While information technology professionals around the world are embracing cloud computing, many executives are taking a wider view to determine whether the freedom of its functionality can extend beyond the IT realm.
Cloud-based computing is a pretty simple concept to grasp. Simply put, the applications live in a “cloud” on the Internet rather than being installed on your hard drive. This approach frees you from having to continually update the programs yourself. It also stores your information in a place that makes it more secure than having it saved only on your computer.
And, it’s completely scalable. It’s big when you need it, and small when you don’t. Moreover, it has reduced the cost of computing to virtually nothing. Systems are stored in one “cloud” not connected to outside networks, reducing cost and increasing security and efficiency.
Some companies are applying the same concepts to non-IT functions, even something as asset-heavy as warehousing and transportation. CaseStack, a fast-growing logistics company, is an ideal example. Its own hardware is cloud-based and offers logistics technology to its customers, but that barely scratches the surface.
It is the only company in the industry to collaboratively build a transportation and warehousing model enabling its customers to use services as needed without investing in buildings or trucks — almost as if their logistics services were handled in the “cloud.”
CaseStack’s most-important service platforms have been developed with large retailers who are not customers, vendors or even partners in a legally documented sense; they are co-collaborators.
One of the most notable programs CaseStack has pioneered is its use of retailer-driven consolidation. In a normal environment, many CPG companies use age-old methods to fulfill orders from retailers from their warehouses. A purchase order comes in, the supplier stages the products on pallets and contacts a trucker to deliver it to the retailer.
That shipment often doesn’t completely fill a truck, so they use less-than-truckload services or partial trucks; either way, more wasted miles, time, diesel fuel and greenhouse gas emissions result.
By developing technology and processes with retailers, CaseStack facilitates ordering and consolidation of multi-supplier full truckloads. The orders for many different products from distinct, unrelated companies come as one. They’re shipped out together on full trucks. Transportation costs less, resources aren’t wasted, on-time delivery rates are higher, and the environment is better off.
Retailers get exactly what they need when they need it, reducing potential obsolescence and inventory-carrying costs. Without the programs, retailers would need to order larger quantities, but now can get the benefits of full truckload economics with orders as small as one case. The average CaseStack truck is carrying 16 independent loads, replacing up to 16 trucks pulling into the retailers’ distribution yards.
CaseStack is one example of how the advances in IT cloud usage are changing business cultures.
Dan Sanker is CEO at CaseStack, Inc., a logistics outsourcing company located in Fayetteville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dan’s book, Collaborate: The Art of We, is available for preorder now wherever books and ebooks are sold – Learn more here. For updates on Collaborate, follow us on Twitter @josseybassbiz.