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A Purpose-Built Supply Chain Platform Strategy and the 6 C’s

A recent headline article in The Washington Post said it best: “Supply headaches stretching from Asian factory towns to the American Midwest are intensifying as the economic recovery tries to outrun the highly infectious delta variant. … The pandemic has exposed fragile global supply chains across multiple continents.”

Fortunately, we believe we have an answer to these disruptions and delays. Blue Yonder’s digital supply chain platform – Luminate™ Platform – is purpose-built to provide critical resiliency, business continuity and competitive differentiation to manufacturers, logistics providers and retailers in these most disruptive of times. And it’s all in a unified platform.

I recognize that the “signal to noise ratio” on true software platforms weighs heavily in favor of noise. Every software company is now portraying itself as a platform company. Some are adopting a strategy to storyboard a workflow and then go build applications. Some have a singular application focus and are casting it as a platform. Some cloud providers are portraying themselves as an open platform upon which supply chain applications can be built.

“There’s plenty of industry spin associated with the term platform, but digitization is driving home some new truths,” wrote Adrian Bridgwater in Forbes.

There has been ample work done at the crossroads of academia and industry on platforms. “Pipelines, Platforms and the New Rules of Strategy,” by Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker, and Sangeet Paul Choudhary, laid it out in the Harvard Business Review when they gave the example of how one company increased the value of its platform by connecting participants in a two-sided market via “network effects,” which is central to platform strategy. A network effect in supply chain could be where various entities (suppliers, channel, consumers) interact. A network effect at a foundation level, especially in supply chain, first needs to be delivered within the enterprise ensuring that various nodes connect to each other and drive positive business outcomes. A forecast plan that seamlessly interacts with fulfillment execution leveraging consumer demand insights can drive faster, more profitable supply chain decisions.

The Blue Yonder platform strategy is to enable these network effects across historically siloed application footprints within an enterprise, transforming operations towards business outcome-oriented workflows. This includes reducing waste and out-of-stocks, increasing working capital, delivering superior customer experiences and loyalty, real-time price promotions that enhance margin, optimizing asset and labor utilization, and more.

Blue Yonder’s platform approach has been not only to enable a new level of supply chain orchestration by deploying native SaaS applications but, where applicable, taking with us the richness of our extensive installed base and intellectual property forward. With more than 3,000 customers across the world using our solutions to run their mission critical operations, we owe them a path forward which embraces all the benefits of cloud, artificial intelligence, and a broad network ecosystem. Our engineers have been building systems of intelligence to elevate our customers’ supply chain competitive edge across industry segments and geographies. The most publicized example of that has been how our native SaaS Luminate Control Tower helped our customers proactively manage the Suez Canal blockage.

Utilizing the Most Modern Technology for a Competitive Edge

A platform strategy founded on enabling network participation and which is subject to shifting supply chain dynamics from the edge-in, requires state of the art technology and strict performance adherence. The platform needs to deliver resiliency, security and responsiveness. To deliver this, our platform is built, natively, on Microsoft Azure. Via standard APIs, our platform takes in data from the intelligent edge ranging from customer tastes to transportation routes to supplier status. Applications running on our platform span demand and supply forecasting to warehouse to transportation to e-commerce fulfillment. Brand stalwarts including Electrolux, Loblaws, Walmart, Wakefern, Sephora, and Lululemon are using Blue Yonder’s platform to better fulfill their end-customer needs during these times.

We are the first supply chain company of any kind to hold an open platform development conference so partners and customers can build on our platform; user and developer empathy guides our development philosophy.

Leveraging What Works

Consumer worries of going without food, water, medicines, and other essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic did not play out, despite shortages at times. Supply chains largely have withstood the extensive disruption that started with the early days of the pandemic quite effectively. Across our customer base worldwide, we saw customers applying new scenarios and models to their installed base of solutions, including BD which was delivering critical medical supplies. Blue Yonder’s platform has been iteratively refined with learnings from past disruptions: from SARS to Ebola to the Fukushima disaster and the emergence of e-commerce.

Over the duration, we have listened to our customers most. They are not ready to abandon current application foundations that work for them reliably. To enable these customers to participate in Blue Yonder’s platform offering, we have established a “Journey-to-Cloud” program, which modernizes and connects their applications to the cloud, allowing for access to current and future platform solutions.

Luminate Platform and the 6 C’s of Platform

Our Luminate Platform embraces both native SaaS and Journey-to-Cloud modes, utilizing the latest technology while leveraging what has worked over time.

Blue Yonder’s platform strategy is not unlike what the industry has seen from other successful incumbent software providers such as Adobe and Microsoft. Over the years they have introduced platforms that provide contemporary capabilities while harnessing the deeply differentiated offerings built over time, in a SaaS-hosted infrastructure.

We believe there are many benefits for customers who deploy Luminate Platform, covering the 6 C’s below:

  1. Coverage: The Luminate platform is available and deployed across verticals, markets, across geographic regions. Directionally, it lends itself to a network effect. In addition, it leverages the ecosystem.

  2. Capacity: Blue Yonder was the first – and continues to be one of a few – supply chain software providers who are committed to public cloud. We believe private data centers will increasingly be vulnerable. Microsoft Azure cloud gives us capacity and assurance in this future.

  3. Control: Luminate provides open APIs for customers and the partner ecosystem to do their own proprietary development and access data from IoT and the edge. This ensures that the control of supply chain nodes and applications resides with the customer.

  4. Cost: The Luminate Platform is positioned to deliver optimal cost-to-serve and operations, as well to deliver value via agile go-lives.

  5. Cybersecurity: A resilient supply chain is a secure supply chain. Now more so than ever before, the Luminate Platform enables proactive cybersecurity preparation, built on Azure.

  6. Capability: Blue Yonder has executed on a true, end-to-end supply chain strategy. Competence not only on a single node of supply chain but across nodes, to form a network. Luminate spans forecast to warehouse to transportation to e-commerce.

Blue Yonder has built the Luminate Platform to be the “brains of the supply chain,” orchestrating and automating our customers, business decisions and outcomes to drive greater competitive advantage at scale.

As Alstyne, Parker, Choudhary said in their seminal paper, “Scale now trumps differentiation.” We have proven our ability to deliver to scale with some of the largest retail and consumer product goods customers in production.

Today, Blue Yonder has 700 customers on the cloud and our platform is handling 75 billion automated artificial intelligence transactions per month. More than 2,000 ecosystem developers attend our developer conference and our platform leverages more than 400 patents to make more intelligent and automated decisions.

At Blue Yonder, with our unmatched footprint across verticals, geographies, supply chain nodes, and ecosystem, we strive every day to deliver innovative new value via our Luminate Platform. In the decade ahead, we believe this platform will continue to serve as the foundation in our mission to improve human lives and our planet, no matter what the future holds.

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