Sunday, March 20, 2011

Advantages of Cloud Computing– Part XVII – Highly Automated


As we mentioned in TCSICGM, according to the ‘Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography,’ the four-foot, eight-and-a-half inch width between railroad tracks has not always been the standard in the U.S. Prior to the Civil War, there were twenty different widths of railroad tracks ranging from three feet to six feet. In railroad language, they call this, ‘breaks in the gauge.’ Supplies transported by rail had to be transferred by hand whenever a car on one gauge encountered tracks of another gauge, and more than 4,000 miles of new track was laid during the war to standardize the process.

The Trans-Mongolian Railroad that crosses the Russian-Chinese border developed a more ingenious solution for ‘a break in the gauge.’ You might find the short video on You-Tube amusing as I did.

For most convenience store operations, the way data is handled today is even worse. We are suffering from ‘a break in the gauge’ of supply chain management and the result has been our inability to compete. I don’t care how you go about it. This situation must be corrected, and fast.

The announcement today that Walmart is given up their “Roll-Back Prices” campaign and going back to Sam Walton’s “Everyday Low Prices” is predictable. It is also very scary, because their remedy includes invading all the other places where they don’t currently exercise power with the creation of “Walmart Express.”

Walmart is having sales problems. Pardon me if I don’t burst out in tears, but being an incurable optimist I see a huge rip in Walmart’s underbelly that should be exploited to the fullest extent of our ability to rise up and attack.  There may never be another opportunity like this one during my lifetime and I would like to see somebody teach Walmart a lesson. Some may believe it’s silly to target Walmart the way Bill Gates took on IBM and Bell went up against Western Union, but I believe it’s more unthinkable not to.

We would like to partner with a chain of retailers and their suppliers to offset Walmart’s stranglehold over the retail landscape, but first we must find a retailer who is willing to link up with their trading partners the way Walmart did a quarter-century ago.

The secret to competing with Walmart is to repair the break in supply chain management and the vehicle to get us there is Cloud Computing. We simply cannot do it any other way.  Of course, if you throw enough money at any problem it helps, but why do that, when you can latch onto something already out there and avoid the up-front cost of research and development?

Notwithstanding reducing costs and increasing storage, the ability to automate your operations is one of the primary advantages of The Cloud. The first supplier to link up with their retailers will start a chain reaction that will alter the landscape of retailing forever.

Suppliers need to look into your stores and load their trucks accordingly, not from information based on prior deliveries and the one-sided arrangement of unloading warehouses into your stores. The Cloud has been growing whiskers for over a decade. When will retailers take notice?

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