Lean Logistics ClientConnect 2012

client connect

Conference Re-cap

This week I joined about 150 customers, prospects, and alliance partners of Lean Logistics at their annual ‘Client Connect’ user conference. From discussions with the Lean Logistics staff, attendance was up about 50% from 2011 and exceeded all expectations in terms of growth. JBF Consulting was a sponsor of the show, as we are a Certified Implementation Partner of Lean Logistics.

Before I begin the recap, I’d like to share some kudos. I think the Lean Logistics marketing team did a great job with the conference. Everything was well executed, and the ‘chest-pounding’ you typically find at software vendor shows was thankfully absent. This doesn’t come as a surprise though – Lean Logistics’ culture is very professional, efficient, and collegial instead of what you might find at other vendors (you know that ‘ew’, ‘yuck’, ‘ugh’ feeling). The Lean culture is really something that is demonstrated throughout their organization and subtly flavored inside their products and technology.

From talking with many customers and prospects of Lean Logistics at the show, some of the following topics had the most excitement:

Integrated Global TMS

Many software vendors claim to have international and global capabilities (here I define ‘international’ as within a country other than the US or Canada, while ‘global’ is cross-border) yet few can really point to native, specific feature-functionality that actually delivers. While many of the TMS packages we work with require work-arounds and master-data tweaks to open up global / international planning and execution – Lean’s global capabilities appear well-designed from the code up to support the most common operational requirements.

The global TMS break-out session was well-attended, which echoes the broader market’s interest in global TMS capabilities. It’s been on the wish list for JBF Consulting clients for a long time. Along with new native functionality for global capabilities, Lean has partnered with INNTRA and Amber Road (formerly Management Dynamics, a JBF Consulting client) to provide best-of-breed functionality for ocean operational schedules and global trade management & compliance. These are must-have relationships, and I’m very excited to see how deeply embedded they are within the products.

Advanced Optimization

We’ve been implementing Transportation Management Systems since 1997, and have worked with clients of varying sizes across a broad range of industries. Sometimes, business operations and transportation networks have a complexity that requires some heavy optimization. Others can get by with more simple heuristics and ‘routing guides’ to help automate their decision making. Currently, Lean TMS does a great job of optimizing the typical problem-set – mode selection, carrier selection, and routing. The optimization is configurable and has what I like to call an ‘a la carte’ flavor to it. Being able to mix and match optimization scenarios across a user-definable data set gives great flexibility to the user, and really helps improve planning performance. Users aren’t tied down to a large, overly complex ‘global solve’ – instead they can pick & choose pieces of their business that really demand optimization.

With the newly announced LeanOpt3 (cubed) offering, Lean Logistics aims to make a function-step in the optimization space. With the increased optimization horsepower running on their SaaS platform, I believe many clients will begin to view Lean Logistics as a serious competitor to offerings from Oracle, JDA and Manhattan. The devil is in the data though, and I believe clients should fully investigate their operational scenarios and compare against the optimization capabilities of any TMS (if they are in the market). Many optimization products really do the same thing, and the differences are only highlighted by the data structure of the inputs and the outputs. For example, two cars might share the same engine but be installed on different bodies – say a Minivan versus a Roadster. Same engine in both, but way different results. As another car example, since I’m a fan, the Porsche 911 turbo and the Chevrolet Corvette 427 both put out about 500hp. But, they are both very different cars (with very different prices!). Choose your optimization engine the same way – based on your needs.

Business Intelligence

BI is big. Big Data is big. But, in my opinion, user experience is going to be bigger. I think software companies in the enterprise market are seeing what a user-experience-focused application can do based off what Apple is doing in their space. I talked with a prospect at the show who is still using a TMS with ‘Green Screen’ UI, and I had to sympathize. I think Lean Logistics BI tool is a perfect example that ‘packaging matters.’ What good is all that data if the user doesn’t know how to build a report (see this all the time)? What good is a reporting / BI tool if the technical people don’t understand the underlying data (repeat first problem)? Give a client a beautiful software interface and they can design their own home. Lean is making the right move here again by ‘democratizing’ their data for the average user. Big thumbs up.

Conclusion – Lean Logistics is an exciting company with exciting prospects. They are focused on TMS (emphasize, exclusively) innovation and delighting their customers. The newly released functionality will be attractive for shippers, and with their impressive value-case (rapid ROI) and happy customers – I believe Lean Logistics will gain market share in the TMS space.

What are your thoughts?

Lean Logistics Client Connect 2012

About Brad Forester