Innovation through an age: Infor & DB Schenker

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DB Schenker (DBS) is one of the world’s largest logistics providers, employing more than 90,000 workers globally. The worldwide network covers more than 794 locations around 60 countries with a total warehouse space of more than 8,750,000 m².

The logistics specialist has enjoyed a fifteen-year partnership with Infor, centred around the use of Infor WMS, Infor CloudSuite Industrial and the Infor Nexus platform. This has put DB Schenker at the forefront of innovation within the shipping and logistics industry, creating a next generation, connected global supply chain.

Innovation is enshrined in two targets within DBS, the first of which is to become a data-driven company that provides AI-based decision support and automation, with the second to become a software-driven company that provides Software (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) products for its customers.

With its focus clearly on becoming a substantial digital value creator, DB Schenker and Infor are constantly working on new features and innovations to increase customer experience by applying new technology.

 

Diving deeper: the technology behind innovation

Infor digital solutions support two main central offerings within DBS: the APAC Contract Logistics product and the Intercontinental Supply Chain Solutions (ISC) product that sits within the Ocean Customer Solutions (OCS) division.

The ISC portfolio includes a wide range of products to help air and ocean transport customers optimise global supply chains. In ocean freight, the core business is rooted in very operational, transactional, and very repetitive processes. While ocean freight’s container volumes produce massive revenue, it is essentially a commodity service which is constantly under attack by competitive pricing and high customer demands.  Consequently, it is a high-risk business to run and manage.

Infor technology has been deployed in two main ways to address this issue.  Firstly, by using the enhanced planning and supply chain collaboration of Infor Nexus, ISC accelerates supply chain performance by improving visibility and driving efficiency. This results in better cash-to-cash cycles.

Elsewhere, Infor Nexus enables ISC to offer value added services such as P.O. Management, Origin Management, and Buyers Consolidation solutions that allow DBS to differentiate itself as an elite logistics service provider.

Both of these approaches demand that the ISC business can connect to a full network platform with customers, suppliers, carriers, and thousands of users to work with an absolute version of the truth and manage processes end-to-end to enable true digital supply chain collaboration. This has been achieved at an impressive scale as DB Schenker manages several hundred thousand shipments on the platform and processes more than a million purchase orders.

 

The warehouse dimension

Infor WMS was originally implemented as part of a strategy to consolidate a scattered WMS system landscape that had multiple platforms on different, heavily customized releases. This programme quickly helped to reduce total cost of ownership and improved the speed of innovation. The Schenker next generation WMS project is now live in 11 countries, spanning more than 200 users and serves more than 100 global customers.

Within this new strategy DBS defined a clear target picture of focused investments including both Infor WMS and Infor CloudSuite Industrial (CSI). Now, for the Contract Logistics division within DBS, these applications are implemented on a customer project by customer project basis.

Infor CloudSuite Industrial is the basis for the Schenker MRP solution offering to the most sophisticated customers. For example, for one strategic customer in the telecommunications space, DB Schenker provides Value Added Services (globally), including light manufacturing operations. Elsewhere Infor CloudSuite Industrial underpins DB Schenker offering Material Planning services. The application helps to extend Infor WMS with capabilities including forecasting, MRP, APS, purchase management, inventory management and production-assembly management.

This harmonised platform offers a standardised, high functionality offering throughout all geographies and has been refined from DB Schenker by co-development with Infor for faster innovation and reduced costs.

As an example, Infor WMS is at the heart of Schenker’s new state-of-the-art Red Lion warehouse in Singapore, synchronising the facility’s automations and operational workflows.

With this increased agility and velocity, Schenker is better equipped to meet high-order volumes and complex customer demands in a dynamic and rapidly evolving market.

 

Innovating for tomorrow – predictive ETAs

Schenker is paving its way towards a fully digital, next-generation supply chain network using the Infor Nexus commerce network as its logistics backbone. The solution has not only enabled Schenker to gain greater end-to-end visibility across its supply chain, but also led to the development of predictive estimated time of arrival (ETA) notifications.

Joachim Schaut, Head of Ocean Solutions Europe at DB Schenker explains: ”As an early adopter DBS is compiling and integrating a huge array of live visibility, ocean, air and truck data to answer one simple question –  when will a given shipment be at the final destination? This has the promise of being a key differentiator within the industry, drastically improving customer service.”

 

The benefits of partnership

This constant drive for innovation has already made a real impact at DB Schenker as the number of freight bookings on digital platforms has soared by 20% throughout 2019.

The partnership with Infor has seen a range of clear, tangible business benefits. The customer retention figures for DBS ISC customer retention are currently around 98% and the rapid implementation templates have reduced customer on-boarding by 30%.

Within the Red Lion facility, Infor WMS has already proven to increase the company’s warehouse productivity by up to 100% compared to manual processes and has effectively reduced the lead time for customers by 40% compared to non-integrated facilities.

 

Enter COVID

Given the size and scope of DB Schenker’s operations, the impact of COVID-19 has been both profound and nuanced.  Firstly, there was the challenge of shifting to new patterns of working with almost 70,000 employees working from home.

There then arose substantial differences in the needs of various clients. Fashion apparel all footwear all faced a complete decline in demand, whilst essential consumer goods saw record peaks in shipping volumes.

In addressing these shifts, speed was vital.  The ability of Infor Nexus to deliver visibility down to the SKU and purchase order level was critical and enabled DBS’ customers to both save money and be agile as conditions change.

As Schaut explains: “Without us, those companies would not have this in-depth visibility. They would have needed maybe two weeks, to get all the information. That is two weeks of containers and your shops are full, which leads to warehousing solutions at destination – the most expensive thing our customers can do.”

Within DB Schenker, the improved user interface has decreased training costs and led to an increased user experience, whilst externally facing, the improved customer self service capabilities have improved origin and destination operation efficiencies and provided faster conflict resolution.

Schaut concludes: “Developing a truly connected supply chain on this scale demands world-class innovation and a relentless commitment to improved customer service. As a partner in our quest to deliver on this mission, Infor has been invaluable, and we look forward to further disrupting the global supply chain and logistics industry.”