Descartes and IFS make major acquisitions.


Descartes continues their investments on both fronts — global trade information and ground logistics, with two important deals.

Descartes acquires MK Data Services

MK Data has been a leader in global trade information supporting denied party screening. Denied party screening is a requirement for international “traders” of all sizes. But, with the war on terror, concerns on gun control, and other border skirmishes across the globe, it becomes harder to cull out ‘the bad actors.’

Decades ago the essential challenge was assuring that middlemen were not acting on behalf of listed nations (denied parties). Today, the challenge is much more defused, including governments, as well as international “organizations,” and people. This includes customers, suppliers and employees, ‘members’ of organizations and business partners who contract, ship and pay.

In the past, the sole responsibility for screening was on behalf of the outbound shipper, original manufacturer or wholesaler to ensure that parts, products, cash and so on were not getting into illicit/illegal chains. Today, more carriers are also concerned that they may unwittingly be the conduit to illegal traffic. “The burden of compliance … is placed on those involved in the logistics of a shipment, such as the exporting business, the logistics intermediary/freight forwarder or the transportation carrier. Penalties for non-compliance have included civil fines, revocation of export privileges and criminal charges. In addition, since penalties are published publicly, non-compliance with these trade restrictions can bring with it tremendous reputational damage.”1

This is an important acquisition for Descartes,2 adding to their portfolio of GTM — import/export services,3 and creating a real GTM center of expertise within the market. MK Data boasts hundreds of direct end user customers as well as technologies that integrate to such companies as Oracle, SAP and other ERP and supply chain solutions.

MK Data was an existing partner in Descartes’ GLN, the largest logistic network in the world — now counting 220,000 connected parties.4 MK Data is more than a list, though, and provides functionality for users to assess risks and amend contracting and shipping processes to reduce their risks.

Descartes acquires BearWare

Adding the logistics side of the portfolio, Descartes acquired BearWare who calls themselves a ‘Carton-Level Tracking’ solution.

The ‘tracking’ phraseology threw me off, until I spoke to Descartes. BearWare is a lot more than a bar-coding/scanning module.

BearWare has several important modules useful for Retailers and 3PLs. Visualize a pool operator with consolidation/cross docking activities at the DC. This is an intersection, often of large inbound trucks with loads of containers and/or multiple pallets, which need to be de-consolidated — unpacked, into individual pallets and cartons — and then reconsolidated — distributed to individual stores or end customers. Keeping ‘track’ of each and every order and directing the flow of each carton and/or pallet to the right outbound vehicle for delivery, is a complex activity. Accurate receiving at the retailers — or not — is a major source of contention and charge-backs from retailers to their suppliers.5

As Chris Jones, Executive Vice President at Descartes told us, “The goal for users of BearWare is for retailers to achieve that 99.9% inventory accuracy required for in-store, Omni-channel performance. BearWare, last year, accurately managed over a 120M shipments for the retail customers.” This year, as you can see from the running meter on their home page, they have already topped 70.9M and we have not yet gotten into the busiest retail season of the year.

Though Descartes is not a warehouse management system, Chris reminded me, I cannot help seeing the many interactions in the warehouse that Descartes supports, such as a parcel solution with over 1,000 customers and now BearWare — both at the heart of logistics services.

Though a more modest acquisition,6 BearWare connects a few dots for Descartes in the ground/mobile logistics solutions, which include routing, scheduling, pooling, mobile/telematics, last mile delivery and Electronic Proof of Delivery. “Traditional retail distribution systems are not set up to handle plan versus actual tracking at the carton level,” said Ken Wood, Executive Vice President Product Management at Descartes. “BearWare’s platform and team of domain experts is unique in the market — and — complements Descartes’ recent investment in Airclic and further strengthens our Routing, Mobile and Telematics platform.”

“Omni-channel retailing is putting tremendous pressure on retailers to leverage their assets more effectively and be responsive to the market,” said Edward J. Ryan, Descartes’ CEO. “The BearWare solution provides retailers with another way to move their goods efficiently through the supply chain to help ensure that they have the right goods, in the right location, at the right time and for the lowest cost.”

IFS acquires VisionWaves

VisionWaves is one of those new generation real-time mapping and monitoring solutions for operations, though IFS does not position this as a solution for a specific use case or process.7 Mapping analytics providing rapid visibility of processing in motion has become a critical must have for global companies.

Combining it with the enterprise solution is a move many are making,8 which allows the identified event to be put in context of other business data to make more informed decisions.


1 quote from Descartes — Return to article text above

2 approximately $76M — Return to article text above
3 Customs Info, eCustoms, Impatex, Pentant, MK Data — Return to article text above
4 And likely to grow a lot larger with the recent announcement of the new partnership with SAP. In the next issue we will talk about SAP’s strategy of integration with other networks. — Return to article text above
5 BearWare also has software and services for audit to mediate claims between retailer and suppliers, as well as freight pay and audit for transportation, to name a few other applications they have. — Return to article text above
6 $11.25M — Return to article text above
7 VisionWaves has “successfully implemented its solution at large multinational customers in the following industries: Aerospace & Defense, Transportation, Mining, Engineering & Construction, Energy & Utilities, Public Sector, Finance, and Healthcare.” IFS stated.
8 We recent discussed GT Nexus and TransVoyant as such examples. – For more, read: The Journey to Visibility.

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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