Archives for May 2017

Why DCs Should Care About The WannaCry Ransomware Attack – And Three Things To Do Now To Protect Yourself

By Contributing Author | 05/18/2017 | 10:07 AM

By Ron Kubera, Senior VP and CMO, Lucas Systems


The recent worldwide ransomware attack that affected computers running Windows operating systems points to a looming security risk facing many Distribution Centers. A vast proportion of the affected computers in the WannaCry attack were running an unsupported operating system, Windows XP. Those computers were not eligible to receive regular security updates, which left them particularly vulnerable to the virus. A similar situation will face DCs after 2020, when Microsoft ends support for the Windows mobile operating system that runs the vast majority of mobile computers used for RF and voice applications today.


Three Things To Do To Protect Yourself

1. Understand the Issue. As reported in Wired Magazine, the best protection against the WannaCry ransomware was to download and install a security patch provided by Microsoft. For most users, that patch is applied as an automatic update. However, for computer users with WindowsXP, there was no patch because Microsoft had ended support for that OS in 2014. As the article states: “With very few exceptions—including an emergency patch after the first wave of WannaCry infections and expensive, specialized service contracts—Microsoft no longer provides any security support for the OS. A computer running XP today is a castle with no moat, portcullis raised, doors flung open, greeting the ravaging hoards with wine spritzers and jam.”

The exact same situation will face DCs using devices running Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 in 2020, the sunset date by which Microsoft will stop providing updates.  The Windows Embedded problem in the DC is even more pervasive than the Windows XP issue: Less than 10 percent of PCs in use today use XP; by contrast well more than 70% of all RF, vehicle mount and voice devices used in DCs today are running the Windows operating systems that are sunsetting in less than three years.

To be fair, many of the mobile devices used for RF or other applications in the DC do not have direct access to the Internet, making them less susceptible to attack. Nevertheless, the risk to these devices is real, and avoidable, Plus, there are risks beyond security to using devices with obsolete operating systems.

2. Know Which Devices Are At Risk. Since the late 1990s, the majority of industrial RF devices have used successive generations of Microsoft mobile operating systems, which allowed DCs to upgrade devices without changing their software applications. This Windows mobile platform was remarkably stable and reliable, by any standard. The last of this OS generation is still being sold on a wide range of warehouse hardware, including popular vehicle mount computers, traditional handheld and wearable devices, and even voice-only terminals.

Your IT organization should be aware of the following end of support dates for the OS versions that are still being shipped today (and note that older operating systems may be out of support already):

WindowsOS Sunset

Source For End of Service Dates: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/search

3. Develop A Migration Plan. If you are using any devices with an outdated and unsupported OS, you should immediately upgrade the OS (if possible) or replace the device (if the OS cannot be upgraded) with a device running a supported Windows operating system. Longer-term, you will have to plan to move to a new mobile operating system platform, whether that is Windows 10 (or another new Mircosoft platform), Android, or Apple iOS. It should be noted that Zebra and Honeywell, the leading hardware providers for the DC, have each announced support for Android in many of their newest hardware devices. What many operations people don’t realize is that changing to a new OS has major implications for your warehouse software systems.

The vast majority of warehouse applications were designed to run only on current Windows mobile devices, so ask your vendor if your current voice, RF or other applications can run on other operating systems. Windows-only applications will have to be rewritten to run on a new OS. For most DCs, this would include older Web browser-based applications, Telnet/terminal emulation software, other RF applications, and voice-directed applications. Many voice applications, in fact, use speech recognition technology that is tied to the current Windows operating system, making a “port” to a new OS platform an even greater challenge.

Beyond your current applications, if you are considering any new applications for use in your DC, you should ask your software provider if they support Android or other viable, long-term operating systems. And anyone buying new Windows-based hardware devices should realize that those devices will be obsolete before they are fully depreciated.


The Sky Isn’t Falling

If you are using devices today that will be affected by the Windows sunset, you still have time to act. Those devices and applications will continue to run reliably and securely. However, failing to consider your alternatives may leave you in a vulnerable position in as little as three years. Given the ever-changing nature of cyber-threats, its more important than ever that these issues be addressed pro-actively.


Ron Kubera has more than 25 years of supply chain industry experience, including leadership roles in delivering consulting and implementation services to CPG companies, industrial manufacturers, and other distribution-intensive companies. Over the last 15 years he has held P&L responsibility for supply chain products and software solutions at Manugistics, JDA, Infor and Honeywell. At Lucas, Ron is responsible for overall commercial strategy and partnerships on a worldwide basis.    

Quality Talent Leads to Quality Trucking: The Technology Advantage in Attracting, Engaging, and Retaining Top Talent in Transportation

By Contributing Author | 05/03/2017 | 9:21 AM

By Malysa O’Connor, Senior Director, Logistics Practice Group, Kronos Incorporated

It may not come as a surprise that there’s a trucker shortage today, but unfortunately, it may be getting worse. Data from the American Truckers Association (ATA) shows that the U.S. is already experiencing a shortfall of approximately 50,000 drivers and that it could reach to nearly 175,000 by 2024. Yet the age distribution of the nearly 850,000 truckers currently on the road suggests that the problem will get worse in the next five to ten years as a higher number of drivers retire. This sudden shift in the workforce makes it even more crucial for the millennial and Gen Z generations to become more educated about the trucking industry and the opportunities it provides to work with many different types of technology.

There are other factors to blame, too. Truck drivers are under extreme – and constant – pressure to meet tight deadlines, comply with hours-of-service restrictions, fight off fatigue, and manage ever-increasing customer demands. Far from the allure of “the open road,” trucking can actually be a very stressful industry. If the environment becomes too difficult, employees can experience low morale or burnout, become disengaged, or in the worst case, choose to leave the industry completely. Additionally, because of the age limits young drivers face with not being able to obtain a CDL license before age 21, many potential young drivers looking for a career in trucking will move on to other industries before that day of eligibility. This is a source of frustration for companies that want to recruit non-college bound 18- or 19-year-olds before they settle in other occupations.

None of this is good news for an industry that is such an essential link in the overall supply chain. This is especially true as the need for effective last-mile transportation continues to grow along with the number of consumers who rely on trucking for at-home deliveries. Clearly, distribution and trucking companies must do all they can to minimize daily pressures, increase employee engagement, and improve the way they attract, hire, and retain top talent.

Closing the gap with millennials

As companies look to address these challenges – ultimately with an eye toward addressing the driver shortage – many of them are targeting the millennial generation. While such a strategy may seem surprising at first, it actually makes a lot of sense. Millennials have officially passed baby boomers in size and are now the largest generation. The millennial generation now represents 25 percent of the population, which makes it the largest pool of available talent. Additionally, millennials are motivated by career opportunities that give them the chance to grow, learn new technology, and apply new skills. All of these are abundant in trucking today.

These last points are important as organizations attempt to attract new employees. According to a recent survey from the Harris Poll, “the opportunity to learn new skills” and “the chance to adopt new technical skills” were the top two reasons cited when respondents were asked why they would commit to a new profession. Conversely, more than one quarter of respondents stated that their main reason for leaving a company was the chance to pursue a hot new technology.

The human capital management advantage

So, what can distribution and trucking companies do to improve the way they attract, hire, engage, and retain top talent? One of the most effective ways is with human capital management (HCM) technology, which provides powerful tools for recruiting and managing employees.

When it comes to driving employee engagement and promoting retention, HCM solutions help by automating manual systems and providing better access to critical information. For example, truckers benefit from self-service access to their schedules, especially when they can view schedules sooner, swap shifts, or select shift preferences and availability. Quick and easy access to schedules also allows drivers to better manage their work life balance when facing up against Hours of Service (HOS) regulations.

Additionally, when it comes to attracting prospective employees, trucking companies can use HCM solutions to implement the following best practices:

  • Create modern job titles and more engaging job descriptions that will appeal to millennials or another targeted demographic.
  • Highlight skill-building opportunities, training, or other programs that are offered as part of the job.
  • Promote any new technologies or transferrable technical skills employees will acquire.
  • Describe the key benefits and other ways the company values employees – and how it focuses on minimizing daily pressures and overall stress.

All of these outcomes have a positive effect on employee morale, productivity, and engagement.

One solution, many benefits

As distribution and transportation companies look to tighten the existing talent gap, they need to consider new strategies and tools to help them succeed. Whether they’re looking to hire more millennial employees, minimize daily on-the-job pressures, increase employee engagement and retention, or “all of the above,” human capital management technology can give them the edge they’re looking for.


Malysa OConnor

Malysa O’Connor is a senior director of the services and distribution practice group at Kronos Incorporated, a leader in human capital and workforce management software solutions. At Kronos, O’Connor leads product direction and go-to-market strategies for several target industries including field and contract services, financial services, logistics, non-profits, staffing, and transportation. She is also responsible for partnering across sales, services, product development, and customer support to achieve sales growth and customer satisfaction goals.


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.

About One-Off Sound-Off

Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.


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