No matter how environmentally conscious we are, we still need to buy stuff to survive and thrive. Food, soap, clothing, and, if you live in Chicago like I do, furnace filters all year long. How often do we think about what it takes to get those products from manufacturer to your shelf or refrigerator? The concept is simple: Procure materials, manufacture the product, ship it to a distribution center, and then off to the store or end-user. But the supply chain is extremely complex, and inherently fraught with waste and risk. This contributes not only to the price you pay, but to the impact on our environment in the form of fuel and the overproduction of goods to pad inventory.

That’s one of the reasons I joined the FourKites team. It’s exciting to be part of a real solution to help reduce waste and minimize risk in supply chain. As I saw at last week’s JDA Icon conference, many other tech companies are contributing to this goal as well. It was amazing to see the innovation on display. Here are my key takeaways.

Everyone is thinking about the end customer
The “big new product demo” at general session of tech conferences is a time-honored tradition. The JDA team’s approach put themselves firmly in the shoes of the users to demonstrate the Luminate Control Tower…all the way down to the warehouse manager wearing a yellow safety vest. The storytelling was witty and entertaining, while being educational.

JDA’s customers who presented at the conference are huge corporations with highly complex supply chains. It would have been easy to deliver a click-by-click demo showcasing features. Instead, they talked about the technology in terms of how it enables the processes and teams to deliver superior results for their customers. The days of feature / function / benefit demos and tech-first presentations seem to be waning, and I’m happy to see them go.

Visibility technology is a key component of supply chain optimization
Maybe it’s because I work for a supply chain visibility company, but we heard a lot about this at the conference. A recent blog by Steve Banker in Forbes discussed the visibility functionality included in JDA’s Luminate Control Tower solution, which received a lot of buzz at the conference, and had a cool touch-screen demo station in the expo hall.

The lunch conversations often centered around how “legacy” systems can and must co-exist with new technologies in order to get the right insights to identify and fix problems in the supply chain. Predictive capabilities can help companies identify and remediate an issue before it becomes a problem. Tracking freight across multiple modes continues to be a challenge for most of the people I talked to at the conference, and this also seemed top of mind.

Collaboration is key
JDA has a robust ecosystem of partners and customers, and their success in fostering these relationships showed in some amazing sessions and main-stage announcements. For example, Electrolux, a co-development customer with JDA on Luminate Control Tower, showcased their deployment in Europe that took 5 months and is already planning phase 2. An implementation that fast doesn’t happen without close collaboration.

Seeing the many partner presentations and participating in JDA’s inaugural DEVCON reinforced this concept: to solve for these extremely complex problems in supply chain, it takes an ecosystem. In the booth, we helped connect companies in similar industries so they can learn from each other. Back at the office, we at FourKites we collaborate closely with our customers and partners to focus on building solutions that solve the greatest pains.

JDA Icon was a great learning experience, and I left inspired and excited about the innovations that will help reduce waste and lower risk up and down the supply chain. This is good for consumers and our planet. Which reminds me…time to order more furnace filters.

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