SAS and CH Robinson rewrite how supply chains work

  • January 19, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Logistics company CH Robinson and data analytics firm SAS are joining forces to rewrite the way global supply chains work as they become increasingly more complex.

Until now, supply chain demand planning and shipping execution often worked in autonomous siloes without connection, digital integration or real-time visibility. This partnership aims to solve that problem by creating an end-to-end supply chain that integrates inventory and demand signal data with real-time transportation data.

Steering a supply chain from a centralised operation such as this will allow companies more fluid adjustments in scheduling, carriers and responses to changing consumer demand while inventory is still moving on the ground.

Retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies in North America will benefit first from this integration, although it is designed eventually to fill the gap between business and logistical planning across all industries.

“The CH Robinson and SAS collaboration uses data and analytics to solve a gargantuan supply chain problem: agility,” said Brian Kilcourse, retail and CPG analyst at RSR Group. “As 2020’s shortages illustrated, Covid pushed retailers and consumer goods companies over the supply chain cliff. The CH Robinson-SAS partnership combines data from retailers and consumer goods companies with logistics and transportation data to build faster, more resilient, cost-effective shipping methods that honour traditional models while clearing a path for needed innovation.”

According to SAS vice president Richard Widdowson, the future winners in transforming retail supply chains will be those who change their mindset from long-term planning to agile planning by effectively leveraging data to make adjustments in real time.

“Powered by SAS and mobilised by CH Robinson, this partnership helps companies see their supply chains in a new light,” Widdowson said. “It will help make opportunities and challenges visible as they happen so our customers can accomplish more, even during a disruption of pandemic proportions.”

Within an integrated data loop, SAS triggers a demand plan that feeds into CH Robinson’s dynamic transportation procurement tool. In turn, that connects into the Navisphere supply chain management platform to provide real-time visibility of inventory, which then links back and informs SAS’s Intelligent Planning suite.

This means a retailer or maker of packaged goods, for example, can connect its corporate demand plans to products and freight on the move. They then can better react to real-time changes in demand, such as a surge in consumer interest, and real-time changes in transportation factors, such as inclement weather.

“By establishing this unprecedented information loop, we are transforming the procurement process and giving companies the information advantage and flexibility needed to better compete in today’s rapidly evolving transportation marketplace,” said CH Robinson chief commercial officer Chris O’Brien. “Rather than relying solely on an annual transportation contract event which frequently becomes out of sync with real-world variables, we can build a more dynamic procurement plan that can flex based on real-time changes in product demand and the transportation market. More than ever, supply chain agility, based on real-time data, can be a competitive advantage for companies.”

Chris Caplice, executive director of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics and FreightLab, added: “Our work with CH Robinson and others at the MIT FreightLab has shown that the freight transportation industry needs innovation in procurement and demand-planning to reduce cost, minimise risk and increase the level of service for shippers. This partnership helps move the industry forward in the right direction of more responsive and agile transportation procurement.”

With nearly $20bn in freight under management and 18 million shipments annually, Minnesota-based CH Robinson has more than 119,000 customers and 78,000 contract carriers.