C.H. Robinson and SAS introduce new dynamic business planning-based partnership

Earlier this week, Minneapolis, Minn.-based global logistics services provider and freight forwarder C.H. Robinson and Cary, N.C.-based data analytics company SAS introduced a partnership geared towards providing an end-to-end supply chain solution focused on integrating inventory and demand signal data with real-time transportation data.

The companies explained that that this partnership was derived to counter how things like supply chain demand planning and shipping execution often worked in autonomous siloes without connection, digital integration, or real-time visibility. And they added that navigating supply chains from a centralized location will aid shippers in various ways, including scheduling, carriers, and responding to consumer demand with inventory moving on the ground. The first verticals to leverage this partnership will be North American-based retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) shippers.

According to SAS’, 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 mobilized by C.H. Robinson, this partnership helps companies see their supply chains in a new light,” said Richard Widdowson, SAS Vice President of Global Retail & CPG Solutions, in a statement. “It will help make opportunities and challenges visible as they happen so our customers can accomplish more—even during a disruption of pandemic proportions.” 

As for how shippers will leverage this partnership, C.H. Robinson and SAS laid out the following steps:

  • SAS triggers a demand plan which feeds into C.H. Robinson’s dynamic transportation procurement, Procure IQ;
  • Procure IQ connects into C.H. Robinson’s supply chain management platform, Navisphere, to provide real time visibility of inventory; and
  • Navisphere then links back and informs SAS’ Intelligent Planning suite, which means a retailer or maker of packaged goods, as examples, can connect its corporate demand plans to products and freight on the move, and they then can better react to real-time changes in demand, such as surge in consumer interest, and real-time changes in transportation factors, such as inclement weather

When asked what drove the need for this partnership, C.H. Robinson Chief Commercial Officer Chris O’Brien told LM that the global supply chain is becoming increasingly complex, and the need for an agile supply chain has never been clearer.

“The acceleration of e-commerce, enhanced On Time In Full (OTIF) requirements, and tighter transportation capacity, along with unprecedented demand surges and supply chain disruption amid the pandemic, has put a greater urgency on innovation in agile planning,” he said. “This partnership brings data, technology, and experience together to answer that need.

What’s more, he observed that C.H. Robinson and SAS both saw this need, and in early 2020, started to collaborate to bring this innovative solution to their customers.

“Until now, demand planning and real-time transportation data have operated in collaborative, yet autonomous atmospheres, absent of consistent overlap in strategy, digital integration, and real time visibility,” he said. “We are changing that.”

With retail and CPG shippers first in line to leverage this partnership, O’Brien said that they can expect to increase opportunities for savings, gain efficiency, and improve service for their customers.

“Integrating C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere and SAS Predict and Plan Demand allows customers to become more agile in their planning while reducing costs,” he said. “By directly connecting the two and creating a real-time data link between customer demand updates and what is happening on the ground allows every demand planning decision to inform how best to deliver products to where and when they are needed. This gives retailers the solution they need to adjust in shorter and more agile planning cycles. It also lowers shipping costs and increases efficiency and service by allowing companies to reduce inventory safety stocks, adjust their carrier mix and plan dynamically before it becomes a capacity issue, deal in advance with issues that may arise before hitting the spot market or paying fines, and utilize a 360 view of demand and forecast changes instead of only relying on the annual bid process.”

And O’Brien said that the retail space has been at the center of the action in regards to pandemic disruption, with so many retailers experiencing unprecedented demand cycles (e.g. toilet paper), and has led to the need now for this kind of integration.

“In fact, our customers have been asking for it,” he said. “Although we have not determined the timeline for other sectors yet, ultimately our partnership is designed to fill a gap between business and logistical planning across all industries.”

In regards to how C.H. Robinson previously performed the services that this partnership with SAS does in the past, O’Brien said that the company has focused in lots of different areas of the supply chain. 

“We have also been attacking this problem and improving efficiency for our customer for years,” he said. “C.H. Robinson’s MPS and Procure IQ are tools that we have launched to make us smarter in different areas of order management and procurement, but the missing component has been what we are creating with SAS—the link to demand and forecasting data.”  

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman