Infor revealed this week that Lineage Logistics has implemented the Infor Supply Chain Execution (SCE) version 10.3 in a cloud hosted environment. This is interesting, not least because of the size of the company which one of the largest temperature-controlled warehousing and logistics companies in the world and the second largest in the US. It has grown to this position over the last seven years mainly through acquisition, now controlling 112 warehouses with 6,800 employees.
The Challenge of acquisitions
Its problem was that it had also acquired over 17 different warehouse management systems, many of which were different Infor solutions already. Their strategy as Blake Barthelmess, VP – Applications and Client Services at Lineage Logistics explained to Lisa Pope, Global Head of Cloud Sales and Strategy at Infor is: “We start with a premise that is cloud first. We are very much focused on adopting the cloud enterprise wide for any good fit. We ask the question: Is there a cloud solution that meets our business requirements and operating needs first?”
The choice for them seemed obvious, Infor SCE delivered the centralised platform that they could not only consolidate their existing systems upon but also migrate in new systems as their acquisitions and growth continued. The solution they chose had to enable them to meet their business objectives as Barthelmess continued: “[We] needed to move to a platform that allowed for rapid extensibility and elasticity”
This is driven by two business realities at Lineage Logistics business agility and the notion of time to value. In Lineage Logistics case the business agility is because they believe that they have a very narrow window in which to disrupt their industry and therefore execution needs to be quick. They also need to realise a rapid time to value, investments need to pay off quickly, they therefore set Infor the challenge of delivering the pilot within five weeks.
That challenge was met, but not without some difficulties. Interestingly Barthelmess appears to cite resistance from internal teams as one of the key objections. This was notably IT teams who had historically delivered and supported the infrastructure. There was a need to persuade them that the move to the cloud potentially frees them up from this and enables them to move on to other objectives that actually add value to the business.
This is a challenge for many business led cloud initiatives where IT departments see the end of their roles. However minimal retraining and the correct communication assets that keep the lights on can be turned into assets that help drive the business forward. At Lineage Logistics they now have an innovation engine that is now considering turning IT into a P/L based team.
Lessons learnt: Communication, Communication, Communication?
Delivering such a major change, even in a pilot initially was clearly a challenge and Barthelmess noted three lessons learnt.
- While Barthelmess was impressed with Infor’s ability to deliver he learnt that this can only be achieved through open and transparent communications between the project team and the vendor. He added that in achieving this open communication it opens the possibility of a vendor becoming a true partner.
- Communications also is critical internally and the same open and honest communication strategy needs to be applied internally to ramp up the adoption curve. One assumes that this means that challenges met need to addressed openly and reported. This openness could mean that the objections of some employees might have be addressed during earlier issues in the project but without the communication those in later stages may still be sceptical and resist the project.
- Barthelmess talked about “Ensuring the IT organisation is brought along for the entire ride.“ This is also about communicating their role in the future. Companies cannot just afford to lose IT staff because of a cloud first strategy, not only do many of these employees keep the lights on in other areas of the business, but they also have deep business knowledge that once lost can never be regained. Barthelmess described their approach to that communication challenge as WITM, identifying “whats in it for me” across all the channels and target audiences certainly makes the communication positive.
The Infor SCE solution is now rolling out across the company. Hosted in AWS Lineage Logistics now has a platform that will enable it to grow. The solution supports enhanced warehouse management functionality, labour management, and 3PL billing and transportation execution in a single, unified cloud-enabled solution.
Sudarsan Thattai, Chief Information Officer, Lineage Logistics commented: “The logistics industry provides very little room for error, and our top priority is delivering reliable service, and therefore value, to our customers. By consolidating our existing systems to Infor SCE in the Cloud, we are better able to provide streamlined visibility to customer inventory and more efficiently manage the needs our business,” said “Infor understood the unique challenges of our organization during the implementation process and was able to execute goals in a quick timeframe.”
While Lineage Logistics implemented version 10.3 they have not yet updated to 10.4,the latest version. This may be because their current roll out is not yet finished but it will be interesting to see how quickly that update is carried out. Updating to the latest version in the cloud should be a simple task and it is slightly surprising to find that this has not yet been done.
Cloud-based solutions will become commonplace across all industries and like Lineage Logistics other companies will discover that there are challenges to be met. As with any change program communication internally and externally is critical and as Lineage Logistics found there are often nuggets of business value to be found within internal operations that can be transformed. For companies looking to centralise their supply chain management solutions Infor SCE is one solution that has clearly delivered on its promise with a very large customer.
Interestingly the change from being a vendor to a partner seems to have been achieved by Infor during this project. It is something that companies need to consider carefully, as they migrate to the cloud and lessen their expertise internally on applications and software there will be a more direct link between the software vendor and the business. Companies not recognising this new reality may face issues in the future.
John Bermudez, vice president, Infor commented: “The complexities of the modern supply chain are rapidly evolving, making it more essential than ever before to utilize a fluid technology platform. With Infor SCE in the cloud, companies like Lineage Logistics can be in a position to better manage processes or handle changes on the fly, which can help deliver value to customers.
“We look forward to growing our relationship with Lineage and helping them deliver better value to their customers for years to come.”