"Logistics must adapt to the buyer" – Pieter Van den Broecke of Manhattan Associates
The US software company Manhattan Associates has recently become a Log!Ville Supporting Partner. The firm is a champion of innovation, investing no less than 100 million dollars a year in R&D, which has led to numerous advances, including a very progressive 'cloud native' technology platform for warehouse, transport, order and allocation management. Pieter Van den Broecke, managing director for the Benelux and Germany region, tells us more about what the company has learned in the world of innovation and logistics and its decision to join forces with Log!Ville.
"Manhattan Associates has been creating software for managing supply channels and omnichannel commerce for over 30 years, with a focus on supply chain commerce solutions for wholesale and retail trade, consumer brand companies and arranging distribution to end clients. Initially, our principal orientation was the B2B flow of goods, but our scope has now expanded to include B2C, thanks to the ecommerce revolution," Pieter recounts.
One of the characteristic features of Manhattan Associates is that it creates warehouse management systems (WMS), transport management systems (TMS) and also order management systems, including check-out software. "These systems adopt a holistic approach to manage orders – whether an order must be dispatched from warehouse A, warehouse B or from the shop itself – ensuring that delivery is as fast as possible and that the entire process is optimised." Management is performed using a state-of-the-art cloud native technology platform.
Cloud native technology platform
"The advantage of such a platform when compared to a conventional system is that the latest version is always available to the customer without having to perform updates," Pieter tells us. "Compare that to a system such as Facebook – the upgrades are implemented continuously and in real time, while the user decides if and when to activate them. It is up to them whether to turn them on or off. In other words, users have access to the latest innovations without having to spend on an upgrade."
"The underlying reason is that the frontend applications are constantly modified according to the market, but the backend is frequently unable to handle those changes. Thanks to our cloud platform the backend is just as flexible, which means it can easily adjust to market requirements." Manhattan first started off in the world of cloud applications 15 years ago, and in 2017 the company made the move into cloud native applications.
Logistics is becoming increasingly complex
"There was a time when logistics revolved around physical trade," Pieter says. "But today it is much more complex, not just because ecommerce also plays a role, as does supplying customers from a shop, but also because manufacturers are increasingly looking to cut out the middleman and deliver direct to buyers. Their demands are also much greater than those of, for example, intermediaries – logistical activities are now a crucial part of the end client's experience."
"An improved experience means greater profits for many companies, as they create customer loyalty. In other words, convenience has become a crucial factor, because the greater the convenience the more the customer wants to buy from that company. And the more it can deliver directly to that buyer, the higher the profit – as long as the intermediaries are out of the picture. The flipside, however, is that supply chains become highly complex, with more peaks and smaller quantities for each order. And the more complex a chain becomes, the more expensive it is."
Increased automation and robotisation in the distribution centres will offset that cost. Companies must also invest in shuttles, AMRs and other tools as well as in smarter control over streams, people, machinery and their combinations. Moreover, artificial intelligence is essential for tackling such complexity.
Consumerisation of the B2B
The link between the brand and the end customer has also become so close that logistics is compelled to advance at an accelerated pace. "Logistics today works with the requirements of the company, not the buyer. Should the pallets or packages be delivered today or in five days, as quickly as possible or by the most sustainable method? Logistics shall have to adapt in order to cater to those expectations, and Manhattan aims to support these companies as they take on such challenges. For that matter, these challenges are not just an issue for B2C, but also for B2B. We have noted a consumerisation of the B2B world, and the experience has become so important that it is up to the logistics industry to help fulfil these expectations," Pieter adds.
"Through our partnership with Log!Ville we intend to share our insights with the other partners and make a contribution as a pioneering company to improving the dynamics of the logistics world. Conversely, we hope that what other companies have learned can also serve as a source of inspiration for us. By keeping our finger on the pulse, we are able to better assess which innovations we must prioritise."
"Small and medium sized businesses often see innovation and technology as aiming too high for them, but in the world of today you have to open your heart and mind to such advances – if you don't embrace them now you will miss the boat. We aim to convince these companies that technology can also be low-threshold. When you make an investment at peak times, it becomes too expensive, and technology can also be tailored to average operations, which means that the peaks can be absorbed," Pieter concludes.