With RedPrairie's Feb. 5 release of its Routing Portal application, the demand management solutions vendor is applying Web-based collaboration to the management of inbound and reverse logistics.
The software is intended to provide Web-based visibility into inbound shipment information, such as status, due date of arrival and contents.
"Typically, requests for inbound shipment news have been manual," said RedPrairie Vice President of Marketing Scott Beaver.
Beaver said that for retailers, Routing Portal will open the transportation process up to other areas of the business, such as the store.
"Internal customers can get an understanding of what's coming inbound," he said.
Retailers will also be able to externally collaborate with their suppliers using the new system, Beaver said.
"You can make a delivery appointment in advance and schedule what dock to go to," he said. "Nobody wants to have trucks stacked up at the [distribution center] waiting to be unloaded."
Beaver also said that the solution will ease the management of reverse logistics for retailers.
"The back room may be full of merchandise that needs to go back to the warehouse," he said. "You can make a request via the Internet to the transportation group and they can schedule it."
According to Joe Dunlop, a consultant at Accenture, inbound logistics is an area in retail that is typically difficult to manage, as opposed to outbound logistics.
"Outbound logistics in retail tends to be more tightly managed," Dunlop said. "The retailer typically controls factors such as the origins, destination, freight turns, and carriers. It is usually more mature and predominantly within the enterprise. Issues with complex partners occur with lower frequency [than they do with inbound logistics]."
In contrast, he said inbound logistics poses special management challenges to retailers.
"From a retail buyer perspective, negotiating the cost of goods sold may or may not include freight," he said. "There is less hassle if they don't have a robust transportation system and prepay freight as part of the purchase order. But if they want to optimize inbound spending and coordinate analysis with vendors, it becomes an onerous process with a number of internal and external players."
Dunlop said retailers seeking to collaborate with vendors on inbound logistics management face "moving parts" that can cause complications with analysis, such as the size of the purchase order and locations where vendors perform sourcing.
"Seamless processes that react to triggers in a portal scenario are a huge benefit," he said. "Solutions [that enable seamless inbound logistics management] should be welcomed by retailers."
RedPrairie provides an integrated suite of solutions built on a SOA (service-oriented architecture) platform. Routing Portal can be integrated with RedPrairie warehouse and transportation management solutions or other third-party logistics solutions, or deployed as a standalone application.