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C.H. Robinson, Microsoft Partner To Boost Supply Chain Digitization

C.H. Robinson, Microsoft Partner To Boost Supply Chain Digitization

As its technological evolution progresses, C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc (NASDAQ: CHRW) is now expanding its relationship with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) to bring the flagship Navisphere platform to more companies and help shippers and carriers more quickly digitize their supply chains.

Navisphere will be available through Microsoft's Azure platform and within the Azure IoT (Internet of Things) environment.

"This is about increasing our lead in technology," Chris O'Brien, chief commercial officer for C.H. Robinson, explained to FreightWaves. "The world is changing so quickly that we continue to evolve as a technology and services company and part of that is leveraging their world-class cloud platform."

O'Brien said C.H. Robinson's Navisphere Vision platform, which uses machine learning and predictive analytics to assess potential disruptions across supply chains, was built in collaboration with Microsoft. Other C.H. Robinson products are migrating to the Azure cloud as well. The partnership, he said, represents a unique opportunity since Microsoft has been using C.H. Robinson's Navisphere platform for its own supply chain needs.

"When Microsoft got a look at what we do by being a user of our tech, they said, I think there is something here [they could use to build supply chain logistics as a service]," said Jordan Kass, president of Managed Services for Robinson. "By deploying Navisphere in Azure, not only can they offer it to other companies and other companies can take advantage of Navisphere and all it can offer, but we can now [connect and develop new products that function in Azure IoT]."

In fact, getting Navisphere onto the Azure cloud is critical to allowing Microsoft's sales team to sell it and the Navisphere Vision platform, O'Brien said.

"If you add it all up, it's about a very unique relationship … to drive the future of a digitalized supply chain," he said.

Through Azure, C.H. Robinson's Navisphere platform is able to utilize Azure IoT Central to integrate IoT device monitoring that measures temperature, shock, tilt, humidity, light, and pressure in shipments. This solution is being implemented across Microsoft's global supply chain to enable 100% real-time visibility.

"We are committed to providing customers a trusted, easy-to-use platform so they can build seamless, smart and secure solutions regardless of where they are on their IoT journey," said Sam George, corporate vice president of Azure IoT Microsoft. "We're thrilled to collaborate with C.H. Robinson as it transforms the supply chain industry by leveraging our Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT solutions."

The expanding partnership will give C.H. Robinson the ability to leverage Microsoft's Dynamics 365 and Power BI platforms to streamline its own customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Robinson's real-time pricing, execution, and transportation management tools are currently being integrated into Dynamics 365, making these digitally-driven logistics capabilities available to Microsoft customers.

Kass said Microsoft doesn't have the supply chain tools C.H. Robinson has and conversely, C.H. Robinson doesn't have the scale that Microsoft's Azure cloud has, making this combination a winner for supply chain experts.

"It's a home run for all the companies that want to plug in," he said, noting that an out-of-the-box solution is available in the Azure cloud, but for companies that want customized solutions, Robinson stands ready to meet those needs as well. The inclusion of the solution in the Azure cloud speeds adoption without the time associated with software integrations.

"The fact that we are in Azure now and our tech is there [is exciting], and as we continue to build technologies and as Azure builds more tools, those will be available to us as well," Kass said.

Navisphere technology has continued to evolve. In 2018, C.H. Robinson added Navisphere Drivers, a slimmed-down version of its carrier product. Whereas the carrier option includes robust reporting features, including load searching and truck posting, load management from driver assignment to billing, and document uploading, the driver version eliminates some of the management of loads and focuses instead on load updates and availability and information the driver needs to make a delivery. Drivers can also scan and upload documents as part of the mobile app.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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