CH Robinson launches supply chain innovation lab

Dive Brief:

  • C.H. Robinson launched C.H. Robinson Labs, an in-house supply chain innovation incubator, on Wednesday according to a press release. The lab will leverage the company’s September 2019 commitment to invest $1 billion in technological innovation projects over the next five years.
  • The initiative is tasked with developing targeted digital connectivity and data analytics tools for shippers who are “hungry for tech solutions to strengthen their competitive position and increase their efficiencies,” C.H. Robinson President and CEO Bob Biesterfeld said in the release.
  • Thus far, these solutions include enhancing the company’s pilot-phase business intelligence software, Navisphere Insight, developing a benchmarking tool to help shippers predict and reduce lead times, and other features such as real-time freight tracking to increase visibility across the supply chain.

Dive Insight:

Shippers and carriers alike have been turning to data analytics to improve visibility into their operations, increase service reliability and reduce costs.
To meet this demand, C.H. Robinson is focused on tech investments that will not only drive customer savings but anticipate future challenges “from inventory movement to PO management to executing global on-demand supply chains from … first mile to last,” Biesterfeld​ said on the company’s Q3 2019 earnings call.
Testing out new solutions designed by and for supply chain experts is a model DHL took up last year as well, launching a 28,000-square-foot innovation hub in Chicago devoted to developing and piloting new logistics technologies.
One of the first goals of C.H. Robinson’s labs program is to connect its “Navisphere capabilities into leading technologies such as Oracle Netsuite and Transportation Management,” to allow customers to seamlessly integrate their own ERPs with C.H. Robinson’s broader market insights, Tim Gagnon, C.H. Robinson’s vice president of analytics and data science​ and head of the lab, said in a statement.
In addition, the company has plans to roll out empty-mile reduction, global freight forwarding and carbon footprint analysis features in the future.
L’Oreal and Target are among a group of companies participating in the Navisphere Insights pilot, according to the release. Adam Hall, vice president of transportation at L’Oréal, said the analytics advancements have helped the company achieve significant savings by increasing operational reliability and efficiency.
C.H. Robinson is also partnering with Anheuser-Busch on an artificial-intelligence-powered tool that directly connects the two companies and “prices and accepts thousands of shipments in less than a few seconds without human interaction.”
As the company awaits returns on these investments, competition has been heating up for brokers with the entry of firms like Uber Freight and Convoy, which digitally match shippers and carriers while also offering visibility into key factors such as pricing, ETAs and dwell times.
“With over 200,000 companies connected to our Navisphere platform, it’s really important for us that we have the most digital and most connected platform there,” Biesterfeld said on the earnings call, noting the company is focusing on developing easily integrated and automated tools to ensure it stays ahead of the competition.
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