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Acuitive Solutions: Focusing core strengths on lesser-served niches

Throughout its successful, 20-year history, Acuitive Solutions has taken the road less traveled by not trying to be all things for all customers. Acuitive has instead focused on the lesser-served niches within the transportation industry, namely areas where there is high pain and low availability of solutions for international shippers. 

Acuitive has two core strengths that are common backbones to all its international logistics solutions. One is unit costing, both on the predictive side — what it should cost a shipper to do something — and the “look-back” side — what it actually cost the shipper to do it. 

The second commonality is automating processes. Manual processes are error prone and do not scale. During the last two years of the pandemic, when there has been no office to go to, manual processes have really broken down. 

One example of how Acuitive is addressing this is helping shippers decide whether or not they should use airfreight based on what it’s going to cost them, not just on a per-shipment basis, but on a cost-per-piece basis. The airfreight shipment might cost $200. That means nothing. However, if the shipper knows it will cost them 15 cents per piece, then they may say, “Whoa! That’s my whole margin. I can’t do that.”

Acuitive breaks it down into the shipper’s language on their business terms so that they can make the best decision. To that end, Acuitive also applies the shipper’s internal control rules. For example, who should make the decision? Whose budget is it hitting? Is there money in the budget? What back-end processes are involved? What are the shipping alternatives? Should I use a different air carrier, small package or ocean? Can the carrier deliver on time? 

Acuitive provides a carrier portal linked to the shipper to support these kinds of dynamic routing decisions. Most shippers still use a static routing guide that says if you’re going from Shanghai to Chicago, for example, use this forwarder or that forwarder. But that doesn’t tell them which provider the shipper should use if it’s super urgent or which one if it’s not so urgent. As a result, shippers often spend a lot more than they need to.

Acuitive has extended this dynamic routing capability into samples management — a completely underserved niche in the retail apparel industry. Acuitive uniquely provides global, centralized routing and visibility of samples. For example, Ralph Lauren manages over 60,000 inbound samples a year from all around the world. From a single point of contact, they can implement rules and change preferences and routing instructions of anything their suppliers are doing with samples, worldwide. Most TMSs work on the outbound problem; i.e., “Here’s what I’ve got. What should I do?” Acuitive is providing Ralph Lauren the opposite — on the inbound where, “Somebody else has the samples, but I’m paying the bill. How do I control what they’re doing?” Acuitive gives Ralph Lauren routing control so that they can make the decisions on all sample shipments — carrier selection, service-level, consolidation and/or repack for lower rates, etc. Additionally, with Acuitive, Ralph Lauren has end-to-end visibility of all sample shipments — not just to track but also validate that the shipments are moving correctly. 

Acuitive is also applying its unit costing expertise and patented process automation for prepayment audit of carrier invoices for ocean, air, drayage, 3PL origin-consolidation and destination-deconsolidation and transloading. Acuitive stands out as a leader in those lesser-served modes because there’s big a difference between international and domestic freight audit. Domestic audit is consistently shipment driven. Once you know who’s sending the product, and who’s receiving the product, you can easily determine the rates and fees that should be applied. There aren’t many moving parts. When you talk about ocean, however, it’s very different. 

For example, let’s say you’re a shipper importing containers from Bangladesh to Chicago. You might want to route those containers through the West Coast, or you might want to go through the Suez and route the shipment through the East Coast, depending on the total cost or cost of lost sales due to congestion delays. So, to audit international shipments like this one, you need to know and manage the process based on the entire location string: the bill-of-lading (BoL) origin (where the carrier takes responsibility), the port of loading (where it gets on the ship), the port of discharge (where it gets off the ship) and the BoL destination (where the carrier’s responsibility ends). Automatically cross-checking invoices with agreed-to rates, ancillary fees, surcharges and equipment types based on any given international shipment location string is very foreign to domestic (e.g., LTL, parcel) freight invoice auditors. They are stuck in manual mode, and if faced with any real invoice volume, they simply “rubber stamp” the invoices and pass them through. Worse yet is the fact that domestic auditors will manually look at an ocean invoice and think it’s right. But the fact is it can look right and still be wrong. For example, based on the containers and quantities on the invoice, it can rate correctly, but what if that data set that’s on the invoice is wrong? What if it’s for the wrong number of containers, the wrong size containers? What if the location string is wrong or representing the wrong service that was actually provided? These types of discrepancies happen on 27% of all invoices, on average, and Acuitive has automated invoice-to-BoL matching and validation to flush out discrepancies before the audit even begins.

Domestic auditors are also not thinking about things at the container level. For example, a shipper might, for customs reasons, want to have different purchase orders (POs) on different bills of lading. They do this so that if one PO gets caught in a customs exam, they don’t lose the availability of all the freight. That scenario forces the carriers to prorate the charges down to the different bills of lading. Thus, you can have multiple bills of lading within the same container. Likewise, if you orient the process based on the BoL, you can have multiple containers per shipment. And those containers can be different sizes. The point is, for ocean freight, the auditor must understand bills of lading and containers and how they interrelate. JOANN Stores, for example, can have 14 to 15 bills of lading in five containers, and it’s all mixed up between them. To a domestic auditor, it’s a bowl of spaghetti. For Acuitive, it’s not a problem. 

As an extension of audit and part of its unit costing capability, Acuitive also provides accurate general ledger (GL) cost allocation of the audited freight and origin-destination charges, as well as all other charges down to the SKU, PO, container or BoL level. Cost allocation can be a manual, tedious and error-prone process for international shippers; however, Acuitive’s automation of GL cost allocation eliminates all inefficiencies for a shipper. In fact, a shipper never needs to get involved other than providing Acuitive updates to their rules or GL. By cleanly capturing all expenses from the freight invoices — shipping costs, customs and import duties, customs exam fees, insurance, excise taxes, freight forwarder handling fees, loading/unloading costs, tolls, port charges, demurrage, detention, etc. — and automatically allocating those expenses to the PO level, Acuitive enables cleaner and more accurate landed cost calculation for shippers. The definition of landed cost, also called landed price, is the total cost of getting a product from a supplier to its destination. Landed cost is very important to most shippers because it gives them a more complete picture on the cost of goods, which crucially impacts knowing how to price imported products, manage budgets and reduce expenses. Calculating landed cost requires cost allocation of freight charges down to the PO level. When there is only one item on a PO, landed cost distribution is clear; but, if there are more, it must be distributed. And in these cases, Acuitive’s ability to allocate costs down to the SKU level of any given shipment becomes very valuable.

In conclusion, partnering with a specialized partner like Acuitive offers international shippers the best bet at navigating today’s complex shipping environment without sacrificing on quality or expertise.