Archives for March 2017

Alexa digital puck joins HighJump staff on demo stage

By Ben Ames | March 14, 2017 | 1:51 PM

Supply chain technology provider HighJump Software Inc. introduced a lineup of high profile speakers during the keynote events at the firm's "Elevate" user conference in Orlando, Fla., this week.

Attendees heard from Olympic gold medalist Dick Fosbury, whose innovative “Fosbury Flop” technique earned him the top height in track & field’s high jump event at the 1968 Mexico City games, and from Lori Jackson, the hard-charging director of operations and fulfillment for Dollar Shave Club, who succeeded in leading the construction of multiple DCs for the fast-expanding online retailer of razors and grooming products.

But the speaker that may have gained the most attention from techies in the audience was a diminutive critter with the dimensions of a hockey puck and a habit of speaking only in response to direct questions.

In a live stage demonstration, executives from Minneapolis-based HighJump controlled their warehouse management system (WMS) software by giving spoken commands to Alexa, the cloud-based artificial intelligence tool that drives the Echo Dot, a personal digital assistant from Amazon.com Inc.

In the demo, HighJump Vice President of Corporate Technology Sean Elliott gave a verbal order to the Echo Dot, asking it to launch a wave of orders for Evil Bunny beer, a fictional product created by HighJump to demonstrate its software and inspired by the 1975 comedy movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

In response, the Echo Dot translated the input from Orlando, uploaded the message to the Amazon Web Services cloud platform where the Alexa AI resides, routed that order to HighJump’s own cloud servers in Denver, got a response, and reversed the entire track to confirm the transaction aloud back in the Florida conference room, HighJump CSO Ross Elliott explained.

The demo may have scored some gee-whiz points by bringing talking bots into the supply chain, but it was designed for a broader purpose, he said. By connecting a common consumer electronics device to business software seldom seen outside the warehouse, HighJump demonstrated the importance of human-friendly design and smart devices, two trends that HighJump says logistics companies must follow to stay competitive in 2017.


Software startups target truck driver shortage

By Ben Ames | March 03, 2017 | 10:11 AM

Ask any transportation professional about challenges facing the trucking industry and you’ll soon hear about the chronic shortage of truck drivers.

That specter has been looming over the industry for years, so perhaps it is no surprise that three software startups have offered solutions in the past two weeks:

  • Enlistics matches people to jobs by screening their social media data for keywords,
  • Stay Metrics has developed a research-based predictive model for driver turnover, and
  • WorkHound reduces driver turnover by collecting worker feedback through a smartphone app.

Each app approaches the problem from a very different angle.

Enlistics: Trucking is a University of Chicago startup that claims to help trucking firms avoid massive employee turnover by pre-screening candidates using an algorithm that scans applicants' social media posts for phrases known to predict future success or failure. The product follows in the model of its sister firm, Enlistics: Dealerships, a similar product that helps car dealerships fill sales positions. Both programs avoid privacy concerns by hiding the actual details of any social media keywords it finds in a “black box,” then supplying prospective employers with a simple "retention probability" score for each applicant, Enlistics Inc. founder Austen Mance said in an email.

Stay Metrics recently released its Predictive 2.0 model of a platform that enables motor carriers to retain more of their best drivers by providing employers with specific insights on why drivers leave their companies. The application collects its data through: orientation and onboarding interviews with new hires, an annual driver satisfaction survey, exit interviews with drivers who quit, custom research, and an online driver rewards program that doubles as a data collection tool.

WorkHound offers a software platform developed to help carriers reduce driver turnover by interacting with truckers through their smartphones. Drivers use an app to share feedback and ideas, which WorkHound aggregates and turns into actionable insights to help each carrier manage and retain its drivers. The company may soon offer similar versions to other industries struggling with retention, such as warehousing, manufacturing, and nursing.

And if those high-tech approaches don’t work, there’s always the old-fashioned way of keeping workers around longer—pay them more. Eagan, Minn.-based truckload carrier Dart Transit Co. said last week that it had raised its starting pay for longhaul company drivers along its main freight lanes by 5 cents per mile. Along with performance bonuses, top-performing drivers with the company can now earn over $60,000 in their first year with the company, Dart said.


The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

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