- FedEx and Microsoft have entered a multi-year partnership to produce logistics solutions powered by the software developer's Azure cloud service and ERP platform, Dynamics 365, FedEx announced Monday. The first product unveiled under the partnership is FedEx Surround, which is set to provide "near-real-time analytics" in parcel tracking, even "down to the granular level of ZIP code," FedEx said.
- The FedEx Surround platform can aggregate multiple data points collected by the company's scanning technology, such as SenseAware, a FedEx spokesperson told Supply Chain Dive in an email. The data is analyzed using Microsoft’s artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics tools. "This allows customers to track inventory in motion, enables real-time intervention and provides detailed post-shipment analytics," the spokesperson said.
- More information about FedEx Surround will be released this summer, the company said. It plans to roll out customer access "in the months ahead."
Shippers are typically only able to react when issues arise during shipments. FedEx Surround claims to anticipate shipment exceptions and present shippers with opportunities to be proactive and make decisions to mitigate issues.
Matthew White, strategist at iDrive Logistics, told Supply Chain Dive in an email that the benefits of FedEx Surround appear to be geared toward high-volume/high-value shippers.
"As an example, take a consumer electronics brand whose sales are heavily biased towards product launches – having understanding of to-the-minute network performance is important when end customer delivery experience expectations are heightened," White said.
ShipSights co-founder and CEO Chase Flashman said he found the partnership unexpected but noted the move follows FedEx's move last year to end Express and Ground contracts with Amazon to focus on other e-commerce opportunities.
"Having a partnership with Microsoft is ... maybe a parting shot at Amazon," he said, as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are some of the fastest-growing businesses for the respective tech juggernauts.
UPS has also bolstered its tracking capabilities, having announced an IoT-enabled tracking solution, UPS Premier, for healthcare-related shipments in November. It uses on-package sensor technology to track items throughout the logistics network. The company said last month it was expanding the program.
"I think shippers want an Uber-like experience. They want the geospatial tracking ... they want those live updates," Flashman told Supply Chain Dive. "I just think we're a little bit further out from that."
In the coming months, FedEx and Microsoft plan to announce more solutions for creating consumer-facing products and faster, more efficient deliveries, according to the press release.
"I think it has an opportunity for there to be some for some cool things to happen," Flashman said of the partnership, although he pointed out how much the solutions would cost shippers is not yet known.
Emma Cosgrove contributed to this report.