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Supply chains in recovery mode: Blue Yonder

OMS Blue Yonder

Blue Yonder’s Kevin Harrison on forcing C-Level focus on digitally transforming their supply chains for 2022 and beyond.

Focus on warehouse automation has come full circle since the last big automation movement of the ‘90s – today there is a significantly better set of tools and technological improvements enabling more robust digital transformation and warehouse automation.

Brief highlights of logistics investments over the last three decades

Those logistics professionals who went through the ‘90s remember the period that warehouse automation was trending at the forefront of capital investment in supply chains. Forward thinking logistics operations across North America invested in PLC (programmable logic controller) driven conveyors, automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), advancing bar code technology, high speed label printing systems capable of applying labels to cartons moving on high-speed conveyors, and applying RF (radio frequency) scanning technologies.

By the end of the ‘90s, more companies focused on ERP (enterprise resource planning) upgrades, mainly driven by challenges from first generation code that did not support Y2K. Coming out of Y2K, more logistics operations focused on improving labor management, transportation management and green initiatives such as advancements in lighting technology, safety features with automated dock ramps with trailer locks and more. Post Y2K, investments were focused on energy, efficiency, and safety features.

Next, emerging technology brought voice systems to the forefront of warehouse investments. Followed by focus on big data analytics where companies began leveraging BI (business intelligence) tools for data-driven decision making.

These three decades between 1990 and 2020 were influenced primarily by several key factors. At the forefront were: politics, the economy and technological advances. And as we move through remainder of this decade and into the next, the list of influencers on our global supply chains has expanded to include added challenges, such as: infrastructurelabor pressures and pandemics.

Each of these areas has impacted business in ways that are both good and bad. Logistics operations have faced unprecedented problems over the past two years, putting most companies in “uncharted water” forcing top leaders at companies of all sizes to commit investments in these areas.

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