In this series, we’ve been discussing how an emerging operational mindset—which Accenture calls XPL—can help shippers reshape their logistics operations to excel in a world of intensifying, unpredictable demand and ever-tightening capacity. With XPL, a company can build an entirely new ecosystem that brings new technologies and capabilities to create a much more fluid and agile logistics network. In this concluding post, we look at how a shipper can use XPL to mobilize that ecosystem to meet the unique requirements of customers.
Orchestrating the ecosystem in concert with suppliers and customers requires having deep, real-time visibility into both supply and demand, as well as the ability to predict and sense developments and trends to make fulfillment more responsive. In other words, shippers require more intelligent operations that help them to know what’s happening across their logistics network and ecosystem and act accordingly.
Intelligent operations can help shippers accomplish three critical objectives:
Avoid unexpected cost increases, especially during surges in demand and periods of capacity constraints
Enhance operations on an ongoing basis to strengthen cost management and enhance overall performance
Proactively plan to avoid costly disruptions to the network
Fundamental to these and other benefits are three distinct elements of intelligent operations. The first, and most basic, is robust enterprise data housed in a unified data repository. In most companies, organizational and operational siloes make it virtually impossible to get a true picture of the state of the enterprise’s operations. Very few companies have the ability to “see” a product from manufacturing origin through the operational supply chain to the point of sale. That’s why, before anything else, a shipper should bring together all the relevant data from its functions (including data generated by connected devices and sensors across the supply chain) into a centralized repository.
Once this rich data is collected and accessible, a company can use applied intelligence to significantly enhance its decision making. Applied intelligence, broadly speaking, extends human reasoning, processing, and decision-making capabilities, and is driven by a number of key technologies. The two most important of these are advanced analytics tools that help shippers predict what will likely happen based on multiple data inputs, as well as generate actionable recommendations across cost, service, and revenue; and automation technologies (including artificial intelligence), which can streamline logistics operations and make them highly responsive. Tying together these and other technologies is a robust platform, the foundation for integrating operations and fostering collaboration, through which a shipper manages its logistics operations and ecosystem.
Data and applied intelligence are useless without a third key element of intelligent operations: talent. In an XPL setting, people remain critical, except they are expected to need new skills that most logistics organizations today don’t have. Core functional logistics expertise still should be important, but that should be accompanied by innovative, creative thinkers who are adept at figuring out how to use new technologies such as AI and analytics to solve business problems. Data scientists also are expected and required to create the algorithms that power applied intelligence, as will people who will manage the various ecosystem elements to fulfill demand.
In sum, XPL represents a bridge from the fixed logistics networks of the past to the agile and responsive ones needed to excel today and in the future. With XPL, shippers can begin to create an ecosystem of innovative capabilities and technologies that can help them build intelligent logistics operations to most efficiently and effectively synch supply and demand. They can keep logistics costs in check, continually enhance logistics performance, and avoid network disruptions. And by choosing to work with an XPL services provider, shippers can start benefiting from XPL right away without having to invest the time and money building XPL capabilities themselves. By bringing together innovative technologies and a new logistics ecosystem, such providers can kick start the kind of change that shippers need—and have been putting off for far too long.