According to Manhattan Associates, IT is no longer optional in the supply chain.
In order to run a competitive supply chain that meets the service standards demanded by customers today, most businesses now view information technology as a critical requirement.
In addition, the highly competitive and unpredictable nature of markets around the world means companies need to move beyond merely managing their supply chains to optimising them.
True optimisation requires visibility, events, intelligence, workflows, and data to be synthesised across supply chain functions, and, ideally, across an organisation’s supply chain ecosystem.
Jeff Baum, senior vice president, international (Asia Pacific) at Manhattan Associates maintains that while supply chain applications have traditionally been separate solutions provided by different vendors, the future of supply chain technology lies in a more complete approach to the business.
“One of Manhattan Associates’ top priorities, therefore is to provide a range of supply chain solutions that are not only seamlessly integrated with each other but can also be integrated with other enterprise systems so as to provide the maximum value to customers,” he says.
“Fully integrated supply chain software solutions already exist and complement the way ERP systems work by acting as the link between the hard structures of individual ERP system components that most companies rely on for their backbone IT infrastructure.”
By way of example, Baum points to the company’s Warehouse Management 2007 solution which recently achieved ‘Powered by SAP NetWeaver®’’ status.
“This certification highlights our commitment to providing a full suite of supply chain solutions that are integrated not just with each other but with our customers’ enterprise systems as well,” he explains.
“Customers using SAP solutions can now integrate distribution business processes seamlessly, with less risk, within their corporate landscape, while also significantly lowering implementation and ongoing maintenance costs.”
Having fully integrated systems is just one part of the equation, however. According to Jeff Baum, the other key element is to keep each solution evolving to help users maintain their competitive advantage.
To this end, Manhattan Associates works closely with customers, and industry experts, through product councils and co-development programs to generate new and innovative ways to apply technology.
“Manhattan Associates’ Science Advisory Board is dedicated to evolving the science of optimisation within our solutions,” says Baum.
“The board is comprised of academic and industry experts as well as members of our development team, and they collectively provide scientific guidance for making continuous improvements to our solutions which subsequently help customers leapfrog competitors.”
Baum believes web-based applications, such as software as a service (SAAS) will play a key role in a number of supply chain applications — particularly in areas such as visibility services and the like — but are currently not suited to all aspects of the supply chain.
“Warehouse Management systems for instance are generally too complex for a SAAS offering, requiring greater speed, security and flexibility than SAAS can usually offer,” he says.
According to Baum, Warehouse and Transportation Management Solutions continue to be core to Manhattan’s business in Asia-Pacific, but Extended Enterprise Management, formerly branded Trading Partner Management, is now also hitting its stride, with thousands of trading partners being connected through the supplier enablement programs of retailers and wholesalers.
“Optimisation programs specifically within the warehouse are also a key focus,” Baum says, “as businesses invest in stand-alone applications like Labour Management, Slotting Optimisation and Performance Management to go beyond basic execution capabilities of their existing warehouse management solution to create fully optimised fulfilment operations.”
Baum says Manhattan Associates’ Integrated Logistics Solutions, built on Microsoft.NET is also a key focus and growth area.
“Mid tier companies, particularly those with complex supply chain operations – are now finding they need similar systems to the larger players, and with the success of Microsoft Dynamics and other ERP vendors in the small and mid-market space, we are now finding it is our fastest growing segment in the Asia Pacific region.”
Amongst other trends for the coming year, Baum points to better enablement of direct Asian sourcing as a fantastic opportunity for his company as well as the acceleration of one specific complementary technology – voice.
“Voice technologies continue to be key going into 2008,” Baum says.
“As more and more of our customers install voice-directed capabilities in their operations, we are continuing to see huge jumps in productivity in the warehouse.”
“Clearly Manhattan is well placed for the provision of constantly evolving as well as fully integrated supply chain solutions that will continue to help supply chain leaders outpace their competitors through superior supply chain execution and control capabilities,” he says.