Best Buy Improves Its Supply Chain View

Retailer Best Buy turns to i2's chain management/logistics software in the hopes of gaining more timely visibility into business operations on both the purchasing and logistics sides.

Best Buy Co. Inc., the leading consumer electronics chain in the United States, has launched a phased deployment of supply chain management/logistics software from i2 Technologies. The implementation is still behind the retailers corporate firewall now, but plans call for future rollouts to stores nationwide as well as to product vendors around the world.

During a Webcast Tuesday, Mohan Balachandran, director of product management at i2, said Best Buy tested the waters with a transportation management package from i2 in April before moving ahead this fall with i2s Supply Chain Visibility Solution.

As a key expected benefit from the rollout, Chris Aronovici, Best Buys transportation manager, pointed to "timely visibility."

Most users of Supply Chain Visibility work in either purchasing/procurement or logistics, Balachandran said in the Webcast. The software provides custom views of information that can be aggregated from various "silos" within organizations, and from diverse data formats.

Purchasing staff might want to "figure out the effectiveness of promotions," whereas logistics pros are more interested in asking, "What is the [delivery] load? Where did it start? Were there any discrepancies?"

I2s user interfaces can be highly personalized, Balachandran said. "We try to be as Yahoo-like, if you will, as possible."

On September 20, Best Buy went live with Phase I of the i2 rollout, which revolves around freight management workflow. Aronovici cited some minor glitches with data conversion. But, he added, these were entirely cleared up within a week.

Best Buys Phase I rollout took eight weeks, but most of this time was spent deciding which kinds of supply chain events to track, and under what circumstances to post alerts.

On the logistics side, Best Buy is currently tracking 30 events, but posting alerts about only eight of them. "No pickup" and "Load not departed" are a couple of the alerts.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about Best Buys RFID deployment.

Best Buy is now on the verge of Phase II, which will deal specifically with workflow around "prepaid vendors"—product distributors who are responsible for delivering their own goods and for making their own deals with freight carriers.

Next month, the mass retailer expects to begin deployment around international freight workflows. International freight is becoming increasingly important as more goods are imported from the Far East, Balachandran said.

But while prices on products from the Far East tend to be cheaper, logistics tend to be more complex, so lead times need to be much longer, according to Balachandran.

Best Buys Aronovici told Webcast participants that hes been getting very positive feedback from users about both i2s software and Best Buys new SCM/L training program.

"The training was initially designed by i2, and then Best Buy-ized by our Learn and Sustain Group," Aronovici said.

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