Warehouse Earthquake

Welcome to part two of our summary of an article we found in Greenbiz where we covered ‘Tracking and Transparency’. In Part Two, we look at ‘Crowdsourcing worker sentiment’ and ‘Logistics and the shared economy’.

Crowdsourcing Worker Sentiment

Whilst we like a bit of jargon at Zupplychain – coupled with plenty of straight talking – this phrase was new to us! But it’s more obvious and potentially beneficial than it suggests – in plain language: encouraging employee feedback and engagement. The not un-reasonable belief being that this engenders higher productivity.

Go a step further and consider the employment dynamics in those developing countries that are often integral parts of the supply chains of manufacturing businesses and one is in the realm of actual and potential business critical issues of exploited workers, underage-mine workers, clothing sweatshops and lack of basic human rights. A shock to the supply chain – either from real or reputational causes – can severely disrupt a consumer business’s continuity of supply, pricing or consumer demand.

In response, we have new technologies connecting directly with supply chain workers, aided by the omnipresence of the smartphone!

LaborVoices

In Silicon Valley, a former quantum physicist has been developing a company that literally amplifies the voices of supply chain workers.

Kohl Gill’s Labour Voices works with companies trying to get a sharper reality of sentiment and issues amongst their workforce by collecting feedback over mobile phone calls in multiple languages. The company operates in eight countries on four continents and monetises with subscription income from employers who receive information such as warnings about specific factories.

Good World Solutions

Good World Solutions is a non-profit organisation developing a smartphone app, Laborlink, with the aim of providing companies with real time visibility of their remote manufacturing supply chains, particularly in the garment and electronic industries. This is enabled by an anonymous two-way mobile phone communication system that allows employees to, for example, report unsafe conditions, harassment or exploitative practices.

As of 2014, the company operated in over a dozen countries and says it is on track to reach 1 million workers in the next few years.

Logistics and the Sharing Economy

The previous examples from Greenbiz’s list of the most interesting supply chain technologies in the US fit into a broad definition of ‘supply chain’. We now move closer to the more specific definition, the world of logistics, where the sharing economy model – originally propagated by E-bay; made legendary by Airbnb and one of the core principles of Zupplychain - is being adopted.

Cargomatic

If you're a consumer, you can use mobile apps like Uber or Lyft to catch a taxi or share a car journey. Cargomatic offers the same for businesses needing a transport vehicle, using an app that offers both pre-arranged and on-demand pick-ups, the latter of which can arrive in as little as 15 minutes.

“It’s about understanding what the supply and demand patterns are on an ongoing basis," Cargomatic co-founder Jonathan Kessler told GreenBiz. "We tap into this huge network of independent owner-operators."

Flexe

We’ve blogged a bit about Flexe before, whose ambitions and approach is remarkably similar to Zupplychain, albeit that Flexe operate the ‘phone us and we’ll revert’ model rather than instant matching and price comparisons of Zupplychain. Having been branded the ‘Airbnb for warehousing’, Flexe has raised over $6m in two rounds of early stage funding.

Flexe’s key insight is to realise that users and providers are potentially the same cohort – a manufacturing business may require seasonal overflow part of the year but the corollary is often that it can offer its partly empty warehouse to third parties at other times of the year. To make such temporary relationships manageable, Flexe – like Zupplychain – has developed stock management software that both parties access and share.

Cloud Logistics

Cloud Logistics is another logistics tech company shifting its technology and services towards a combination of cloud and mobile distribution management services.

The company focuses on clients in manufacturing, retail, 3PL and wholesale, offering services such as vendor-to-vendor communication, inventory tracking and other logistics analytics.

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That concludes our survey of Greenbiz’s report. A word of caution, though, from those mighty thinkers at McKinsey, as quoted by Greenbiz:

‘The latest digital advance won’t necessarily cure your supply-chain woes," state McKinsey in a report. ‘A general trend in supply chain is that executives look for silver bullets but, quite frankly, supply chain is a lot about hard work."

Whilst it might be churlish to put our humble opinion alongside that of McKinsey, we don’t completely agree – Zupplychain is borne out of the desire to make looking for warehouse space much, much easier. Try our search facility and see what you think.

We’ve tried to make it as user friendly as possible, and to deliver the results that our customers want. But if you think we can make it better, please let us know !