In continuation of our Employee Spotlight series, I had a chance to chat with Yamini Lakshmipathy, Engineering Manager, to learn how she successfully led and implemented the purchase order (PO) visibility project for our retail customers. Yamini explained how end-to-end PO lifecycle management is a huge value-add for our customers, and how it will help FourKites serve as their one-stop-shop for supply chain visibility.

Yamini is also a go-to person for everything in FourKites’ Engineering organization. Through her passion for solving real-world problems, building and delivering quality products, and thriving in challenging environments, she has made a huge impact on the FourKites’ Engineering team and the company as a whole.

For these reasons and more, I decided to sit down with Yamini to learn more about the PO Visibility project and how the team has supported her along the way.

How did the need for the PO visibility project come into place?

Every year at our annual Visibility user conference, we ask our customers to rank the features they most want to see in the platform in the coming year. Last year, over 70% of our customers voted for PO lifecycle tracking. Given the volume of retail customers on our platform, it did not come as a surprise that it was ranked so highly; the ability to easily track and manage the PO lifecycles directly impacts retailers’ business processes, efficiency and forecasting capabilities.

How will end-to-end PO lifecycle tracking help FourKites stay ahead in the market?

We understand that many companies have limited budgets for new technology investments, and multimodal PO tracking allows for all teams within an organization to gain visibility and take action. Previously, many supply chain teams had to work within multiple systems (ERP, CRM, OMS, TMS, YMS) to painstakingly identify all of the individual load numbers associated with any given PO in order to track the lifecycle of that PO. That’s incredibly inefficient. Our solution doesn’t just give time back to users, though; the benefits are far-reaching. These include:

  • Better forecasting: By monitoring the fill rate across all suppliers, including vendor prepaid loads, procurement teams can better understand transit times on critical product deliveries, thereby enabling them to derive optimal lead times for their ordering process.
  • Optimized merchandising fulfillment: By sharing the exact product-level details along with shipment status, procurement and transportation teams can enable merchandisers to proactively plan for their delivery to retail stores.
  • Improved customer service: All the teams within the shipper and their customers can now easily access information and have visibility into the full lifecycle of a PO, from pickup to delivery.

How did your manager/teammates support this?

All members of the FourKites team that worked on this initiative are super passionate in anything they take on. They have done a phenomenal job in understanding this domain and the pain points associated with it. This was a joint effort amongst several functions across the company, and the willingness to learn, collaborate and iterate – all while maintaining engineering best practices – has been truly inspiring. This team had several opportunities to directly interact with customers and understand the use cases, and the team did an excellent job of incorporating customer feedback into their process to deliver such a high- impact product.

In addition, senior leadership on our sales team did an excellent job of keeping us informed of the response this solution was getting in the field with prospects. We were all extremely motivated, knowing that the hard work we were putting into product development was helping to grow the FourKites network.

What are some of the learnings/takeaways from this project?

Well, I would say it’s just the beginning. There is still a lot more to do in this space. We’re committed to helping our customers optimize their inventory by providing visibility and prescriptive intelligence, so we’re excited to continue adding to this solution.

Here are our key learnings so far:

  • Working toward a clear vision is critical – don’t get distracted from your primary objective of alleviating specific customer pain points
  • Stay close to the customer; understand their pain points and make sure the product reflects their needs, not your perceived notion of their needs
  • Where there is a will, there is a way! In an entrepreneurial culture like FourKites, don’t restrict yourself to role or title when you’re passionate about solving problems. Embrace challenges; nothing can stop us if we are all aligned!

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