Proving that Macy's just might tell Gimbel's if supply chain market pressures get intense enough, retail competitors and the carriers who fight over their business sat down with a software developer recently to discuss standardizing logistics activities at their distribution centers.
Grocery chain rivals Publix and Safeway aired concerns about appointment scheduling software with Marten Transport and Werner Enterprises and others at One Network Enterprises' Retail Standards Board.
The ONE-sponsored board went beyond offering advice. It established a joint design team, funded in part by the nine participating retailers, carriers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers. The group expects its results will be incorporated into ONE's new on-demand service network for automated appointment scheduling.
Publix hopes that network will reduce or eliminate the more than 1,000 faxes a week needed to schedule truck appointments at its loading docks and make it easier for carriers to do business with Publix.
Distribution centers operating near capacity, along with stubbornly persistent carrier capacity shortages, spiking fuel prices and rising accessorial charges, lured normally proprietary companies to common ground, said Cor Hoekstra, vice president, retail and logistics at ONE in Dallas. "In order to safeguard relationships with the carriers, both retailers and vendors are investing in efforts to become carrier friendly," Hoekstra said.
ONE's Web-based application scheduling system seeks to minimize the 15-to-50 percent of each workday dispatchers spend negotiating appointments by fax or phone. It also eliminates upfront software licensing fees, implementation and maintenance costs in favor of one-time activation and usage-based transactional fees that ONE said will lower total cost of ownership and accelerate returns on investment. Publix's Jeffrey Day, director of transportation and maintenance, said he expects carriers will prefer the simple and cheap interface. "That's why it was attractive to us, because it was something we thought would help us reach our carrier base at a low cost," he said.
Hoekstra said ONE is looking for additional companies to join its Retail Standards Board. He also said the board had been approached by platform-neutral standards bodies (which he would not identify) about seeking broader adoption of the board's shipper-carrier-DC process standards.