RILA Recap: Visibility and Shipping Intelligence

Earlier this month we exhibited at the 2017 Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Retail Supply Chain Forum which drew a record 1,100 attendees. Collecting and using the data for visibility and shipping intelligence were the key themes. These topics matched up nicely with the RateLinx approach for creating Integrated Shipping Intelligence’.

During the forum, it was clear that while retailers have excellent operational intelligence around their sales and marketing, there seems to be a void around freight. For example, one company stated that they know whether a product will be a big seller or not based on its online rating and reviews. But on the freight side, there is a general lack of understanding on how data can be collected and used to create shipping intelligence, especially in the way the RateLinx solution can.

Common Problems: Visibility and Intelligence

Our kiosk was located in the analytics section of the exhibit hall so we talked with many of the other firms about how they collect data and what problems they solve. The two main problems retailers want their analytics to solve are either visibility or intelligence. For visibility, the shipper only needs a shipment number that can then be matched to the carrier’s track & trace data to provide estimated time of arrival, and predictions on the shipment being late. For intelligence, most solutions provide analytics as a visualization tool that allows the shipper to easily see where the data is not matching. Then the customer deploys their internal data team to investigate further.

I found it interesting to see that for both the visibility and intelligence solutions, there wasn’t a provider (other than RateLinx) who would actually fix the data and then help the shipper interpret the data. In both cases, it is up to the shipper to create a team of data analysts to clean up the data and interpret the results.

Visualization versus Analytics

In a breakout session I attended that focused on analytics, both panel members talked about how they use one of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant analytics providers to dump the data into Excel so their data team can investigate further. During the Q&A segment I asked, ‘The analytics tools listed appear to be visualization tools and not true analytics tools. Are these software tools cleaning any data or adding any insight to the data? The answer was no, it wasn’t cleaning any data or adding any insight. It just made it easier to see the bad data so their team can investigate it and clean it up.

This is where the RateLinx solution is different. Instead of displaying bad data like the other providers and then requiring our customer to clean it, we’ve created an approach that solves the data problem.

The Solution for Data Problems

Our Intelligent Invoice Management’ (IIM) system collects and cleans the data. Then it integrates the four main data points (freight invoice, track & trace, shipment, and order & item level data) to provide a single, rich dataset that is then operationalized to provide real intelligence. The RateLinx team provides support and know-how to quickly fix any data feeds that are causing abnormalities and ensure that the data stays clean. Then, using the ShipLinx TMS rating engine as an analytics engine, RateLinx can provide operational context to the data.

For example, you can now learn how much a certain business rule is costing you. Are you using a static routing guide that is assigning one carrier for all inbound freight from a particular state? Do you have a 150 lbs. static weight break between small parcel and LTL? When you know how much these rules are truly costing you, you can make an informed decision.

To acquire this type of intelligence, you need an advanced analytics tool like ShipLinx TMS that is re-rating each shipment and invoice. Without advanced analytics like this, all a retailer has visibility to is incorrectly invoiced shipments by the carrier.

We will be returning to this conference and are looking forward to RILA 2018 in Phoenix! If you would like to learn more about the unique solutions RateLinx develops for retailers before then, subscribe to our weekly blog. We will be writing about these types of issues in our upcoming blog series: Problems. Solved. Also, feel free to send me an email here