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story.lead_photo.caption Dan Sanker, president and CEO of CaseStack, speaks in his office in Fayetteville in June. ( NWA Democrat-Gazette / Andy Shupe)

CaseStack, a supply chain management and retail consolidation provider, has been working on something new in Fayetteville.

What started as an intern's project has become an entire division dedicated to SupplyPike, a new cloud-based supply chain management platform that connects all the information in a company's supply chain into one integrated system.

CEO Dan Sanker said that to do their jobs, today's supply chain professionals "have to somehow interact with 15 to 100 different companies on a whole bunch of different websites and maybe even make some phone calls. It's a pain, but more importantly they lose visibility as to what's going on."

"With SupplyPike," he said, "you're going to be able to see it all and manage it all directly."

Sanker compares what the platform can do with what Zillow did to the real estate process, adding visibility and transparency between buyers, homeowners and real estate brokers. Similarly, SupplyPike provides one synchronized place for information from these disparate sources, he said.

CaseStack saw the market need for this because in supply chain management, its employees deal with the problems of a disjointed supply chain all the time. "With CaseStack we see it all," he said. "We see where they should connect but don't, so that's what we want to fix."

"We field the text messages, emails, the chats, to figure out what's wrong. That's what we do all day: How do we figure out how to do it better? How do we figure out what's wrong with whatever's broken? And the reason we have to do all that is you can't see all of it."

Many other transportation, logistics and supply chain companies, including J.B. Hunt, have recognized the opportunity and developed similar supply chain integration platforms.

What differentiates SupplyPike, Sanker explained, is its openness. Clients can use the platform and plug in any other non-SupplyPike application for things like transportation management, product catalogs or analytics.

"We don't need you to use our application," he said. "We've got a suite of actual applications, but more importantly, we'd rather you use the one that is the best for you and make sure you use it in conjunction with all the other stuff in the platform."

This fits with what he called the driving theme of CaseStack as it has grown into a $200 million business -- collaboration.

"I believe that if everyone can share information, share risks and rewards on projects and businesses, and if you do that across companies and teams, there's no way you're not going to have a better outcome," he said.

He said SupplyPike could restructure how supply chain jobs are organized. "Right now everyone in the industry looks at this stuff as a specific task. They don't really link the tasks," he said.

"I think the tasks need to be linked, and you would all save a lot of time and do your job better if you realize you aren't a retail person or trucking person, but you're just a supply chain person. So you all need the same stuff across this big vertical."

He said SupplyPike will not replace jobs with software automation. Rather, he believes the shortage of qualified supply chain professionals persists.

"You need all the people, but they will be able to do more and make it more productive. Supply chain is so dramatically inefficient, it's mind-boggling," he said.

"You want to arm them with the best possible tools, technology and more information, so they can do more."

"There's so much copying and pasting going on in the supply chain industry," he said. "That's the stuff that should go away so those people can do higher level work."

Sanker said he can see a time when SupplyPike spins out into its own company with CaseStack services offered on the platform. CaseStack employees have already been offered the choice to use SupplyPike software.

"This is the first time that a platform combines real time warehouse data and logistics information with retailer point of sales data that we've ever seen," said Shannon Bedore, managing director of Sightline Retail in Bentonville.

Sightline Retail offers small- and medium-sized vendors the services of a retail division that they don't have the ability to manage themselves. It has been using SupplyPike for about six months.

She said that normally, they have to manually consolidate data analytics from the retailer, warehouse and transportation and logistics.

"SupplyPike combines them together and for the first time clients can have full visibility of what's happening," Bedore said. "It's allowing us to make better, more educated decisions so our clients can manage their cash flow better."

Another feature of SupplyPike is that it has been developed in Fayetteville, she added. While CaseStack is technically a California corporation, about half of its 350 American employees are in Arkansas, its fastest-growing location.

"I think it's incredible that the platform is being built here in Arkansas with Arkansas employees," said Bedore. "Normally you would find a platform like this being built in Silicon Valley. I think it's a real tribute to Northwest Arkansas as a mecca of retail and [consumer packaged goods] expertise."

"In Los Angeles we post a computer science position, and we'll get 3,000 resumes in a day," said Sanker, a native of New Jersey who lives in Goshen. "Here, we will get 30 a week, but the 30 here are more relevant on average."

"People understand supply chain here," he said. "It's in people's DNA."

SundayMonday Business on 07/09/2017

Print Headline: Platform helps firms keep tabs on supply chain

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