Imagine if you had a twin to do all the hard work for you in some other world, saving you time and money in your own. That’s the idea behind “prescriptive analytics,” and FedEx Office just dived deep in it—by teaming up with Accenture and Dallas-based River Logic on an innovative new project.
The companies collaborated to create a “digitally enabled environment” that will make it easier for customers to create professionally printed materials, while driving cost savings and efficiencies for FedEx Office.
Creating a “digital twin”
A key part of the project was creating a “digital twin” of the company’s operations system: a virtual representation of its huge printing and distribution network. The three companies’ teams used assets from nearly 2,200 FedEx Office stores, 18 commercial print facilities, and the nationwide FedEx transportation fleet to visualize various scenarios. The goal: find ways to deliver even more seamless printing and delivery services to customers both large and small.
The digital twin comes in handy in other ways, too. It allows FedEx Office to optimize its operations to meet customer demands, create more meaningful touchpoints, minimize errors and damage, and simply make for a better experience overall.
“While we’re always exploring how to best deploy our robust network, this is the first time we’ve been able to visualize the actual impacts of potential changes by evaluating ‘what if’ scenarios,” said Tom DeGreve, managing director, production strategy and engineering at FedEx Office, in a statement.
“There’s a lot of science and technology that goes into the FedEx Office operations,” added the Dallas-based exec. “By taking a closer look at how we can improve and adapt our resources to best meet customers’ needs, we’ll create enhanced relationships and drive better business overall.”
Accenture on ‘looking below the surface’
Pierre Mawet, a DFW-based managing director in Accenture’s supply chain & operations practice, said the project is a model for how companies can optimize their businesses.
“By looking below the surface of their operations, and using emerging technologies such as digital twins, organizations can truly transform their operations to drive significant efficiencies and better meet the needs of their customers,” Mawet said in the statement. “FedEx Office’s commitment to re-evaluating its print and delivery networks highlights the company’s dedication to serving its customers in innovative ways and adapting to the future.”
River Logic’s ‘digital twin’ experience
Last fall Dallas Innovates profiled River Logic, which was founded in Boston in 2000 but has since moved its headquarters to Campbell Center in Dallas. At that time, River Logic had created a “digital twin” of the global manufacturing footprint of tobacco giant Philip Morris International.
“The next frontier is for technology to go beyond patterns and predictions to recommend business decisions,” Carlos Centurion, president of River Logic, said in a statement last September. “This is where the concept of a digital planning twin comes in, which complements AI by representing business constraints [and] applying prescriptive analytics (optimization) to identify the best path given the company’s objectives.”
“By embedding [the automation of decision sciences] into all key business processes, whereby it proactively identifies issues, runs and serves what-if scenarios to users as needed, and automatically executes and provides feedback on decisions made,” Centurion told us. “This will require deep integration of AI, prescriptive analytics, RPA, voice recognition, collaboration, and communications technologies guided by industry and digital transformation expertise.”
For the FedEx Office project, Centurion believes creating a digital twin was ideal.
“FedEx Office made it clear from the beginning that they want to deliver end-to-end value for their customers, as well as their business,” Centurion said. “We believe the digital twin powered by prescriptive analytics they’ve configured using our technology will help them identify and execute the scenarios that best meet their objectives.”
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