Yesterday was the first day of Unisys’ Logistics Executive Conference in Nice, France, with client companies such as AirCanada, Air France-KLM, DHL, Delta Air Lines, and IATA meeting to discuss leading practices in air cargo management and information technology. Topics ranged from RFID and other tracking technologies to revenue management and next-generation logistics management systems. Technology innovation was the buzz word in many presentations, and a number of leading practices notably align with Forrester’s vision of dynamic business applications (apps which are “designed for people, built for change”). For example:

  • To remain competitive and leverage their economies of scale, logistics firms rely on mathematical optimizations to diagnose and assess complex routing decisions across customers and delivery networks. Since these kinds of algorithms go well beyond our human capacity to solve problems, these systems present new roles and challenges in terms of people usability. Leading firms are focusing on role-based, flexible workflows that help aggregate and scrutinize missing or unreliable data — rather than the algorithms themselves — to better support systems-based decision making.

  • By their nature, supply chain tracking systems must continuously evolve as networks morph with changing sourcing strategies and market demands. As a leading-edge example, the US Department of Defense has been partnering with Unisys for more than 10 years to track everything from boots and food to bullets and medical supplies. How do they ensure adaptability as military campaigns change? By leverage a common enterprise service bus architecture that cuts new system deployment times from months to weeks. And rather than try to cater to the multitude of requests for specific reporting views, the team has built a business intelligence front end which offers users self-serve data views similar to MS Access.

A variety of innovative practices from outside industries were also raised to illustrate improvement opportunities in cargo management — including examples from data-driven capacity planning for UK policemen as well as optimized pricing of seafood through gauging supply available via ocean temperatures. While I see many supply chain executives on the hunt for innovative use of business technology, these air cargo clients seem to be above the norm in terms of leveraging outside ideas and best practices for their own improvement initiatives.

Roy Wildeman, Senior Analyst, Business Process & Applications