Freeborders, Inc. today announced the launch of a web-based workflow application, FB Workflow, to help customers speed products to market by automating critical path management and reporting. Increasingly demanding consumers, complex supply chains and intense competition dictate that retailers control product lines and closely track style and order progress.

Freeborders, a leading provider of retail Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, helps more than 350 customers globally manage critical challenges. FB Workflow, part of Freeborders’ suite of next generation PLM solutions, is the first workflow application specifically customized for the retail supply chain.

“With key vendors situated thousands of miles away, rule-based, automated communication is essential for enabling retailers, brands and manufacturers to track a style’s or order’s progress in real time,” said Ramsey Walker, co-CEO of Freeborders.

“FB Workflow will greatly enhance the four key benefits of PLM that we deliver every day to companies in the retail supply chain: driving profitable revenue growth, faster product development cycle times, better inventory management and improved quality.”

One of the greatest challenges that brands face is enormous price pressure resulting from shifting manufacturing and a worldwide oversupply of goods. Many brands are attempting to segment products according to tastes and shorten product cycle times as a result. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Levi Strauss & Co. is attempting to shrink the time for getting its products to market from 11 months to 71/2 months by mid-2004. Freeborders helps many brands including Levi’s to significantly shorten production cycle times and deliver the right products to market in time to meet consumer demand.

FB Workflow allows brands to manage and automatically track internal and external activities throughout the entire lifecycle of a product, from product planning through design, production and delivery. Many brands have learned that one missed milestone in the “critical path” can result in a customer rejecting an order already produced, leading to bloated inventories and increased markdowns.

Customers expect FB Workflow to drive significant benefits, including a reduction in cycle time and increased staff productivity. By focusing on “exception management,” FB Workflow helps all parties coordinate, share, manage and track all pre-production, manufacturing, and delivery activities. Retailers and brands are able to reduce costs, speed products to market, and ensure that every order is profitable.

FB Workflow was built using requirements and input from Freeborders’ experience with hundreds of global customers who bring many thousands of new products to market each year, manufactured all over the world. Retailers and brands will greatly enhance productivity using FB Workflow because it:

—Enhances Decision-Making Capability—Workflow provides real-time
global information that enables retailers to make better, more informed
decisions. Staffs receive immediate notification of issues and
priorities can be reassigned automatically. Products arrive to retail
shelves on-time with a greater chance of selling at full retail price.
—Reduces Unplanned Freight Costs—Workflow tracks the location of
products at all times and enables retailers to minimize stock-outs and
better manage logistics complexity.
—Expedites Problem Resolution—Retailers can resolve problems faster
by reviewing only exceptions to their plans. Increased product
visibility and proactive notifications reduce the total number of
issues to resolve. The result—reduced communication costs.
—Increases Responsiveness, Interaction and Productivity—Workflow’s
central repository enables retailers and their supply chain partners to
better coordinate, collect and share information. A consolidated view
of tasks and partners involved in the critical path vastly improves
—Reduces Buffer Merchandise Holdings—Workflow creates a highly
responsive supply chain that enables retailers to reduce pipeline and
buffer stock holdings.

Customers generally realize a return on investment within six to nine months.