FedEx and Microsoft partner up for supply chain collaboration

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · May 18, 2020

Two global companies with household names—freight transportation and logistics bellwether FedEx and software and technology services giant Microsoft—announced today they have partnered up for a multiyear collaboration, with an emphasis on meshing their respective key elements, including the FedEx global digital and logistics network, with Microsoft’s intelligent cloud power.

At its core, the companies said this collaboration will help shippers through various joint offerings that are powered by the Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service and Dynamics 365 enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management applications and will use data and analytics solutions to reinvent the most critical aspects of the commerce experience and enable businesses to better compete in today’s increasingly digital marketplace.

FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith said in a statement that as a company that has been reimagining the supply chain since its inception, this announcement takes it to what he called a new level.

“Together with Microsoft, we will combine the immense power of technology with the vast scale of our infrastructure to help revolutionize commerce and create a network for what’s next for our customers,” said Smith. “This new strategic alliance represents a long-term commitment between the companies to fuel innovation, collaborate on product development and share subject-matter expertise. Today, FedEx networks link more than 99% of the world’s gross domestic product across 220 countries and territories, and Microsoft Azure is trusted by more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies. By combining the breadth and scale of the FedEx network and the Microsoft cloud, businesses will have an unprecedented level of control and insight into the global movement of goods.”

And a FedEx spokesman told LM that a key driver for this collaboration with Microsoft stemmed from how FedEx is undergoing a transformation to redefine how data and technology is used in the global supply chain.

“There is an opportunity to combine the FedEx physical network, its data, and expertise with Microsoft’s intelligent cloud solutions so customers have better insights and intelligence to make proactive decisions about their supply chain before, during and after shipments,” he explained. “Broadly, this alliance will help reimagine the global commerce experience for every customer’s benefit.”

What’s more, he added that the collaboration between FedEx and Microsoft aims to drive innovation and enable customers to better compete in the increasingly dynamic digital and data-driven landscape. And he noted that this will be done by sharing subject matter expertise, collaborating on product development and integrating multiple data and analytics solutions into the commerce lifecycle.

The first joint solution in the collaboration is FedEx Surround—a platform designed to digitize any businesses’ supply chain through data for breakthrough shipment tracking and logistics management.

The FedEx spokesman noted how decades ago, FedEx’s Smith coined the phrase: “the information about the package is as important as the package itself.” And in a continuation of this paradigm, FedEx Surround will deploy advanced analytics and artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms leveraging Microsoft Azure to drive near real-time insights from scan and sensor data, and market and commerce data to provide customer advisories and address anomalies in shipment journeys.

“FedEx Surround will allow customers to have a much greater sense of control over their supply chain, providing them with ability to be more responsive to their consumers,” he said.

FedEx and Microsoft said that information on the availability of FedEx Surround will be issued starting this summer, with customer access to follow in the coming months and other offerings will also be released over that time, too, with a focus on reimagining commerce experiences for businesses, as well as more integrated ways to shop and also faster and more efficient deliveries.

When asked about the main shipper benefits of this collaboration, the FedEx spokesman said that FedEx has always understood the importance of both a package’s contents and the transit information about a package that drives overall supply chain efficiency.

“And this value remains at the core of everything FedEx pursues,” he said. “FedEx is undergoing a transformation to reimagine how data and technology can be used within the global supply chain and recognized a unique opportunity to combine its physical network, data and expertise with Microsoft’s intelligent cloud solutions so customers have better insights and intelligence to make decisions about their supply chain. This collaboration will come to life through multiple joint offerings provided through Microsoft Azure that will use data and analytics solutions to reinvent most critical aspects of the commerce experience and enable businesses to better compete in today’s increasingly digital landscape.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement that now, more than ever, organizations are counting on an efficient and capable supply chain to remain competitive and open for business.

“Together with FedEx, we will apply the power of Azure, Dynamics 365 and their AI capabilities to this urgent need, building new commerce experiences that transform logistics for our mutual customers around the world,” said Nadella.

May 18, 2020