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Retail Tech: Container XChange Debuts Insights Platform, Cala Launches Fashion Cost Calculator

The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.

Freight/Logistics

Container XChange

Container logistics platform Container XChange has launched XChange Insights, a data-based tool for container traders, freight forwarders, shippers and non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs).

The product is designed to provide real-time transparency and visibility into container prices for leasing and trading across 130 global locations, with the company planning to extensively expand to more locations in the year 2023.

To understand the market pain points better, Container XChange polled more than 250 container traders, freight forwarders and NVOCCs, finding that more than half (57 percent) of those surveyed spend over two hours every day finding real-time data on container prices and leasing rates. The poll also found that 44 percent of the shipping and container trading companies research and then analyze the procured data daily, thus increasing the manual workload.

“Data-driven decision making is still a struggle when it comes to operational management in container logistics. Especially during these times where there are many factors changing the demand and supply dynamics in supply chains across global economies. With a mission to simplify the logistics of global trade, Container XChange aims to solve the day-to-day struggles of container logistics professionals when it comes to sourcing market prices of containers for trading and leasing,” said Dr. Johannes Schlingmeier, co-founder and CEO of Container XChange.

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Most freight forwarders and container traders rely on their own experience or advice coming from established partnerships when judging business opportunities or exploring a new market, added Schlingmeier.

XChange Insights enables logistics companies to see and compare current container prices and shipper-owned container (SOC) leasing rates in 130 locations around the globe, and can help users make more data-driven decisions such as whether it’s a good time to buy, sell or lease containers and what are the most lucrative cities for trading and leasing deals. The platform also highlights the latest trends, relevant news and provides guidance on main markets.

To address the container logistics market transparency issue and provide objective market data, Container XChange collects and analyzes data from various sources: its own marketplaces, container sellers and shipping lines. Schlingmeier said the company also plans to integrate even more data types and sources to further support its clients in their day-to-day operations.

B.I.G. Logistics/Xcell Logistic Services, Inc.

B.I.G. Logistics has acquired privately-owned Xcell Logistic Services Inc., and Mexico-based subsidiary Xcell Logistics Corporation for an undisclosed sum.

B.I.G. Logistics, owned by SecurCapital Corp, is a third-party logistics provider (3PL) and technology-enabled warehouse management IT platform with warehouses throughout Texas and along the Mexican border. Xcell Logistic Services is a 3PL and customs broker with warehouses in Laredo, Texas. Xcell Logistics Corporation, headquartered in Mexico City, has offices in key Mexican ports, industrial hub cities and border crossings with the U.S.

Jointly, the companies operate pharmaceutical-licensed, 3PL cross-dock and temperature-controlled warehouses, and offer fulfillment, transload, border brokerage and container examination stations (CES). They also operate and manage Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) facilities and light manufacturing and e-commerce services. The new combined companies can manage logistics across various categories including international and domestic air, ocean, ground transport, custom brokerage and project cargo.

Cedric Sosa, CEO of Xcell Logistics Corp., said the company was “in the right place at the right time” for an acquisition, noting that year to date, Laredo represents 37 percent of trading between the U.S. and Mexico with a figure of $243.8 billion.

Via the acquisition, B.I.G. now operates on the U.S.-Mexico border with a legacy station in El Paso and the added Laredo presence, as well as an additional seven stations in Mexico. And Xcell Logistics Corporation now offers wide coverage in all major ports of entry for importers and exporters on both sides of the border.

B.I.G. Logistics currently has three state-of-the art facilities in Texas: Alliance Fort Worth (AFW), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), and El Paso (ELP). The company also has a field office located in Houston and is opening a new field office in Huntsville, Ala. and a West Coast gateway office in Los Angeles.

Pricing/costs

Cala/Seko

Digital fashion design platform and operating system Cala has partnered with global logistics provider Seko Logistics to launch a pricing engine designed to be a door-to-door total landed cost calculator for the fashion industry.

The cost calculator factors in product type, material type, complexity, number of units, time of year and destination. Cala’s pricing engine considers dozens of factories in 13 countries, and more than 100 shipping lanes across four different shipping modes.

Cala wants to unify the entire fashion and lifestyle product creation process—from product ideation all the way through production, quality control, freight forwarding and customer fulfillment—into a single digital platform upon which brands can build. The company works with hundreds of brands, scaling with companies of all sizes: large established retailers, medium-sized fashion houses, and independent designers.

Brands can make better decisions because the new pricing engine by showcasing all factors that impact a product’s margin profile upfront and even allowing users to change the number of product units to see real-time price impact. Based on the product specifications submitted, the pricing engine will generate a total cost breakdown of a project for development, production, and logistics, while also accounting for duties and taxes.

For an added layer of forecasting, brands can also see an estimate of how long each stage will take to complete, giving a unique window into the expected project scope before financially committing to a project.

“Decisions can only be made based on the information available, so prior to the introduction of our pricing engine brands selected their factory based purely on it having the lowest production cost,” said Andrew Wyatt, CEO of Cala. “Our pricing engine’s added layer of analysis reveals that this isn’t always the best decision. For example, a customer might rule out another factory because its production cost is higher. However, overall, that factory may actually be the most cost-effective if it’s closer to the shipment’s final destination and devoid of excessive duty and shipping costs. Costs can also look completely different by doubling or tripling units. Crunching the numbers on all of these variables previously took weeks. Now, in just seconds, Cala reveals the full supply chain picture so our customers can make the most efficient decisions for their business.”

With Cala’s new pricing tool, brands can benefit from enhanced visibility into the price and timing of their projects, better enabling them to make more confident, informed decisions that can better fit their budget. Cala’s pricing engine could deliver more value by saving time and money upon arming them upfront with an understanding of the total cost of potential projects.

Apparel production

Seidensticker/Coats Digital

Seidensticker (Overseas) Ltd., an integrated manufacturer of men’s shirts and women’s blouses has adopted the FastReactPlan solution from Coats Digital to gain full visibility of its capacity planning.

The Germany- and Hong Kong-based manufacturer, which boasts annual sales of $145 million, implemented the solution to respond quickly to smaller, more complex order requests and reduce the time and cost challenges involved in meeting customers’ last-minute change requirements.

Seidensticker supports a 2,300-strong workforce across four factories, which produce 420,000 Seidensticker-branded garments a month. The company additionally has another five partner factories that provide garments for other brands, producing between 550,000 and 800,000 pieces a month.

FastReactPlan is developed exclusively for the fashion, textile and apparel industry and can be configured in multiple ways to reflect industry best practice and specific business requirements.

The software incorporates a highly visual, flexible “drag and drop” approach to planning, which is designed to enable more effective master planning across multiple factories, as well as fast, detailed and accurate scheduling of manufacturing lines/machines. Critical pre-production activities and material requirements are dynamically driven by the latest plan on a lean “just in time” basis, supporting the reduction of inventory and lead times.

Coats Digital is the software business of global industrial thread company Coats Group, and is used in over 3,000 factories globally. The company’s end-to-end apparel, footwear and textile software and SaaS solutions are designed to improve agility, speed to market, efficiency, transparency and sustainability.

Seidensticker found that without good visibility to key planning and workflow data, capacity management and line planning teams did not have the accurate data they needed to seamlessly manage higher quantities of smaller orders that often required style variations with increased complexity. The company also found it challenging to manage late customer changes to orders since business-critical data was siloed in multiple sources, which meant teams could not work together from a single source of data, to respond to late order change requests quickly and effectively.

“We chose FastReactPlan following a strong recommendation from our HQ’s supply chain department and a highly compelling product presentation from the Coats Digital team,” said Peter Tornow, managing director, Seidensticker (Overseas) Ltd. in a statement. “With higher basic cost-to-make outgoings and raw material costs industry-wide, as well as increasing requests for faster, shorter and more complex orders, we needed a solution that would provide total visibility to global capacity planning and workflow processes so we could make business-critical decisions quickly and ensure early discovery of potential delivery challenges to enable us to action these fast and effectively.”

Tornow said he expects the implementation of FastReactPlan to significantly improve production efficiencies, increase on-time delivery and reduce workloads, as well as reduce last-minute firefighting for Seidensticker’s companywide planning teams.

Headless commerce

Elastic Path

Elastic Path, a headless commerce system that enables template-less e-commerce to be integrated into ERP systems, raised $30 million in growth funding led by Sageview Capital with participation from additional existing investors.

The December funding marks the second round for Elastic Path this year, as the company secured $60 million in February.

In total, the company marked 2022 with a total of $90 million in financing, 200 percent year-over-year growth in subscription bookings and 221 product releases.

Elastic Path is positioning itself as a “composable commerce” business, which is designed to enable brands to curate a solution that provides the flexibility to fit their unique business requirements. With any multi-vendor approach, there’s an added complexity of integrating, managing, and troubleshooting disparate technologies, which can become prohibitive to brands.

In 2022, this commitment was showcased by the company’s launch of EP Payments, a pre-integrated payments solution; the release of the D2C Starter Kit, a composable front-end framework, available as open-source code on the company’s Github; and the creation of an Integrations Hub, a central repository of pre-built low code integrations. These advancements reduce the potential risk of a “composable approach,” Elastic Path says.

Additional highlights from the past year include the launched of EP Product Experience Manager (PXM), along with reinvented product data and catalog management capabilities. The company’s 221 new product releases were focused on empowering brands to merchandise without limits and delivering differentiated commerce experiences with ease.

This year, the firm was recognized as a visionary in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce, and included in the Gartner Market Guide for Product Information Management Solutions.

Store shelves

Pensa

Pensa Systems, a provider of automated retail shelf intelligence technology, has launched a solution designed to help consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands grow revenue through improved retail shelf facings optimization.

The term “shelf facings” refers to the number of units of a product that are visible from the front of a retail store shelf. In retail, competition between CPG brands for facings is fierce given its direct translation to profitable revenue growth.

Traditionally, facings allocation has been determined based on rough estimates of relative sales volume and velocity derived from backwards looking point-of-sale data. Brands often couple POS data with artificial shelf scenario simulations to estimate shelf performance.

POS data, however, is notoriously “noisy”. For example, slow product sales reflected in POS data might be an indication that a particular product is not selling, or it might be an indication that the product is often out-of-stock on the shelf and not available for sale.

Pensa wants to closes this gap for CPG brands and retailers by providing a continuous view of actual products on the retail shelf across a wide range of stores and deployed shelf configurations. By correlating real on-shelf product availability with the number of facings per product, Pensa applies the concept of pricing elasticity to facings to determine the optimal number of facings by category and by product to maximize revenue without allocating space for one product at the expense of other products.

To automatically deliver accurate, near real-time continuous shelf data, Pensa’s AI learns to visually recognize and distinguish between products on the shelf much as a human does versus scanning a barcode on the back of a package or comparing a single product image against a product image database.

Pensa captures then analyzes a video stream of hundreds of images, taken from numerous angles, of each individual product on the shelf to accurately identify and distinguish between products in near real-time to calculate a highly accurate view of shelf inventory.

Pensa’s facings analysis solution is available now as a new product within its portfolio of data and analytics offerings.

Fulfillment

BW Retail/Descartes Systems

BW Retail, an e-commerce marketing, fulfillment and data analytics service provider, replaced manual pick, pack and ship practices with an integrated e-commerce warehouse management and shipping solution from Descartes Systems Group to efficiently scale fulfillment operations and improve customer satisfaction.

Christopher Ball, CEO at BW Retail, said the company was forced to move away from many of its manual processes upon expanding from one warehouse in Michigan to additional locations in Georgia and Ontario, Canada.

In making 1 million shipments per year, BW Retail needed more real-time visibility into fulfillment across its facilities and to reduce efforts to manage inventory, Ball said.

Descartes’ e-commerce warehouse management solution is built to help e-commerce services providers—whether it be BW Retail, direct-to-consumer brands or online retailers—gain significant efficiencies across order fulfillment processes to improve the customer experience. It can help retailers ship the right items on time, prevent overselling of existing inventory, and provide full transparency into warehouse operations.

The cloud-based solution is pre-integrated with major e-commerce platforms, like Channel Advisor, Shopify Plus, Magento and others, to accelerate implementation and time to value.

Descartes’ multi-carrier shipping solution is integrated with its e-commerce warehouse management solution to execute the e-commerce fulfillment process, in a way that can improve accuracy and productivity, reduce order lead times and minimize shipping costs.

The solution allows businesses to grow their shipping volume through advanced automation capabilities, a business rules engine and a robust set of APIs for rating, shipping and tracking. The solution also connects e-commerce companies to their parcel and less than truckload (LTL) carriers of choice using negotiated rates or using rate discounts available through the platform.

Payments

Paya/1Retail

Paya, an integrated payments and commerce solution provider, will provide POS system vendor 1Retail with access to EMV contactless and stored payments within its Acumatica Cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

The Paya and 1Retail integration is designed to foster a more convenient EMV or contactless checkout experience and allow returning customers to make purchases from stored payment information in the Acumatica ERP without a physical card present. This is ideal for businesses that routinely send colleagues to purchase items on their behalf. Paya ensures PCI compliance for these capabilities by extending the P2PE solution across the entire 1Retail and Acumatica environments.

1Retail is designed to alleviate the common challenges faced by legacy POS solutions, offering a customer-centric software that can be delivered via a mobile device or on-terminal and has full offline capability.

Beyond improving the customer checkout experience, the Paya and 1Retail integration can improve the reconciliation process and reporting capabilities. Paya’s integration helps merchants match transactions with the clearing accounts for simple bank deposits. It can be beneficial for multi-location and high-volume retailers, while saving time for all account receivable departments.

Paya is a leading provider of integrated payment and frictionless commerce solutions that help customers accept and make payments, expedite receipt of money, and increase operating efficiencies. The company processes over $40 billion of annual payment volume, serving more than 100,000 customers through over 2,000 key distribution partners focused on targeted, high-growth verticals such as healthcare, education, non-profit, government, utilities, manufacturing and other B2B end markets.