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The Supply Chain Management Blog covers the latest in SCM strategy, technology, and innovation.

Four Key Strategies Driving Oracle Logistics Cloud

Guest Author

Derek Gittoes, Vice President Supply Chain Management Product Strategy

I have spent the last five years leading logistics strategy here at Oracle and determining how best to meet the needs of an increasingly complex supply chain ecosystem with cloud technology. It’s an exciting endeavor that requires a lot of creativity and innovation, but I’ve always felt strongly about our mission here at Oracle and have remained cognizant of what our mission is. I've let it guide me in my decision making regarding Oracle Logistics Cloud and I think it’s shown.

Simply put -- Oracle’s mission is to provide its customers with the technology to operate best-in-class supply chains that are capable of delivering business benefits in the short-term while also providing the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions to maximize long-term performance. This is no easy feat in a world where both the business environment and information technology evolve at a rapid clip. To achieve its mission, Oracle invests continuously in the development of its supply chain management cloud services to provide the functionality customers require and to leverage new technologies. I wrote this article to explore the key pillars of Oracle’s product strategy for logistics:

  1. Disruptive Technologies
  2. Functional Innovation
  3. Digital Thread
  4. Customer Driven

Disruptive Technologies

Software providers often feel compelled to include the latest technology buzzwords in their positioning for fear of otherwise being seen as out of touch with the latest technology trends. Unfortunately, in many cases the strategy ends at “buzzword compliance” as the vendor lacks the wherewithal to put the technologies into action for the benefit of their customers. This is not the case with Oracle as highlighted in the following examples of disruptive technologies for logistics.

The first example is chatbots. Chatbots enable users to interact with their business applications using natural language (spoken or typed) using nothing more than their smartphone or voice controlled digital assistant. Chatbots achieve two important objectives. First, chatbots reduce the barrier for obtaining the information the user needs. There is no need for the user to remember complex user interface navigation paths, menu options, report names, etc. All they need to do is ask the question. Second, chatbots reduce the time it takes to answer common questions by eliminating the need to write and respond to emails, search websites, read through reports, etc. The net result is saved time and effort which accelerates the decision making process. Oracle is planning to put chatbots to work in to help answer common logistics questions. Example use cases include:

  1. Shipment visibility – What’s the status of my shipment? When will it be delivered?
  2. Freight costs – What’s the cost of delivering my products? What transit time options are available?
  3. Inventory visibility – How much product do I have on hand? Where is inventory available?

The second example of putting disruptive technologies to work is IoT (Internet of Things). IoT solutions often focus narrowly on collecting data from “things” and fail to address how those data will be utilized to achieve better outcomes in terms of supply chain performance, customer service, and other business objectives. Oracle’s IoT solutions provide the means to analyze streams of sensor data to identify where action is required and enable that action within the corresponding supply chain application. For example, Oracle enables customers to embed IoT as part of their transportation management planning and execution processes. Planned shipments can be automatically geofenced for tracking purposes, shipment events can be recorded automatically based on IoT data (e.g., arrival and departure events), potential service failures can be identified based on vehicle tracking, shipments can be re-planned based on current conditions, etc. The net result is improved perfect order delivery and reduced operating costs with IoT data as means to help achieve this end.

Functional Innovation

Changing business conditions drive organizations to develop solutions to new sets of business requirements or address established requirements in new ways for improved outcomes. A great example of this within the logistics domain is transportation network design. Transportation network design is nothing new as organizations have always had the need to periodically evaluate their networks and corresponding operating strategies to account for changes in their business. As a result, solutions were developed that enabled organizations to perform these analyses on a relatively infrequent basis (e.g., quarterly). Fast forward to today’s business environment, and the need to evaluate the transportation network is an ongoing task that requires constant attention. The solutions of the past are ill-equipped to address these requirements given the time and effort required to analyze a given scenario and to put the results into action.

Oracle recognized this situation as an opportunity for functional innovation by fundamentally changing the approach to transportation network design. Oracle’s planned solution approach combines the computational capabilities of modern cloud computing infrastructure with the deep shipment optimization present in the Oracle Transportation Management Cloud product. The result is a transportation network modeling capability that enables customers to achieve the following:

  1. Define scenarios quickly using the operational data within their Oracle Transportation Management Cloud system
  2. Simulate the impact of changes in their transportation network using real-world data and constraints (e.g., freight rate changes, carrier capacity changes, shipping volume changes)
  3. Analyze results within and across scenarios
  4. Implement changes within their operational transportation environment

There are many other areas where Oracle is investing to provide functional innovation in Logistics by applying new technologies and approaches to deliver novel solutions. Examples include:

  1. Trade Agreements: Enable customers to leverage preferential trade agreements to reduce their cost of goods sold
  2. Yard Management: Enable customers to bridge the traditional visibility gap between warehouse and transportation management solutions for more effective operations
  3. Freight Brokerage: Enable customers to leverage spot market capacity to efficiently and cost effectively execute shipments via 3rd party freight marketplaces and brokerage service providers.

Digital Thread

The third pillar of Oracle’s logistics product strategy is the development of solutions that breakdown the barriers between functions that have traditionally operated in silos. The value of logistics solutions is diminished when they are operated in isolation or in a loosely connected fashion with other business processes (e.g., promising a customer a delivery in 3 days when there is no transportation capacity available). Oracle enables customers to maximize business value by supporting broad business processes, such as order-to-cash and source-to-settle, by combining best-of-breed functionality with process integration. In doing so, customers are able to connect the “digital thread” through integrated decision making and process execution which results in reduced cycle times and improved outcomes.

For example, Oracle’s order-to-cash solution enables customers to:

  1. Identify export compliance issues at time of order capture to prevent downstream fulfillment problems and delays (e.g., identify export license requirements, missing product classifications, denied party clearance)
  2. Promise accurate delivery dates for customer orders based on available inventory and transportation capacity
  3. Predict potential delivery delays based on real-time shipment tracking using IoT and predictive analytics
  4. Increase warehouse throughput via coordinated dock appointment scheduling and yard management

Customer Driven

The final pillar of Oracle’s logistics product strategy is a relentless focus on being “customer driven”. In other words, every aspect of the logistics product road map is designed to deliver value to Oracle’s customers based on their business requirements and priorities. To achieve this objective, Oracle provides multiple vehicles for customers to provide direct input to the product development process:

  1. Idea Lab: Customers can post ideas for new product capabilities using the Oracle Cloud Customer Connect platform. In addition, customers can provide a figurative “thumbs up” on ideas they like that were posted by others. All ideas are reviewed by the Oracle Development team.
  2. Special Interest Groups: The Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) includes many Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that are dedicated to specific Oracle products. These SIGs are customer-run organizations that serve multiple purposes. First, they provide a mechanism for customers to learn from their experiences of their peers. Second, they provide an opportunity for customers to share feedback directly with Oracle Development regarding new feature requirements.
  3. Customer Advisory Boards: Oracle Development operates product specific Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) for the purpose of soliciting direct input on future product direction from strategic customers. CAB participation is limited to customers who meet the required membership conditions.

Conclusion

Oracle Logistics Cloud enables customers to improve their supply chain operations in the domains of inventory, warehouse, transportation and global trade management. Deployed standalone or as part of a broader Oracle footprint, these solutions help organizations reduce their supply chain costs and improve perfect order delivery performance. Oracle’s customer-driven product strategy is supported by ongoing investments in disruptive technologies, functional innovations, and digital thread integrations, that ensure these solutions will continue to deliver customer value in the long term as business conditions and technologies evolve.

Safe Harbor Statement
The preceding is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

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