Category Archives: Retail

Keep Your Procurement On PACA with FSMA with Procurant!

We don’t cover specialist Procurement providers much here on SI because many don’t have much in the way of domain specific product functionality (and differ primarily on domain knowledge, terminology customization, and service offerings), but some, like Procurant, go beyond the basics and offer domain specific functionality of relevance that the market needs to take note of. Especially when such functionality can help an organization be compliant with current and, most importantly, incoming regulations they are not ready for.

Procurant, marketing itself as a strategic platform for perishables that does Procurement AND Food Safety, offers the following core functionality:

  • P2P (Procure to Pay) for Perishables
  • Inspections (recording and auditing)
  • Traceabillity that is mobile-enabled and FSMA 204 compliant
  • Market Intelligence
  • Food Safety (workflow and remote sensor integration) (not covered in this article)

It’s the one-stop solution for retail grocers, especially those with US operations, that need to manage their perishable supply chain in a manner that is both PACA and FSMA compliant. (And if you’re a grocery retailer that does NOT know what those acronyms stand for … Uh-Oh! Better find out and give Procurant a call ASAP — because failure to comply can not only result in fines but [supply chain] shutdowns.)

Procurement/Procure-to-Pay wise there isn’t much that’s unique in core functionality (as the uniqueness is with the integrated support for the perishable space), but it’s all there, and we’ll start with the core so you can be confident the core is on par with other best-of-breed Procurement solutions.

With respect to quote management, the platform contains integrated RFQ / price request that makes it really easy to not only request (updated) quotes from suppliers, but get a commitment on that price (for a certain time or volume; i.e. one week or 100 pallets). When you get a commitment, the system tracks orders against that commitment, and then lets you know when the quote has expired because the commitment has been used up (and if you still need more product, you need a new quote with a new commitment).

With respect to order management, the solution makes it easy to select products for orders from the built-in catalog, from order templates (guides), or from demand forecasts (which can pulled in from the forecasting/demand management system OR created natively in Procurant using weighted average outbound for the last 12 weeks, with more forecasting algorithms coming in a future release). The platform even supports the definition of automatic (replenishment) orders, should the organization choose that functionality. Once the order is assembled, it’s very easy to send it to the supplier for fulfillment.

Moreover, as Procurant ‘s P2P also contains integrated support for carriers and logistics (due to the need to monitor the entire produce supply chain and ensure food safety every step of the way), in Procurant, you can also assemble orders by truckload, as you don’t want to be under-shipping if not absolutely necessary (as it takes the same amount of energy to maintain the temperature when refrigeration is necessary whether the truck is almost full or almost empty) and it’s easier to trace when you decide who is shipping what, when, and on which truck. One great feature of the platform is that it’s super easy to assemble an order for a carrier. It’s just a matter of dragging and dropping order line items until the platform notifies you that the last line won’t fit in the truck (as you can encode a max # pallets, weight, and volume by truck and as soon as one limit is reached, the platform lets you know). No complex training on a sophisticated TMS required.

As a result of this deep support for logistics and carriers, purchase orders can be incredibly detailed and include shipping dates, carrier, load reference number(s), and even cross docks.

Also, order management is multi-state and the system will track and notify if there is an:

  • order modification by the buyer
  • order modification by the supplier
  • order cancellation by the supplier
  • order reconciliation by the supplier (on being notified the goods received didn’t match the PO)

and all changes by any party are maintained in a secure, unalterable, audit log.

With regards to order management, the buyers can choose whether or not the supplier can split orders, remove items, or add substitute orders. Whether or not they can change prices (or just quantities to match availability), and even when modifications will be accepted. Similarly, the administrator can determine the order creation capability the buyers have access to … whether or not they have (to use) guides, whether they can create cross-dock orders, etc.

With respect to invoice management, it’s super easy for a supplier to flip a PO to an invoice. All they have to do is enter the actual quantity shipped by line item and submit. The invoice then goes into a wait state until a receipt is entered, at which point if there is a discrepancy, the invoice is sent back to the supplier for correction before it goes into the normal processing queue, where it would be held up until the discrepancy was resolved, which could delay payment considerably if the organization has long approval chains for corrections and exception processing.

The platform also tracks supplier fill rates, so you can quickly see which suppliers are fulfilling the POs they accept and living up to your expectations and which suppliers are not. It also has price watch capability, and can alert you whenever PO or quote prices exceed current (or historical) prices by a certain percentage.

And, of course, there’s a dashboard which summarizes current tasks and open orders and great search and filter functionality to find just the orders, invoices, or quotes you are looking for.

The platform also integrates the inspection reports from their inspection app and, for any fulfilled order, you can quickly bring up the full report that summarizes the inspection (packaging, appearance, condition, flavor, and quality) on each item delivered as well as the number of items rejected. Also integrated with the Procurement platform is the Inspection Module that contains the overall inspection summary dashboard, dill downs by supplier, scorecards by supplier, and other key reports and data points on inspections. The inspect application is a mobile app that workers can use at the warehouse on or the dock to inspect the quality of goods as they come in and, if necessary, reject them on the spot.

What’s really cool is the Track and Trace capability where, for any item, you can see the entire journey from the source lot to the warehouse or the store shelf, as appropriate. You just need a GTIN, lot number, order number, SKU, or product description and, optionally, a date range and you see the store shipments, receivings at your warehouses, vendor shipments, and base lots. And you can click into each store shipment, receiving, vendor shipment, or lot and see complete details (such as the ship to, date, and receiver for a store shipment; order #, sales order, Lot, shipper, shipment date, and cases for a vendor shipment; etc.). And with their next release, the (default) output report formats will be usable for FSMA compliance. (Again, if you do grocery retail and you don’t know why this is critical, you better find out soon!)

Finally, their Market Intelligence Capability in Procurant Connect provides Commodity Pricing, Weather, and Transportation analytics and tracking. The commodity pricing tracks price movements across all commodities by region; the weather pane integrates forecasts down to the county level; and the transportation analytics tracks average load fees by lane (defined by city pairings), as well as price changes and shipper / transportation availability (surplus, slight surplus, adequate, slight shortage, or shortage).

Procurant can integrate with your ERP and AP (payment) system, your TMS (or onboard carriers natively, which is something not many P2P systems can do as carrier management is critical in perishable supply chain management), and your supplier master (for supplier onboarding) if it’s not your ERP.

All-in all, Procurant is a fantastic solution for the perishable supply chain procurement and one that absolutely has to be on the short list of any grocery retailer that needs to get a handle on their perishable supply chain in a manner that will allow them to be fully PACA and FSMA compliant.

PRGX – The Biggest Analytics Provider You Don’t Know!

For those that do not know it, PRGX would appear to be one of a select number of dominant services provider in the niche market for recovery audit services — a market that unlike other procurement services faces tremendous price pressure for its core recovery, statement and related auditing and profit recovery services.

the doctor and the prophet, PRGX Intro on Spend Matters Pro (membership required)

In particular, PRGX would appear to be a recovery audit specialist for the global retail sector. And that is what they are, but that is not all they are.

PRGX has started to remake itself quietly from within — out of necessity, given these broader market trends — building and acquiring technology capabilities in the spend analytics and supplier management areas, both to expand its relevance and to start driving automation and scale in its core business.

PRGX has built the most complete, and in many ways the most advanced, analytics and recovery solution for the retail sector and, in doing so, has built one of the most complete and advanced analytics and recovery solutions for just about any sector that buys and relies on goods. Pharma, Manufacturing, and Aerospace and Defense, just to name a few, could all benefit intensely from the out-of-the-box PRGX solution.

This is because it has evolved it’s application from a simple recovery analytics application to a full featured analytics solutions with modules for:

  • Payment Analytics
  • Spend Analytics
  • Product Analytics
  • Recovery Avoidance Analytics
  • Supplier Information Management

With the latter two coming through its recent acquisition of Lavante.

It can analyze what you paid (payment analytics), what you should have paid (recovery analytics), what you are spending (spend analytics), how much that is costing you and profiting you on a product level (product analytics), and what suppliers are supplying that product and how they are performing (SIM with a hefty dose of SPM).

And it can do this analysis end to end around a product or category, and allow you to simultaneously see what you ordered, spent, overspent, took in on sales, lost on returns, and profited when all was said and done. It’s one of the most powerful analytics solutions you don’t know about. Stay tuned — there is more to come!

Learn from FedEx and UPS and Avoid Package Fail This Year: Part II

In yesterday’s post, we noted that 2013 retail saw a massive package fail with packages being delivered two weeks or later than expected. The situation was so bad that, as reported in The Washington Post, Amazon, UPS offer refunds for Christmas delivery problems.

We also asked what really happened, and how can all carriers learn. In our attempt to answer this, we noted that Jim Tompkins penned a good piece over on in the Tompkins International Blog on Realism and Final Delivery for Holiday 2013 where he noted that there were five really big factors that were going to impact final delivery and yet UPS and FedEx still failed to be realistic, practical, or pragmatic in communicating their failure to deliver on their promises for holiday 2013, even though both UPS and FedEx should have predicted all of the factors.

So how can carriers fix the mess they helped create? According to Jim, carriers need to do a better job at three things:

  1. peak planning
  2. contingency planning
  3. communications

And he’s right, especially where communications are involved (as the big shipping companies should have known by December 21, after being storm-stayed for 2 days, that they were in crisis and should have communicated that fact), but planning alone won’t be enough as next year could again bring the situation where the number of packages in the network overloads the entire capacity of the network.

So what do UPS, FedEx, and other carriers have to take away from this to avoid major package and delivery fails this year?

  • plan for peak
    At some point, unless you’re (on the road to be) going out of business, you’re going to hit peak capacity. Plan for it. Be sure you can operate at peak efficiency during this time.
  • plan for disruption
    Be it weather, strike, or some other unplanned natural or man-made catastrophe, you’re going to experience a major disruption — and, thanks to Murphy’s Law, it is going to occur at the worst possible time. Have contingency plans in place.
  • plan for partners
    Not only will the disruption strike at the worst possible time, but it will result in your load exceeding your peak capacity. At this point, you have two options — accept that some deliveries will be late (and some customers will be really upset and possibly leave you for your competition) or offload some of the load to a partner with whom you have a bi-lateral contingency agreement. For example, if UPS and FedEx would have planned ahead, they could have offloaded a large number of packages to traditional 3PLs and local delivery services who were both under-capacity and looking for work. In order to take advantage of peak season, retailers need their goods on the shelves by black friday. So, the carriers that deliver to retailers will have likely made their last delivery by mid-December. There’s no reason that they can’t be used as the long-haul carriers from DC to DC, which was a big part of UPS and FedEx’s problem. Plus, most local delivery services, that often make their living couriering documents and local office supplies, are probably not going to be that busy by mid-December when office managers and legal departments start going on vacation. They could pick up from a local DC and act as additional delivery staff — they just need a hand-held scanner. Similarly, when traditional carriers hit peak capacity in November and have problems making delivery times due to weather or equipment failures, excess could be offloaded to FedEx and UPS which often only hit peak capacity during the big retail rush.

Murphy’s law, with a little help from Mother Nature’s black swan, will insure that any carrier that does a reasonable job of running their business will hit peak, will get disrupted, and then will not have the capacity to recover without help — especially if the retailers do not do anything to dispel the myth that waiting until the last minute to shop online is a good idea. So plan for this, and line up some help as part of your disaster-relief contingency plan. Then maybe you won’t end up with a tractor trailer of egg on your face. Just a thought.

Learn from FedEx and UPS and Avoid Package Fail This Year: Part I

As summarized in Martin Murray’s Logistics/Supply Chain blog on, 2013 retail saw a massive package fail with packages being delivered two weeks or later than expected. The situation was so bad that, as reported in The Washington Post, Amazon, UPS offer refunds for Christmas delivery problems. (Specifically, customers of Amazon who failed to get their deliveries by Christmas day received $20 gift cards and refunds on shipping charges and UPS is refunding shipping costs. FedEx, on the other hand, is only going to work with people affected.) According to the Washington Post article, the delays were due to a combination of bad weather, shoppers waiting until the last minute, and the overwhelming surge in online buying. (A UPS spokeswoman said the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity in our network.)

According to Mr. Murray, the situation with ordering from online retailers probably won’t improve next year, unless the major parcel carriers understand that people order late, they order a lot, and they expect it on time. SI agrees that an understanding will help, but only if they do something about it.

So what really happened, and how can all carriers learn? Jim Tompkins penned a good piece over on in the Tompkins International Blog on Realism and Final Delivery for Holiday 2013 where he noted that there were five really big factors that were going to impact final delivery and yet UPS and FedEx still failed to be realistic, practical, or pragmatic in communicating their failure to deliver on their promises for holiday 2013. What were the factors?

  1. 26 Days Between Thanksgiving and Christmas to Shop
  2. 26 Days Between Thanksgiving and Christmas to Deliver
  3. Growth of Online Shopping
  4. Retailers’ Behaviour
  5. Weather

As Jim notes, factors 1, 2, and 3 were based on fact, well-known, predictable and non-controversial. They pose significant challenges, but ones that have been around since the WWW, created by Bernes-Lee in 1990, began to be used commercially in 1991 (and definitely since and eBay launched in 1995). These should not have been that much of an issue.

Factor 4 could have been predicted too. As Jim notes, there is a clear sense among consumers that delaying online shopping is a good thing because the availability of great promotions and free shipping became more and more prevalent in 2011 and 2012 and there is no reason to buy early when it is better to wait and get a better deal. Since retailers did little to dissuade this notion, many consumers held out to the last minute to shop online hoping for a better last-minute deal.

And while the breadth of factor 5 can not be predicted in advance, there are recent precedents for bad weather that covers a wide geographical area several days in a row. As an example Jim reminds us that it was only nine years ago when an ice storm crippled Memphis and Louisville, resulting in major final delivery problems for Christmas — and with the effects of global warming (which exists, regardless of what overpaid scientists employed by mega corporations tell you*) increasing by the year, massive storms should be expected.

So what should carriers take away from this fiasco? Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!

* With only a few exceptions, the average temperature of the earth has been increasing steadily for the last 30+ years. (See this graph from the NOAA.) Anyone who says there is no global warming is therefore a liar or an idiot. What is not known is the degree to which we are causing it with respect to pollution, etc. and the degree to which global warming is a natural part of the earth’s cycle — as an analysis of the history of the earth through extracted core segments shows that just like there were ice ages, there were also times of higher temperature. But the fact that some degree of global warming could be natural is not important — what is important is that this analysis also shows that when temperatures rise, droughts and natural disasters become more common and (mass) extinctions soon follow. Therefore, even if we are only responsible for a (small) fraction of the global warming that is currently occurring, we should be doing everything we can to minimize our impact!