- 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."
FedEx claims most carriers are reactive to shipment exceptions or delays and offer "limited visibility options," while FedEx Surround presents granular details that allow customers to proactively make decisions to mitigate issues.
ShipSights co-founder and CEO Chase Flashman said shippers desire live updates and geospatial tracking. "Shippers want an Uber-like experience," he told sister publication Supply Chain Dive. "I just think we're a little bit further out from that."
Matthew White, strategist at iDrive Logistics, gave the example of a consumer electronics brand with sales heavily weighted to product launches.
"Having understanding of to-the-minute network performance is important when end customer delivery experience expectations are heightened," White told Supply Chain Dive.
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.
Flashman said he found the FedEx-Microsoft partnership unexpected but noted it 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.
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.
Emma Cosgrove contributed to this report.