Supplier software offered for free

NW-based firm targets deliveries

A Fayetteville firm that provides supply chain management software for many Walmart Inc. suppliers is offering its data services for free during the covid-19 pandemic.

The retail industry's supply chain, rocked by panic buying and other changes in shopper demand since the coronavirus began sweeping the U.S., has strained to mobilize rapidly and keep grocers and stores like Walmart stocked.

In response, SupplyPike began in March to make its retail intelligence and delivery software products freely available to qualifying consumer packaged goods firms, company President TJ Sangam said Thursday. "We are hoping this will help suppliers fix their sales and replenishment issues during this period of extreme volatility," he said.

Sangam said the company has "a large machine-learning team that analyzes that data and tells them 'here is where your pain points are, and here's what you need to do.' And this is the time that people really need our software but unfortunately, it's also a time when they don't have the time to make a buying decision on software like this."

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Most businesses that qualify for SupplyPike's help are smaller firms, Sangam said, because larger companies usually have the resources.

As of mid-April, he said, between 30 and 40 businesses have taken SupplyPike up on its offer.

SupplyPike was created in 2013 as the research and development department of logistics provider CaseStack, which was based in Fayetteville at the time. The technology arm was spun off and founded as a separate company in late 2017. Sangam said about 95% of SupplyPike's employees graduated from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

CaseStack is now based in Santa Monica, Calif., though it maintains an office in Fayetteville as well as in other cities throughout the U.S.

Donnie Williams, executive director of the University of Arkansas' Supply Chain Management Research Center, said that over the past four weeks, suppliers to Walmart are focused on getting essential goods through the supply chain to consumers who need them.

That puts pressure up the supply chain to the companies like Kimberly-Clark that are providing those goods, Williams said. But large firms "have a lot more resources that they can pull together to solve supply chain issues," he said. For instance, they have teams devoted to managing the supply chain to just one retailer like Walmart or Target, he said.

"These small companies don't have that much of a human capital resource that can be devoted to supply chain," Williams said. "And so any tool that they can get that can help them get information quickly, sort information quickly, have visibility of demand patterns, have visibility on where their products are needed and whatever time they may be needed, that's going to give them a significant boost to their ability to execute their supply chains and produce their products and get it to the retailer where it's needed on time and the amount of product they need.

"The service that SupplyPike is providing for free in this time is just one of those things I was talking about [in a recent article on LinkedIn]," Williams said. "It's just really good people working together, collaborating in ways so that everyone can win."

Besides offering the free software, SupplyPike is collecting other resources to help suppliers "navigate the new and evolving issues related to covid-19," Sangam said. "We also interviewed Walmart vendors and brokers in Northwest Arkansas and made those interviews available to the public" as short videos on SupplyPike's website, he said.

"We are hoping the community can use this collective knowledge to forge ahead in these uncharted times," Sangam said.

Business on 04/18/2020