Future product suggestions are a staple at FourKites’ annual Visibility conference. In 2019, a proposal to track shipments based on a purchase order was made. One year later, that solution has become a reality.
FourKites, working with retailer Meijer, introduced a multimodal purchase order (PO) lifecycle tracking solution. It was formally unveiled Thursday ahead of FourKites’ Visibility 2020 conference, which was held virtually for the first time.
“In today’s environment of information technology, [customers] want more and demand more at a smaller and smaller scale,” Paul Thompson, inbound logistics director for Meijer, said during a presentation at Visibility 2020. “[Customers] just want to know where their product is. Interestingly enough, they are not the only ones that want to know where their product is,” so do stores and merchants.
The solution simplifies freight visibility by tracking items based on their PO number. This includes inbound logistics, track-and-trace, customer service, procurement/materials management, and merchandising, FourKites said. In essence, it assists any company that manages the exchange and transportation of goods primarily via PO numbers.
POs might include a single load of freight or hundreds of loads and can include such granular details as product name, quantity, price and SKU. According to FourKites, this level of detail required different teams using multiple systems such as enterprise resource planning, transportation management systems, and production and operations management systems to effectively track shipments. The company said its new product eliminates this inefficient process by combining all the information into a “single pane of glass that can provide every organization, team and partner with a common view of exactly where a PO is in its lifecycle.”
Thompson noted that the ability to track shipments at a smaller level can help identify reasons why truckload shipments may be late. Including this information within the FourKites platform further streamlines the entire process.
“We are constantly working to optimize … our supply chain by pulling out as much cost as possible,” he said, noting that this new functionality has opened up additional opportunities, including identifying potential backhauls, quicker identification and customer notification of late loads, and the ability to build additional business rules when necessary.
“As we’ve said many times, real-time freight visibility is just the beginning when it comes to better and more efficient supply chain management,” said Priya Rajagopalan, FourKites chief product officer. “For so many departments within our customers, the PO is the primary vehicle by which they manage the exchange of goods with their own customers and partners. Today’s new PO and SKU tracking capabilities means FourKites is now the one-stop shop, organization-wide and across all modes, for real-time supply chain visibility.”
Meijer has implemented the new technology across its procurement, materials management, transportation and merchandising teams. The company noted that the streamlined process has improved scheduling, transit and on-time delivery as it tracks all POs from vendor facilities into its own facilities, as well as between its distribution centers.
This visibility has also allowed Meijer to share product details and shipment statuses with merchandisers so they can more effectively and proactively plan for retail store deliveries.
Abhi Venkataraman, associate director of product management at FourKites, said this type of granular tracking can help carriers identify what is causing a truckload shipment with multiple orders to be delayed. It also helps complete the end-to-end management process of shipments.
Thompson added that retailers are able to see what exactly is on a truck and when it will arrive so resources can be lined up properly.
“Visibility has been hugely valuable for us, and as a large retailer and shipper, adding PO lifecycle visibility means we can now identify critical orders faster, eliminate inefficiencies and make better decisions on lead times,” Thompson said. “Meijer prides itself on being first to market in many categories, and we are thrilled to have co-innovated this product with the FourKites team, which will drive enhanced transparency throughout our entire supply chain.”