logisticstechoutlook

Software engineers are the future of logistics

By Mario Harik, CIO, XPO Logistics, Inc.

Mario Harik, CIO, XPO Logistics, Inc.

In the age of e-commerce, consumers have more choice than ever. We can shop anytime of the day and from virtually any location. Retailers are adapting quickly, too. Established brands are trying new things all of the time in an effort to be the consumer’s first choice. It takes more than warehousing and distribution to make this possible — the industry’s best software engineers are mapping out the future of e-commerce and how goods are moved around the world.

Supply chain technology in all sectors is changing rapidly. Innovations include real-time visibility as goods move from the manufacturer to the warehouse to the consumer, predictive analytics for inventory and labor management, and advanced automation.

None of this would be possible without software engineers and data scientists who ask the right questions and develop forward-looking solutions. Part of my job as CIO of XPO Logistics is to make sure that our technology organization attracts highly skilled people and engages them in work that is meaningful on a global scale implementing these solutions.

In-house technology as a differentiator (and motivator)

Let’s get back to those e-commerce goods that are no doubt moving across continents right now. We know that they’re making their way through a complex network of facilities and transportation modes. That’s a given; the big question is, who is making sense of the data behind the scenes and how is it being utilized to make the process satisfactory for all parties, especially the consumer? Because that’s what winning looks like in e-commerce: a stellar consumer experience at the end of the line.

The path to that consumer experience is never static. It’s ripe for innovation and change is happening fast. If you’re a retailer, you should care about that. If you’re a consumer, you should also care. And if you’re a software engineer (or aspiring to be one) you should really care!

"Innovations include real-time visibility as goods move from the manufacturer to the warehouse to the consumer, predictive analytics for inventory and labor management, and advanced automation"

The differentiator for XPO is that our in-house team has the agility, flexibility and drive to add new capabilities quickly to meet changing demands. We’re utilizing an anon-cloud platform that lets us engineer dramatic solutions to e-commerce challenges in near real-time. Our global technology team includes over 1,600 individuals who share information constantly each day. No steps are missed and no time is lost.

Software engineers take note: We’re at the forefront of developing voice automated delivery scheduling assistants, tracking apps, robotics, advanced automation programs and more in house as we look to the future.

Empowering software engineers to create value

Feedback is critical to identifying deficiencies, and speed is essential to developing solutions. Our teams are given the visibility they need to deliver continuous improvements based on our customers’ changing demands. We can act to solve an issue in days, not months.

For example, we launched 14,000 new handheld devices into our Less-Than-Truckload operations with our proprietary Android-based app that empowered thousands of XPO drivers and dock workers to more efficiently operate on a daily basis. The app, similar to every platform that we operate, enabled our end users to give immediate feedback on how we can improve and what features to add. This, in turn, in turn translates into our roadmap of what we release on a bi-weekly basis.

The process is important, but it’s only part of the picture. We also empower our people. A major retailer may ask us to start tracking returns by manufacturing defect so they can adjust stock levels and work out a solution with the manufacturer. The consumer’s satisfaction is at risk, which impacts the retailer’s brand. In cases like this, we use our proprietary technology to customize a solution in a few short weeks. The retailer can see rapid improvements in inventory management, supplier relations, and consumer satisfaction — all of which decrease costs and increase confidence in the supply chain.

Results like this are extraordinarily rewarding and motivating for our tech team. We enable our people to own their projects, work through the challenges and see their contributions implemented right away.

Our goal is simple: to empower our in-house software engineers to be the architects of transformational change on a global stage. We believe that this environment attracts the best talent and, in turn, creates even greater opportunities.

Supply Chain Management Special