that is winning the market, benefits to customers improve via a flywheel effect. More customers, more data, more learning, less risk, more savings. It also keeps the operation transparent, allowing customers to look under the hood and access the factors feeding these insights.
Sounds great, so what could go wrong?
Something very few could have predicted – COVID-19. For decades, companies have focused on the very value proposition that Blue Yonder provides – supply chain optimization to minimize costs, inventory reduction, and increased asset utilization. However, this focus has removed the buffers and flexibility to absorb disruptions caused by COVID-19. In other words, supply chains followed the path of least resistance and solidified over time. With plant closures, limited port access, and highly unpredictable demand, bottlenecks have run rampant.
An even bigger jolt to the status quo is a growing distrust of what was previously a championed, global supply network. Countries most affected by the disease are beginning to realize how vulnerable they are to a global system unable to deliver on essential medical equipment to battle the disease. It’s too early to accurately predict the long term implications, but a pivot toward more domestic supply chains is not beyond the realm of possibility.
The latter could spell trouble for a company whose value proposition is dampening risk with global supply chains. However, it could also be a prime opportunity to showcase the need for a company like Blue Yonder. And that is exactly what they have done.
Blue Yonder quickly seized the moment by taking live CDC data, integrating it with the supply chain landscape to understand effects on port access and site closures, and presented users with a Supply Chain Risk Response Dashboard that provides real-time visibility and predicts short and long term impacts to businesses. Added to this quick turnaround is the pricing scheme – free of charge.
Blue Yonder has responded to the current epidemic wisely by being part of the solution instead of the problem. However, the long term implications of countries pulling back from a globalized system could be detrimental to their value proposition. Blue Yonder has as much a battle with perception as it does in keeping its technology competitive. This perception must not be taken lightly – in the long term, Blue Yonder must showcase the inherent flexibility of a digital supply network, powered by AI and ML, as the ultimate defense against future black swan events.
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