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The European magazine promoting the effective use of IT in supply chain applications


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December 2013


Looking to 2014 and beyond As we all prepare for Christmas and New Year, this seems like the ideal time to reflect on some of the key themes that currently resonate within many of the technology sectors we regularly survey in this journal. To this end, we have provided you with a concise roundup of all the special technology reports we have published this year. Critical themes covering everything from ERP and Planning/Forecasting/S&OP, to Warehouse Management and Voice-directed Picking are analysed in depth by many of the leading vendors and service providers in their respective markets. But rather than stop here, we also felt that this was an ideal opportunity to look at a handful of other technology areas that are currently being widely discussed within the manufacturing, logistics and retail space. Gartner has revealed its top predictions for IT organisations and IT users for next year and further into the future. The organisation’s analysts presented their findings during a recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. Its top 10 predictions include: Digital Industrial Revolution: IT is no longer just about the IT function. Instead, it has become the catalyst for the next phase of innovation in personal and competitive business ecosystems. One place where this is evident is in the beginnings of a Digital Industrial Revolution that threatens to reshape how physical goods are created using 3D printing. This is a topic we have covered in some depth within this journal recently, courtesy of Zebra Technologies Europe. And we are confident that this theme will remain one of the main ‘ones to watch’ during 2014. Smart Machines: The emergence of smart machines adds opportunity and fear as ‘cognizant and cognitive systems’ and can enhance processes and decision making, but could also remove the need for humans in the process and decision effort. Gartner comments that CIOs will see this as a means of delivering greater efficiency, but will have to balance between the active human workforce and the cold efficiency of machines that can learn. Internet of Things: The Internet of Things cements the connection between machines, people and business interactions in the modern era. With the advent of massively connected devices, businesses, governments and people now have access to more information about themselves and their surroundings than they can actually act on. Gartner's prediction focuses on the opportunity to build applications and services that can use that information to create new engagement models for customers, employees and partners, and to foster a new set of business and marketing models that make the word ‘engagement’ a truly valuable asset.

Ed Holden

Wearable computing, or wearables, is quickly moving into mainstream society, led by the growing, multibillion dollar health & fitness markets. Within five years, Gartner believes consumer wearables will become more sophisticated, capturing what the user sees, hears or even feels through biorhythmic responses. The technical hurdles that have stalled the adoption of wearables (battery life, augmented reality, chip evolution and bandwidth) are quickly eroding; opening doors to creative minds determined to exploit this technology for commercial gain as evidenced by sizable investments in wearable technology from Samsung, Google, Apple and Microsoft.

Editor It would be interesting to reflect just how accurate many of these predictions have fared by looking back at them in a few years hence. As Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and analyst at Gartner, recently commented: "As the structure of businesses and industries change, the IT systems that support them will change and so will the skills, processes and controls needed to keep them functioning.” So, it is important that manufacturing and logistics professionals keep up to speed with how evolving technologies can potentially provide them with that all-important competitive edge – and we trust Manufacturing & Logistics IT will continue to play a valuable part in this regard. But returning to the immediate present for a moment, the whole journal team would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.



December 2013



IT December 2013



CONTENTS Manufacturing and Logistics IT December 2013 The European magazine promoting the effective use of IT in supply chain applications

ERP technology report 6

Editor: Ed Holden

Extended reach

Manufacturing 12

Contributors: David Taylor, Zebra Technologies Europe

Pirana Maintenance Management Software – low cost, quick start, easy to use President Engineering Group delivers on time and in full with Exel

Publisher: Dean Taylor

Planning Designer: Ian Curtis, First Sight Graphics


Sumida finds the right planning & scheduling component in Preactor Demand Solutions: Catering to long lead times

Production: Carolyn Pither

Logility: CooperVision clearly sees visibility improvements

Circulation: Carole Chiesa

24 Planning/Forecasting/S&OP technology report IT Manager: Peter West

Total visibility

Accounts: Sarah Schofield

Printing & Labelling Published by: B2B Publishing Ltd Latimer House 189 High Street, Potters Bar, Herts EN6 5DA, UK Tel: +44 (0) 1707 664200 Fax: +44 (0) 1707 664800 Email (publishing): info@logisticsit.com Email (editorial): editor@ibcpub.com


Automatic Data Capture 32

Printed by: The Magazine Printing Company plc, www.magprint.co.uk



Whatʼs in store?

Voice-directed Picking technology report 44



Vanderlande Industries introduces next step in Warehouse Automation at LogiMAT 2014

Warehouse Management technology report



Honeywell: Mobile solutions keep production and logistics rolling at Bridgestone

Warehouse Management 34

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publishers. No liability is accepted for any action arising from the contents of this publication; readers are advised to check any manufacturerʼs or supplierʼs claim for products. The publishers do not endorse opinions expressed in any article by an outside contributor. While every care is taken over photographs and illustrations, which are returned when requested, no liability can be assumed by the publishers for the loss of such materials.

Zebra Technologies Europe: UDI on the right track

December 2013

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Business as usual, only smarter. EXEL

Special technology report


Extended reach Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke to a number of experts from the vendor community about recent shifts within the world of ERP – including those related to Mobility and the Cloud. We also consider what the main spurs for these developments have been, and what further ERP innovation could be headed our way in the near future. ince our last Special Technology Report on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in March 2011 things have moved apace in terms of scope of functionality, increased adaptability and ease of deployment. But they are also joining the Mobility party – making it even easier to access the information needed quickly in the field or on the shopfloor on mobile devices – whether they be tablet PCs, laptops or even smartphones. And the influence of the Cloud is also beginning to gain traction in the ERP space, having gained much ground in related IT areas – including Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – in the recent past. Then the question needs to be asked: what has been the impact of Big Data and social networking on the ERP world? All these issues and more are surveyed in this report. So, to begin, let’s take a high-end view of some of the key current talking points.


Jonathan Orme, sales operations & marketing manager at Exel Computer Systems, comments that there is a trend for extending ERP out into every area within the enterprise and then out into the extended enterprise; especially the increasingly mobile workforce. “For example, you can now have your engineers and your sales team directly accessing the business system from smartphones and tablets, and you can have this all from a single supplier, rather than having to join systems together,” he said. Orme adds that the benefits to the end user are the ability to do business as and where they





December 2013

are, and in a much quicker time frame – often in real time. “If the mobile sales/service engineer has access to all the live business data when with the customer, business decisions can be taken there and then in full confidence,” he commented. “In the same way, by being able to push live data out to the mobile sales/service engineering workforce, they can have access to the latest customer information which helps deliver the most tailored levels of service.” Kevin Bull, product strategy director at Columbus, believes most managers would agree that the value of Business Intelligence (BI) is difficult to underestimate. However, he adds that BI tools have traditionally been complicated to deploy, requiring an in-depth understanding of the structure of the underlying data and therefore requiring costly consultancy services. Bull explains that Microsoft has a different approach to Business Intelligence. “In Dynamics AX all users (subject to security restrictions) are provided with access to a complete suite of pre-defined measures and indicators with coverage across all aspects of the system. Users are able to create securityenhanced reports using drag-and-drop report authoring, and display key performance indicators (KPIs) directly in a management dashboard style view (called Role Centres).” Steve Tattum, product manager, Sage ERP X3, points to the need to accelerate productivity through Business Intelligence/Analytics, and the need to deliver outcomes for customers; not just a ‘toolbox’. He elaborates: “When CRM was

first mooted it was really a toolbox that you could do all sorts of things with, but you often had to become an expert in these sets of tools. You had to understand how your data was actually held in the system and then try to translate that into usable information. One of the big trends we’re seeing at the moment is that companies don’t want to invest in toolboxes and go on courses to learn how to use these tools; what they actually want is outcomes. So they’re looking for pre-packaged Analytics, dashboards etc. and enough flexibility in the tools to be able to adapt them easily for their own requirement. Therefore, the end game is all about focusing on the benefits to the end-user.” Phil Lewis, business consulting director at Infor, observes that many current approaches to innovation are focused on enhancing ERP core solutions with tools to improve efficiency and decision making for end-users. “Social Enterprise, Mobility and Contextual Analytics are amongst today’s key technologies, which are changing the way work gets done in today’s enterprises,” he said. Lewis adds that Social Enterprise takes the mechanisms seen in the world of consumer IT and brings it into the workplace. “Some vendors are just delivering a messaging engine within the realms of their ERP,” he points out. “Other vendors, such as Infor, are delivering true social business which is in-context to the people, applications, machines, data and documents used in all enterprises. This approach brings context to every social post, and users can use the context to drill back to the important detail.”



According to Lewis, Mobility is now at the forefront of enterprise technologies. With today’s advancements in Cloud and connectivity, he believes there is an opportunity to Jonathan Orme, sales operations & develop applications marketing manager, for mobile devices which extend the workspace of the user. “Enterprise users should be able to participate in business processes and gain access to the information they need, whether they are in the office or on the road, and irrespective of the device they choose to use; desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone,” said Lewis. He also believes that Analytics and Business Intelligence are moving into a new era, where these top-end reporting technologies provide value to all members of the enterprise, not just managers, key decision makers, strategists etc. Melissa Cook, senior director & global manufacturing industries lead for Microsoft Dynamics, considers that one of the key talking points at the moment is usability. “ERP systems by their nature tend to impact upon most people in your business,” she said. “Having a straightforward, easy to use application is critical and can save businesses a lot of money in training and retraining staff. ERP systems also need to be a lot more agile and capable of keeping pace with the needs of a business as it changes and evolves.” Cook added that another key talking point is to do with making an ERP system as engaging as possible. “One point here is about making more interesting user information; I’m talking about graphical displays not just data displays that we’re used to in standard ERP systems. It is also important to make the information useful in context of the users and their individual roles; so they don’t have to go looking for the information that they need – rather, the system should actually surface the information that they need in the context of who they are and what they’re trying to do at any one moment.”

Other trends As regards other trends and changes in the


Special technology report

world of ERP, Orme explains that Service Management has become a central area of interest for Exel, as manufacturers look to take Product Lifecycle Management seriously. “Service and repair costs are increasingly taken into account by customers, so manufacturers need to be able to demonstrate a commitment to this as well as accurately control costs and ensure timely delivery,” he said. Bull reflects that the burden of compliance on manufacturing business is growing daily. “Adherence to business practices is coming under increased scrutiny and audit, while at the same time new environmental directives are becoming prevalent; including REACH, WEEE and RoHS,” he said. “Customers too are becoming increasingly demanding, requiring evidence of adherence to best environmental practices; including adherence with ISO 14001.” Bull explained that Compliance Management in Microsoft Dynamics AX helps simplify compliance with one central location for viewing, managing, and controlling business process content, internal controls, and reporting. “The Compliance Centre provides easy access to all compliance-related information and activities, and helps keep business information secure with a comprehensive set of tools to manage and control sensitive data and critical KPIs,” he said. “The user can view graphs representing the efficiency and effectiveness of internal controls, manage action items from alerts or workflow, and add links to important external compliance sites.” Tattum considers that, in terms of Enterprise Asset Management, it’s not just about physical assets existing in the financial ledgers and managing their value depreciation; somebody needs to service, upgrade and maintain them. He adds that in some territories there are different rules about depreciation methods according to the value and type of asset. “So actually it’s no longer just an asset register and journal for depreciation; it can be quite complex,” he said. Tattum also focused on the ‘green’ agenda, making the point that this is not just important from an environmental responsibility perspective, but also something that makes commercial sense insofar as it can save energy costs and reduce paper usage for businesses. Lewis reflects that there seems to be a change of direction occurring among enterprises

towards the selection of industry-specific applications, as opposed to generic ‘one size fits all’ monolithic solutions. Infor, for example, is delivering industry-specific, loosely coupled application suites, made up of an industryspecific ERP core application surrounded with best-in-class applications, which customers can select as required. Cook comments that, given the current economic climate, businesses are required to be more accountable than ever before. “Unsurprisingly then, compliance and auditability have leaped to the top of the business agenda,” she said. “Businesses need to make sure they are as transparent as possible and that everything they do is compliant with industry specific regulations. Improvements in Business Intelligence have helped in this regard, giving organisations a helicopter view of everything that is happening across their organisation.”

Integration development Have ways of best integrating ERP with other systems developed to any notable degree in the recent past? In Tattum’s view the importance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as a key means of delivering exceptional customer experience cannot be underestimated. He therefore believes that having this fully integrated into the back-office ERP system is a winning formula. But it’s not just about the Sales and Marketing experience, in his view. “Perhaps even more important is the after sales and service element as this drives customer satisfaction, recommendations and repeat and new business,” he said. Tattum adds that Field Service, WMS, SCM etc. continue to be treated as ‘Best of Breed’ solutions by customers and suppliers alike (existing systems in many cases), but the increasing prevalence of webbased and web-enabled solutions has eased the integration challenge through the use of Web Services. Cook maintains that integration is key and was one of the focus areas Microsoft had when developing its latest version of Dynamics ERP. “A good ERP system should integrate seamlessly with your existing technology and allow users to make the most of their existing assets,” she said. “We have also been able to extend Dynamics ERP’s core capabilities through deep integration with Office and other



December 2013



Special technology report

Microsoft applications. Customers can easily take action, whether that’s by sending an email through Outlook or exporting data into Excel. They can more easily collaborate with colleagues through integrated Sharepoint and Lync capabilities and use Business Intelligence to make sense of the data.” Orme comments that Open architecture ERP by definition offers a higher level of integration than older systems reliant on cumbersome middleware were capable of. “It remains our view however, that where you have different systems from different vendors, there is always the considerable potential for ‘buck passing’ when things go wrong,” he said. “And while vendor A is blaming vendor B or vice versa, the customer is left with a problem that is not being addressed. As Exel supplies a fully integrated system, if there’s ever a problem anywhere, our customers know who to come to in order to get it resolved. Our job is easier because we’re not having to try and liaise with third-party companies who may or may not be as keen to resolve the situation.” Lewis observes that the structure of the Internet is now forming a template for how integrated applications should be delivered. “Standardsbased, loosely-coupled and asynchronous integration should become the de facto approach, and offers far more agility and flexibility when compared to the traditional point-to-point approaches of the past,” he said. Lewis adds that Infor’s integration platform, Infor ION, takes a unique approach to business software integration that includes enough breadth and flexibility to support integration services, Cloud services, mobile services, and advanced reporting services within a single framework. “Rather than trying to ‘bolt’ multiple applications together with clumsy point-to-point database integrations, Infor ION Connect enables each application to transmit and receive small OAGIS formatted XML documents, called Business Object Documents (BODs), into the ION Connect framework,” explained Lewis. Bull has witnessed that, with the proliferation of tablet and smartphone devices, we live in an ‘app-centric’ world where we have got used to being able to use any gadget to gain access to things such as e-mail and social media. “And it’s the same with ERP,” he said. “Employees expect to be able to simply download an app and go look their sales figures, see where their





December 2013


next site visit is, report a service fault, and so on.” Bull adds that the younger generation are very app centric and expect to be able to download apps for just about anything. He believes this expectation is increasingly coming to the fore in the workplace as well; not just in terms of Microsoft products but also third-party products where a developer has sought the opportunity to connect to AX and made an approved app available for download from the online store.

Going mobile And returning to the Mobility theme in more depth, has the increased trend for the integration of mobile/field service devices with back-office ERP systems provided improved business and operational benefits for the end user? In addition to his earlier comments concerning Open architecture and the way it offers a higher level of integration than older systems reliant on middleware, etc., Orme adds that vendors such as Exel who are at the forefront of mobile ERP cover the entirety of mobile workforce needs; from CRM, Call Management & Scheduling, Transport/Route Planning, Stocks/Spares Management etc. “Again, it’s this completeness of service which manufacturers are increasingly wanting,” he said. For Bull, the primary benefits from deploying ERP-connected mobile devices are reduced costs through better use of employees, increased revenue through live up-sell and cross-sell activities and improved cash flow by allowing invoices to be generated sooner. Something that is a little harder to evaluate, in Bull’s view, is the increase in customer service levels. In Cook’s view, the key is allowing users to use whichever device they feel most comfortable using at any given time. She adds that the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) means this may not be a business-owned field device, but rather the individual’s privately owned tablet or smartphone. “Dynamics ERP provides users with a platform for a range of different devices and access to the information they need in whatever way suits them,” she said. Cook also observes that the manufacturing industry is starting to look closely at Mobility. “Of course, manufacturing’s been looking at mobility in a lot of places – sales force automation, especially the front-end retail etc. – but where they have

made more recent strides is in mobility on the shop floor. Microsoft’s vision as a device and services company is to take our stack and our DNA about personal and office productivity and bring Melissa Cook, senior director & global it to the manufacturing manufacturing industries lead, worker. I’m very excited about what the opportunities are here. It’s going to include devices and it’s going to include functionality tied to the role of people that are actually working in manufacturing, not sitting in an office.” Lewis again stresses that Mobility is changing the way that people work and utilise information in the field. “The consumer world is influencing people’s expectations of how, when and where to access information, and indeed, the richness of the information available,” he said. Lewis also makes the point that field service employees have had the luxury of mobile access for some time now, although the information they have had access to has been somewhat limited; just enough to process the required transaction. “Today’s approach to Mobility is aiming for information without boundaries,” he remarked. “The ability to work from a mobile device – be it a laptop, tablet or even smartphone – should not be compromised. The innovation surrounding Mobility is set to continue, especially when more user interfaces convert to HTML5. This will provide the required coding platform for transportable, device independent user interfaces, which will run across devices. Couple this with advancements in Cloud technologies and the robustness of fibre networks, and the future looks bright, the future looks mobile.” For Tattum, the key benefits of Mobility are efficiency, speed of response, holistic 360 degree views and information at the user’s fingertips. “The ideal is ‘one conjoined system’ eliminating duplication and providing ‘one truth’,” he said, adding: “Information has to be fully integrated across the entire piece. The majority of business mobile users are in sales & marketing, and they want to have real-time access to current information from the backoffice system concerning estimates, product



availability and pricing when they’re in front of the customer.”

The SaaS/Cloud effect Has the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, and the Cloud concept in general, had any notable level of impact on the ERP market so far? In Orme’s experience, there is a lot of talk among vendors with a vested interest in this, and while Exel software can be operated in a hosted/Cloud environment – and it has some customers doing this currently – most are still wanting to operate using the on-premises model. Cook reflects that it has improved the level of choice that Microsoft Dynamics can offer customers. “It has allowed us to extend the application beyond its core functionality and build in elements to meet individual business requirements,” she said. “But we can also offer customers more flexibility over how the solution is hosted dependent on their requirements.” Cook’s view is that it is all about offering customers choice. “Cloud computing is an exciting area, but it won’t be right for everyone, at least not in the short term,” she said. “We want to offer customers the best of all worlds and provide them with a solution that suits their business requirements.” Lewis maintains that the journey towards the Cloud is well under way, with software vendors enabling applications for the Cloud “at a considerable rate of knots”. However, he adds that the customer community is not as focused on the shift to the Cloud. “Cloud enablement is now a common requirement on many user requirement documents, but often only out of interest,” he said. “The current trend seems to be that if it’s a peripheral application or service – such as CRM or Expense Management – then that’s OK; a bit like dipping a toe in the ocean. But, deploying core ERP solutions in the Cloud is still met with an element of caution. This caution will turn to confidence in time as the Cloud becomes a key technology, which is taken for granted.” Lewis points out that many Infor customers use the SaaS model as a proof of concept vehicle, where they can run their business processes in a Cloud deployment before bringing the complete live environment inhouse, on-premise. “This just goes to show the huge levels of choice and flexibility customers now have. They can decide how and where to deploy software, in line with corporate requirements and direction.”


Special technology report

Bull’s perception is that Cloud storage, although it is increasingly penetrating home and personal lives, has yet to gain significant tractions in the world of business systems. However, he believes it is on the verge of becoming something much bigger. “In the near-future it will be important that ERP systems are capable of being deployed completely Cloud-hosted and as hybrid model – where some elements may be hosted for costeffectiveness and other elements retained for perceived security,” he said. Tattum has witnessed a slow Cloud adoption within the world of ERP systems so far, although he points out that Sage is definitely seeing prospects interested in this deployment model, and observes that businesses have become much better informed over the past 12 to 18 months. He considers that most of the benefits customers seek are delivered in hosted or hybrid solutions with SaaS. Tattum also makes the point that come companies see Cloud as an opportunity to cut back or discard their IT staff. However, he stresses that very few customers, particularly ERP (non-service) businesses can eliminate the need for their IT support teams who maintain PLCs, complex plant equipment, scanners, printers, barcode printers etc. And in terms of Internet performance, Tattum comments that this is not as global as users might wish, and can it can be expensive to secure high reliability and high bandwidth for all sites. Tattum has also seen a trend for people to say ‘why do we have to become experts in running, upgrading and patching your software – can’t you do it all for us?’ There are other changing user expectations too, in his view: “We now have a new generation of users that are totally computer literate due to their experience with consumer games and mobile devices, so they may not expect to be tied to a desk using an oldfashioned desktop necessarily,” he said, Tattum also pointed out that things such as packaged information BI/Analytics reporting tailored to a role with the access control is already in place, which helps deliver a fast user adoption experience easier.

Upgrade or replace? Is there still a case for updating/upgrading legacy ERP, or is it better to ‘rip and replace’? This depends on the nature of the ERP, believes Orme. “We have many happy customers who have been using EFACS for 10 to 20 years and

they of course periodically need to update their system,” he said. “Even when those customers look at it as a system selection exercise as opposed to an upgrade, we find many times they Kevin Bull, product choose to stay with strategy director, EFACS and upgrade because they value the relationship with us as a supplier because it’s tried and tested.” However, adds Orme, with some legacy ERP systems, not only are you looking at a huge lack in functionality, you are also looking at data that has cumulative accuracy issues and invariably a whole host of workarounds. “And at the end of the day, many SMEs don’t have dedicated IT departments to oversee this process and many SMEs cannot afford any level of disruption to their day to day running of the business,” he said. “In such cases, it is often less disruptive to rip and replace. It’s the same where companies also have other aging legacy systems that also need replacing – here it can be much more effective to do the implementation in one hit, albeit a well-managed hit.” Continuing the upgrade or replace theme, Cook considers that it depends on the individual situation. “In some instances it is better to ‘rip and replace’ but often this carries with it greater risk; especially in cases where the legacy system is more than 15 to 20 years old,” she said. “Businesses change year-onyear, so it is wise to be constantly assessing your technology requirements to make sure they are aligned to your business needs, and updating your systems accordingly. In most cases this will be easier than looking to ‘rip and replace’ every 5 to 10 years.” Bull’s view is that the decision to upgrade should be primarily focus on the business benefit that can be delivered. “The business benefit might be increased functionality or it may be more of a technical nature – the ability to integrate to other systems, the ability to be deployed on mobile devices, the ability to deliver better business intelligence and so on,” he commented. Tattum believes the upgrade or replace question revolves around three key factors:



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Special technology report

Is the existing system (including updates) supportable (both by the customer and supplier)?

Does it meet current needs and is it flexible/extendable for future needs?

What additional benefits will a new system bring versus the time, cost and pain to implement it?

Lewis considers that rip-and-replace approach should not be the ‘top of the list’ strategy for companies, although he recognises that it is sometimes the only viable option, due to modified and bespoke ERP solutions that could be restricting the business. “This must be the worst-case scenario,” he says, “and if considered, lessons must be learnt so as not to end up in the same situation with a new product. An industry-specific approach removes the modification risk, as the product is designed to do the job as standard. This is not something that a generic solution can ever provide.” Lewis added that vendors need to do more to help customers upgrade and migrate to later versions of product. He maintains that there are 2 key areas where things can be improved; putting industryspecific functionality into the product rather than modifying a generic solution, and using modern technology to ease the process of upgrading. Lewis also makes the point that modern technologies focused around the Cloud can play a key role in providing a reduced risk upgrade path from an old version of a product to the latest version. “The Cloud can be used to host sandbox versions of software at the latest version, then use ION as a bridging platform, enabling clients to run sideby-side environments, and move functionality and process from old to new,” he said. “Ultimately, this gives a mechanism to seamlessly migrate to the latest version on a step-by-step Steve Tattum, product basis. The leap from manager, old to new can sometimes seem like a huge jump, 10




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whereas the side-by-side approach promotes a small steps to the new world solution.” Tattum recommends that users rip and replace if 1) the current system is unsupportable or 2) it cannot meet needs, or 3) the benefits outweigh costs.

Big Data How can technology trends such as Big Data help to gain the best out of ERP systems? Lewis believes Big Data will be taken to new heights once properly managed within the Cloud. “The ability to process huge amounts of data in the Cloud, via a resource (CPU and Memory) on demand approach, will lead to new and improved information, analysis and strategic reporting,” he said. Lewis then gave his views on the benefits of the Infor ION Business Vault. “Every message that ION processes from participating applications is also saved in a single, optimised business repository called the Business Vault. By providing a secure reservoir for past transaction data, ION gives you an easy way to mine your data for more flexible, powerful reporting, business intelligence, and analytics.” Lewis added that users will also have:

regard. For example, a business can now choose to connect their sales history details by locality with regionalised weather records.” Tattum believes that while Big Data might not a central consideration in ERP today, the ERP world is already utilising Intelligent Analytics with predefined keyword and ‘rule searches’ to autocreate Statistical Reporting extracts for increased performance related to user queries. “The challenge is real-time or near-real-time information delivery, which is one of the defining characteristics of Big Data Analytics. Latency is therefore avoided whenever and wherever possible.” Cook points out that the rise of Big Data means that users’ ERP systems are no longer the only data silo relevant to their organisation. “Businesses should be making use of the wealth of information that exists externally,” she said. “To make the most of the opportunity you need a platform that can aggregate those different data sets and help you to make sense of the information that is relevant to your organisation.”

Differentiators •

Easier search. When data resides in one place, there’s no need to index your transactional systems.

Better reporting. The Business Vault features a master data reference to ensure that your data is always consistent and relevant across your entire organisation.

Up-to-date data. The Business Vault uses event-driven synchronisation to ensure that data is up-to-date as soon as each transaction occurs in the originating system.

Bull observes that you often have to visit the IT department to find people who have heard of the term Big Data, but nevertheless the concept is widely recognised, even if people haven’t heard the term. He adds that modern Business Intelligence tools, which in some instance are embedded deep in ERP systems, are now capable of making it easy to join business data with external data, such as demographics, climate and market conditions. “This allows the business to not only identify what has happened in the business, but also allows them to identify the reasons why,” he said. “The increasing availability of web sources, or ‘data-marts’, for external data is driving the way forward in this

What are some of the main functionality differentiators among the ERP vendor community? Orme remarks that while vendors may make all manner of claims about their functionality, the reality is that Exel often sees manufacturers who tell us that any number of systems could meet their needs from a functionality perspective. “And in those cases, they look to more long-term relationship issues with the vendor, such as where the vendor is based (UK versus US), whether the vendor is a reseller or author, the size and fit of the vendor and manufacturer,” he said. “And at the end of the day, often with ERP it’s not what it does, but how it does it in relation to everything else. Systems like EFACS have been designed from the outset to be fully integrated whereas some systems have essentially evolved over time with different aspects of functionality tacked on.” Cook comments that, rather than differentiation being an issue of functionality, Microsoft Dynamics thinks it is more about where vendors’ industry focuses are. “We have a strong heritage across a number of varied industry sectors,” she said. “It is important to understand the pressures that are unique to each sector, how businesses in those sectors operate and their approach to



market. Without that level of understanding, you won’t be able to provide them with a solution that fits.” Steve Tattum believes functionality differentiators are relatively few as vendors seek to broaden their offering by development, acquisition and partnering. “The Devil lies in the detail,” he said, “so vendors’ ability to deliver a common business application module across multiple countries and legislations – and to deliver this in a short timescale and to agreed budget – is paramount.” Bull makes the point that most modern ERP systems have rich and extensive levels of functionality that have been developed over time. However, he adds that not all of these systems have the ability to be deployed in a way that is flexible and agile. “Businesses change and adapt to market conditions or they fall by the wayside,” he said. “And having a system that is able to react to change – easily and effectively – means that opportunities can be quickly responded to and business advantage achieved.” Phil Lewis considers that the differentiation debate mainly revolves around monolith software versus loosely coupled suites; generic software versus industry-specific software; one-size-fits-all versus dedicated applications for a particular industry sector; and ‘jet planes versus cheese production. Like some of our other commentators, he also references the influence of the consumer world and the impact of Social Business, which is rewiring the way people create, consume and share information.

Possible future trends What might be the next key developments to look out for over the next year or two? Bull believes fully Cloud-hosted solutions are on their way, with the ERP authors able to host the systems on the Internet for a business, or to have the system hosted by hosting partners or to operate in a hybrid manner with a mix of elements being managed in different ways. He also believes integration and cooperation with social media services such as Facebook and Twitter will make their way into the new releases of the most visionary ERP systems. “A simple example of social media integration might include allowing sales campaigns and promotions to be communicated to prospective


Special technology report

customers, offering discount vouchers and processes to redeem them,” he said. “A more complex example might be the identification of negative product coverage and reacting to this with managed communications.” In addition, Bull points to the extended availability of ERP apps for a wide variety of device platforms as another trend to watch, as is also the case with increasing power and complexity in Business Intelligence tools – not only in the trending of historic data but also in the delivery of predictive information that is based on a wide variety of factors both internal and external to the business. Lewis’s view is that most innovations will continue to be based on today’s key technologies – Social, Mobile and Cloud. He also references Big-Data as something that will continue to get attention, especially the ability to ‘number crunch’ far more raw data than ever before, due to the on-demand resources capability of the Cloud. “This will provide organisations with far more meaningful analytical results based on massive amounts of raw data, something that was unachievable in the past,” he said. Lewis also anticipates that user expectations will continue to shape the way enterprise application vendors deliver functionality and experiences. He adds that the consumer world will continue to set the way for how people use software. Orme considers that in the near future there will be the continuing evolution and innovation in the type of devices that people will use to access data in their ERP system. “Whether it’s more sophisticated tablets and smartphones, to more intuitive touchscreens on the production floor, getting accurate data into and out of the system will become simpler and more important in maintaining competitive advantage,” he said. “This will facilitate the ongoing streamlining of existing business processes to enable manufacturers to remain leaner, more agile and more responsive to customer need.” Cook explains that Microsoft Dynamics is very focused on usability and is in the process of developing a new user interface. She adds that Microsoft Dynamics is also looking at how better to deploy its services through the Cloud. “Everything we do will build on our experience of working with all types of businesses across a broad range of sectors, to ensure that we can provide a solution that is tailored to suit the

needs of individual businesses,” she said. Cook added that ERPs are in transition. We believe we are leading the way with Dynamics because it’s a much more modern architecture,” she said, Phil Lewis, business consulting director, adding that the market transition is about moving ERP away from the monolithic, slow, expensive, and inflexible representation and into a representation that is about enablement and innovation for manufacturers. “And to enable innovation it has to be able to surface the most relevant information up to all the workers within manufacturing,” said Cook. “In this way, everyone can be engaged in improving processes and product.” Tattum reflects we are now in the third generation of ERP. He elaborates: “All vendors did a good job and automated nearly all transactional processes. People spend their time in managing exceptions and pursuing opportunities using tools other than their ERP system. The new generation of ‘digital native’ users has joined businesses. Their world is Web 2.0 tools, user communities, social networks, mobile working, dashboards etc. ERP systems must become more user-centric and relevant to all types of users in the enterprise, rather than continuing to focus on the traditional enterprise users.” He adds that a modern business solution taking full advantage of the three Cs of Cloud, Collaboration techniques and Communities can help business reach the fourth C of ultimate Connectivity. As a final word of advice, Orme suggests that users to see any ERP investment as a business decision first and an IT decision second. “You’ve got to think it through in terms of how it will affect every element of the company and then you need to involve every element of the company,” he said, concluding: “Make sure you’re 100 per cent convinced before you commit. If you’ve any doubts, talk them through with your prospective vendor. If you’re not entirely put at ease, walk away. The relationship is key, so why start with anything other than complete assurance you’re dealing with the right people?” 



December 2013



\\\ Manufacturing \\\

Product news

Pirana Maintenance Management Software – low cost, quick start, easy to use Shire Systems has launched a new version of its Pirana Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS), designed for use by any size of organisation and available as a hosted service as well as an on-premise setup. hire reports that those with a

Whether installed on your own server (on-

NEC in 2014. The Shire team offers live

mobile workforce will find the

premise), or the stress-free fully hosted

demonstrations and help with CMMS queries

advantages of this new offering

option, Pirana has a setup option for

In general.

impressive. Users are able to get

everyone. Shire also offers a wide range of

started straightaway and the on-

proven service and support packages.


Free trial system

going time saving is impressive. Pirana now features an even more user-friendly interface. Users are able to get started straightaway, with on-going time savings to be had from the outset.

Highly compatible Compatible with major browsers including the latest Chrome, Pirana can be presented in different languages and terminology and offers a broad choice of security setup including a read-only profile. There is now a Quick Work Order Signoff and the popular Dashboard and KPI Scoreboard are proving

Shire also offers a free, no-obligation, fully

Pirana is highly affordable and is being adopted by many major players in the food, manufacturing and services arena. Sold in modules, including the popular Mobile Solutions, Pirana can substantially improve work order, stock, & purchasing operations. The system can also be configured to users’ terminology/language and security requirements.”

to be essential control tools. Powerful search & filter utilities have been added and reports can easily be exported to Excel.

Thousands of companies rely on a Shire solution and the company’s reliable service

Pirana is also highly affordable and is being

and support; a result of a 30-year track record

adopted by many major players in the food,

as one of the top companies in the

manufacturing and services arena. Sold in

maintenance management solutions space.

modules, including the popular Mobile Solutions, Pirana can substantially improve work order, stock, & purchasing operations.


The system can also be configured to users’

Shire operates a full year’s schedule of free

terminology/language and security

roadshows and will be exhibiting at Maintec


and Plant & Asset Management, both at the





December 2013

functional trial system. For more information about Pirana and other solutions and service offerings from Shire, call: +44 (0)23 8022 4111, contact: sales@shiresystems.com or visit: www.shiresystems.com 

Other solutions available FrontLine CMMS Suite Shire’s FrontLine Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is a suite of easily linkable modules. The integrated suite provides a fully-featured maintenance, asset and service management solution. Some modules can be operated as independent, standalone systems.

Safety 1st Test and Inspect Be legally compliant and safe with the aid of Shire's award-winning Safety 1st software. It offers a complete solution for PAT (Portable electrical Appliance Testing) and the control of other periodic inspections and safety checks on any type of equipment.


Product News

\\\ Manufacturing \\\

Shire has designed and delivered low cost, best value maintenance and asset management software solutions since 1982. The price-performance of our software is legendary. Over 10 000 organisations worldwide now rely on Shire software. Shire supports higher productivity in the workplace by developing a range of mobile computer applications for deployment on low cost handheld PDAs. Mobile asset maintenance and materials management enables paperless systems, tighter control and lean management of operations. In addition, barcode and RFID labelling of entities eliminates data entry errors. Shire’s products use Microsoft .Net technology. Shire’s new CMMS (Pirana) can serve both small and large enterprises – it is universally applicable and scalable and can be configured in different languages and time-zones. In 2002, Shire was among the very first organisations to receive accreditation in terms of the updated, process-based standard BS EN ISO 9001:2000. Shire achieved Microsoft Partnership status in 2005 and became a Microsoft Gold Partner in 2007.


Corporate Profile

Shire Systems Solutions offered Computerised Maintenance Management Software (CMMS). PAT Testing Software. Industrial markets served Facilities. FM & Contracting. Manufacturing. Automotive. Food & Drink. Oil & Gas. Power. Renewables. Paper. Printing. Pharmaceuticals. Chemicals.

Water. Ports. Government. Construction. Transport & Logistics. Marine. Electrical Safety. Education. Sport & Leisure. Hotels. Retail.

Countries served Worldwide.

Website: www.shiresystems.com



December 2013



\\\ Manufacturing \\\

Success story

President Engineering Group delivers on time and in full with Exel resident Engineering Group Ltd.


(PEGL) was formed in October 2010 from a management buyout of Conflow and Bestobell from Flow Group. The £20 million

turnover business with a 100+ year pedigree was further enhanced by the recent acquisition of Bretby Gammatech Ltd., a specialist provider of coal monitoring products. Across the group, PEGL manufactures 7000 top line items on a 100 per cent Make to Order (MTO) basis, supplying over 200 customers across 30 countries. Order sizes range from one-off items through to batches measured in their tens of units. At any one time PEGL has approximately 1200 live orders with around 900 of these passing through its machining and assembly areas each month. In other

machining area comprising 12 CNC units

permutations of different routes, considerable

words, as financial director Marie Cooper

irrespective of which company or customer

setup times and the fact that different

succinctly states, “there’s always a lot going

they relate to, before being separated out into

processes require different levels of skilled

on which puts pressure on our capacity,

distinct assembly areas, one for each

operatives.” A further consideration is the

visibility and ability to meet our stringent ‘on

business. Cooper explains why this

group’s successful project-oriented business

time and in full’ (OTIF) targets.”

represents such a challenge to PEGL.

which can potentially tie up a machine

“Despite running a seven-day shift, we have a

resource for long periods of time.

The first challenge PEGL faces is the scale of

fixed manufacturing capacity with our

production and the variety of products the

machines and the challenge is not just

group manufactures across its different

optimising this, but achieving a smoothness of

businesses. These all pass through the

flow. This is complicated by the number of

Biggest challenge PEGL had been using EFACS 8.2 since 1996 to handle every aspect of the business and as Cooper reflects, “it did everything we needed it to”. The biggest challenge came in 2005 when PEGL had to integrate the Bestobell and Conflow businesses because not only were there very different products involved, there were major differences in methodologies, processes and attitudes as to how things should be done within the system. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the original EFACS expertise had left the company which left everyone developing their own workarounds and created a general distrust of the system. Boardroom level reluctance to invest in replacing or re-implementing EFACS led to the company continuing to make the best of what it had for the next 5 years. This changed following a successful MBO in





December 2013


Success story

\\\ Manufacturing \\\

October 2010 which gave the newly formed

others helped move people

PEGL the freedom to address the issues,

away from an individual job

EFACS E/8 which makes it

and within a month Cooper had invited Exel

focus to a much more

impossible for any stage to be

in to discuss the new group’s requirements.

company oriented focus and a greater sense of teamwork.”

and Workflow functionality within

overlooked or for anything other than the correct documentation to be available. This even extends to the shopfloor where

They both identified that PEGL would benefit from upgrading to the latest version, EFACS E/8, which was implemented in partnership

Immediate improved communication

operatives can instantly access the required drawings etc. via Wi-Fi enabled terminals. Helping to keep live data

with Exel as well as a third-party project manager. The key considerations of the

When PEGL did go live in mid-September

completely up to date is the new EFACS E/8

implementation were that it (1) could not

2012, it was a success from the outset

Audit module which is used to provide

impact the day to day running of the

with the increased visibility leading to

traceability about key strategic transactions

business; (2) had to have the ongoing buy-in

immediate improved communication

across all the relevant business processes.

and input from all users of the system and (3)

between commercial and production.

had to reflect the business processes across

Decisions that previously could be

the entire group.

delayed for days could now be

the investment will continue to

While still early days, Cooper is convinced

taken right there and then, while

bring benefits long into the future.

Working this way allowed PEGL to benefit

in her own department, Cooper

“EFACS E/8 is inherently

even before the system went live as Cooper

could now drill down into

explains. “Because people had been exposed

financial data much quicker

to what was possible with the new system,

and easier. Quality Control,

willingness to help us develop

EFACS was now being seen as an enabler for

previously reliant on manual

and get the very best out of the

people to do their job better. She continues,

processes, now benefitted

“Seeing how individual decisions impacted on

from the Document Management

Exel Computer Systems

adaptable and Exel as a supplier has consistently shown a


management solution providing real-time information and resources to field based engineers delivered directly to their mobile or touchscreen device, as well as high levels of

developing, implementing and supporting business software

control and visibility to management. Eagle Field Service

solutions since 1985. With hundreds of successful

provides a fully integrated range of modules from a single

implementations and thousands of users around the world,

software author

Exel’s customer base spans industries as diverse as food, aerospace, engineering, nuclear, automotive, electronics and

Exel’s Eagle Facilities Management system is a complete


CMMS /CAFM system offering a comprehensive, fully integrated range of modules from a single software author.

Exel’s experience and extensive industry knowledge ensures the

Eagle Facilities Management is a complete mobile

company is best placed to assist its customers to achieve

management solution providing real-time information and

competitive advantage through the employment of a state-of-the-

resources to field based engineers delivered directly to their

art business solution. In a constantly changing business

mobile or touchscreen device, as well as high levels of

environment Exel is a provider that you can trust, and with

control and visibility to management.

continual product investment, a company that will be around in the future.

Industrial markets served Exel’s market sectors include discrete manufacturing, general

Solutions offered

engineering, sub-contract engineering, nuclear, aerospace,

Exel’s EFACS E/8 business solution is a highly flexible,

automotive, electronics, plastics, packaging, food,

browser-based, platform independent ERP suite built using

pharmaceutical and companies with a field service/facilities

the latest internet technology. Exel’s solution incorporates a

management requirement.

broad range of business functions including Product Management, Change Control, Manufacturing, Field Service,

Countries served

Finance, Business Intelligence, Reporting Tools, Mobile and

Exel services the UK market and has a network of resellers

Touchscreen Applications, Document Management, CRM,

across the globe.

Corporate Profile

Exel Computer Systems plc, a UK software author, has been

Workflow and many more. Exel’s Eagle Field Service system is a complete mobile


Website: www.exel.co.uk



December 2013




lanning Success story

Sumida finds the

right planning & scheduling component in Preactor umida AG is a leading company


in the electronic sector. It develops, manufactures and sells inductive components, modules, assemblies and complete

systems. With development, production and sales locations in China, Germany, France, the UK, Eastern Europe, Mexico and the USA, Sumida AG is a globally competitive provider for all services relating to electronic production. Sumida focuses on three different markets: automotive, industrial and consumer electronics. From individual problem definitions to standardisation – many trendsetting inventions came from Sumida AG, such as today’s customary high-voltage igniters for Xenon headlights in automobiles.

Preactor has helped Sumida to improve its on-time delivery rate and productivity significantly.

automatic prioritisation of production orders – the

the capacity, an automatic adjustment of the

At the Sumida site in Lehesten, between 150

planning department was often overstrained to

lot size - based on the availability of staff and

and 200 employees are working in the

set up a correct schedule, causing delays of

equipment – was implemented. This complex

production department. The site’s main

important production orders.

set of rules improved the overall equipment

business is the production of small- to medium-

efficiency of the site.

numbered batches of special electronic parts for

There was no feedback from the PDA

automotive, industrial and consumer use. The

(production-data acquisition), which led to

To communicate the schedule to the shop-floor,

factory is confronted with production orders of

incorrect scheduling orders in Preactor since

an automatic report and print-job was created.

long-term contracts as well as production orders

it didn’t know which orders already started. A

On a daily basis all machines and equipment

which arrive on short notice. Lack of visibility,

project was set up to find innovative solutions

are listed – separated by early, late-shift and

high manual effort in planning and an only very

to solve these problems.

night-shift – including the scheduled

basic planning logic within the existing system

production orders and all additional information

called for an improved software solution.

that is needed on the shop floor.

New planning logic A new scheduling logic has been introduced.

All of these improvements dramatically

Existing solution

Instead of considering the production order

enhanced the trust and satisfaction of the

The existing solution for production planning &

as a whole, every single process step is now

employees in the new planning solution.

scheduling was set up in two systems: the ERP-

considered in the production schedule: start-

Instead of working in two systems, all

system and a basic version of Preactor. Planning

time, end-time and the processing time (the

scheduling work is now done in Preactor. Hans

results of the Preactor solution were sent to the

correct time per unit is calculated depending

Franz, head of the planning department at

ERP, but manually changed within the ERP. In

on lot size by Preactor) are now taken into

Sumida Lehesten, said: “Preactor helped us to

addition, all changes done in Preactor were

account on a process step basis. In addition

improve our on-time delivery rate and our

deleted each day when planning data from the

the planner can still overrule the schedule

productivity significantly. This strengthens our

ERP-system was re-loaded. Several other

manually if needed.

position in the market and our competitiveness."

aspects had severe effects on the shop-floor: A link between the shop-floor and Preactor Due to the manual changes of the production

was also established. The start and end of a

The future

schedule in the ERP, the shop floor didn’t

production order is now visible for the

The current level is not the end of the road:

work with the planning results of Preactor but

planning department. This has dramatically

The positive impact of Preactor convinced

with the ERP – there was no correct overview

reduced the workload of the planning

the management of Sumida Lehesten to set

in either system.

department, since a check-up on the shop-

up a process of continuous new

floor is no longer necessary. The lot size is

improvements of the system and the

now optimised by Preactor. To better utilise

planning logic within the tool. 

Due to the lack of planning logic – e.g. rules for 16




December 2013



lanning Success story

Preactor represents world leadership in production planning & scheduling software used by a wide range of businesses. Frequently integrated with ERP, MES and Supply Chain Management solutions, Preactor’s technology is used by more than 4500 small, medium and large multinational companies located in 88 countries. Preactor has established partnerships with more than 400 companies located around the world to provide local expertise to support the implementation of the solution for each company. These 1000+ accredited professionals offer a key resource working closely with users to ensure each company’s unique requirements are met. Preactor was acquired in June 2013 by Siemens. Preactor solutions empower the planner. It automatically generates schedules for production, based on business objectives and the real constraints of the production process, and provides clear visibility on what will happen in the future – a crystal ball for the plant. Typical benefits obtained by users of Preactor include a 50 per cent reduction in inventory and work-in-progress, 25 per cent increase inefficiency and 90 per cent increase in on-time delivery performance. Preactor offers a family of applications ranging from mid- and long-term

capacity planning to detailed scheduling and is translated into 30 languages. Preactor runs on industry-standard hardware, operating systems and databases.

Corporate Profile

Preactor International Ltd. – A Siemens Company

With over 20 years of expertise in production planning and scheduling technology, over 4500 companies as users, more than 12,000 licences installed and an extensive partner network offering local expertise and support, Preactor offers global companies with a proven solution and the global resources for the execution of multinational projects. Technology sector Finite Capacity Scheduling (FCS), Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS), Supply Chain Scheduling (SCS), Graphic Master Production System (GMPS). Market sectors served All industrial sectors from Automotive, Aerospace, Packaging, Food & Beverage, Pharma, Plastics, Chemicals, Healthcare, Textiles, Metals, Machinery, Metallurgy, etc.. Countries served Over 88 countries worldwide – global expertise, locally delivered.

Website: http://get.preactor.com/mlit



Find out more about our advanced planning and scheduling software and claim your FREE download at preactor.com




December 2013




lanning Success story


to long lead times

onsider the following scenario.


It is 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Your restaurant is catering a wedding for 200 guests tomorrow and your Imperial 8-

Burner range just quit working. How will you ever get a new range in time to prepare the meals? You remember that Nisbets, the UK’s largest catering equipment distributor, guarantees next-day delivery. You log on to the company’s website and complete your order before 5:00 p.m. Now you can relax knowing the range will be delivered in time to meet your approaching deadline. Next-day delivery is a demanding guarantee for a company managing a complex supply chain, but with the help of Demand Solutions Forecast Management and Requirements Planning, Nisbets is able to forecast demand and stock inventory accordingly in order to deliver this challenging promise to its customers, which include large restaurant chains, hotel chains, hospitals and schools.

Supply chain prep work The B2B catering equipment distributor purchases all of its 13,000 products, which

difficult to manage using Excel spreadsheets.

manager Matthew McMahon. “A critical factor

include everything from chef’s jackets to

Nisbets needed a more sophisticated solution

in our demand planning software evaluation

heavy duty catering equipment, from

to manage its multifaceted supply chain and

was total cost of ownership. Demand

suppliers around the

world. Because of this, Nisbets juggles varying lead times that range from a single day up to six months. Accurate demand planning is extremely important to ensure Nisbets can deliver on its next-day promise and avoid excess inventory that

A critical factor in our demand planning software evaluation was total cost of ownership. Demand Solutions clearly emerged as the value-priced solution as its implementation is often within 90 days and its yearly maintenance fees are the lowest of the supply chain management software industry.” – Matthew McMahon, Nisbets.

would tie up working

rapidly growing

Solutions clearly emerged as the value-priced

business in order to

solution as its implementation is often within

sustain its leading

90 days and its yearly maintenance fees are

market position.

the lowest of the supply chain management software industry.”

After assessing the functionality and cost of several supply chain

Appetising results

management systems,

“We were able to reduce our inventory by 19

Nisbets came across

per cent – £1.9 million (US$3.1 million) – in

Demand Solutions while

just seven months after implementing

searching the web for a

Demand Solutions,” commented McMahon.

demand planning

“We experienced a full return on investment in

solution. “We chose

just a few months by optimising our inventory

Demand Solutions because it offered all of the



powerful functionality that we needed at an In 2006, this balancing act became too





December 2013

affordable price,” said inventory control

The most visible impact of Demand Solutions


Your Supply Chain Visibility Just Got Clearer Your supply chain planning decisions are only as good as the information you have. With Demand Solutions DSX you can see the bigger picture more clearly and more completely. And better clarity means better decision making, reduced inventory, increased service levels and increased profitability. Cultivated from our 27-year supply chain planning expertise, we’ve built DSX as a platform for innovation to deliver the next generation of supply chain planning.

To see what Demand Solutions can do for you, visit: demandsolutions.com | (1) 800 886 3737 | info@demandsolutions.com


lanning Success story

scenario-planning ability. If Nisbets receives a

was the optimisation of the company’s

‘killer’ purchase order, McMahon is

identified those items that were overstocked

Serving up a seasonal forecast

and those that required immediate

Along with reducing inventory and out-of-

impact future inventory, service levels and

purchasing action. For example, Nisbets was

stocks, Demand Solutions has identified the

potentially the company’s bottom line. This

previously carrying six weeks’ worth of safety

seasonality of many of Nisbets’ products.

provides Nisbets with the information

stock for its second-best selling product, tea

Prior to Demand Solutions, McMahon

necessary to negotiate the order with the

towels. Demand Solutions, through its Service

suspected that certain products were

customer instead of filling it without knowing

Level Optimiser utility, recommended that the

seasonal, but it was too difficult for him to

the resulting consequences.

company keep only two weeks’ worth of tea

pinpoint which ones while using spreadsheets

towels – a significant stock decrease.

for demand planning. With Demand Solutions

Since its inception 25 years ago, Nisbets has

graphs and charts, seasonal items are easy

grown into a thriving company with a strong

“We were initially sceptical of the reports

to identify. Some products such as

brand promise. In the past five years alone

from Demand Solutions because we

barbeques, ice makers and ice-cream

the company has grown 19 per cent;

assumed we needed to store a lot of extra

machines, are clearly seasonal during the

McMahon credits this expansion partly to

inventory in order to keep our brand

summer months, but as a surprise to

Demand Solutions. “In 2007, after using

promise,” said McMahon. “After noticing that

McMahon, Demand Solutions identified that

Demand Solutions for just one year, we added

stock-outs continued to decrease even with

other ordinary items are also seasonal.

operations in Spain and France and a

the safety stock reduction, our team put full

Everyday utensils such as forks, knives and

consolidation warehouse in China,” said

faith in Demand Solutions.” In fact, out-of-

plates are seasonal with a strong volume

McMahon. “We intend to continue on this path

stocks reduced from 4 per cent to 1.5 per

build in the months leading up to Christmas

of growth and expand into other parts of

cent — an acceptable percentage

and New Year.

Europe in the future. And I am confident that

product mix. The software immediately

immediately able to detect how that order will

Demand Solutions will be a key enabler in

considering the company distributes many low-selling items such as kitchen

In addition to forecasting seasonal demand,

accessories and spare parts that are difficult

McMahon’s favourite functionality in Demand

to forecast.

Solutions Requirements Planning is the

helping us achieve that dream.” 

Corporate Profile

Demand Solutions


Demand Solutions offers affordable, easy-to-use tools for

Industrial markets served

manufacturers and distributors who want to increase forecast

Automotive, Beer/Wine/Spirits, Candy, Craft Beer,

accuracy, improve customer service levels and reduce overall

Electronics, Furniture, Housewares, Medical Devices,

inventory to maximise profits and lower costs. The Demand

Sporting Goods, Sporting Goods, Apparel, CPG, Energy, Food

Solutions supply chain planning suite offers solutions for forecast

& Beverage, Pharma & Bio, Retail, Wholesale Distribution,

management, demand planning, collaborative forecasting and

General Manufacturing, Service Parts.

inventory planning as well as modules for advanced planning and scheduling (APS), sales & operations planning (S&OP) and point-

Countries served

of-sale analysis.


Demand Solutions has over 25 years of experience working with supply chain professionals, and has incorporated best practices

Website: www.demandsolutions.com

and real-world business requirements in its software from its extensive customer base in 75 countries. Solutions offered Forecast Management, Requirements Planning, Collaboration, Sales & Operations Planning, Advanced Planning & Scheduling, Retail Planning.




December 2013



lanning Success story


clearly sees visibility improvements isibility is a focus for contact lens

integrated view of global operations. Growing

product portfolio, it was pushing the

manufacturer, CooperVision, in

through acquisition, CooperVision inherited

boundaries of what Excel could manage.

more ways than one. The

several independent ERP systems, and

company is the world’s third

supply chain planning was performed locally,

largest contact lens

with no visibility across the company’s


manufacturer and the number one maker of

different locations.

Opportunity for improvement Among the challenges, CooperVision saw an

toric contact lenses for the correction of astigmatism. Selling up to 2.5 million unique

Limited visibility resulted in increased buffer

opportunity to increase visibility and demand

contact lens configurations every 6 months,

stock throughout the global supply network.

analysis, with end goals of increasing forecast

CooperVision’s product portfolio includes

“We had no global visibility of inventory,

accuracy, improving inventory accuracy and

lenses that can correct near-sightedness,

supply or demand plans, and we often had

cost-effectively maintaining high customer

farsightedness, astigmatism or any

too much inventory in the wrong form or at the

service levels.

combination of the three, and are offered in

wrong location,” said Ruth McElheny of the

different replacement schedules, including

global supply chain group at CooperVision.

daily, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly.

With these goals in mind, CooperVision selected Logility to instill best practices

CooperVision is dedicated to lens design,

Adding further complexity, CooperVision’s

across its global network and to create a

materials and manufacturing excellence in

myriad of correction solutions creates a very

company-wide common supply chain

order to enhance the comfort and wearing

large portfolio of SKUs to manage; there are

platform. Logility’s capability to handle

experience of every customer.

thousands of SKU level items inside a single

CooperVision’s immense SKU portfolio and

product family for example, making item level

implement quickly were key factors in the

Lack of integration, SKU proliferation

demand more difficult to forecast.

decision. McElheny says, “Logility Voyager

CooperVision’s products are sourced through

CooperVision historically utilized

Solutions provides us with an integrated view

very complex multi-level networks and until

spreadsheets and a series of bell curves for

of global operations—our first common

recently, the company lacked a fully

forecasting, and found that with such a large

platform across the company. Although




December 2013




lanning Success story and being able to then take action has been a huge benefit. We have gained the visibility to make both strategic and tactical inventory decisions and have improved overall inventory position throughout the business,” states McElheny. To further lower inventory investments, Voyager Solutions supports CooperVision’s manufacturing postponement strategy of holding ‘silver stock’, an unpackaged intermediate stage of inventory, and “white box inventory”, the finished goods without labels, until the company is ready to respond to market opportunities. A common supply chain platform also provides CooperVision with the foundation for an

multiple ERP systems are still in place at

CooperVision can determine manufacturing

effective S&OP process. Previously,

CooperVision, we have made significant

frequency, impact on inventory turns and

CooperVision lacked a cohesive plan that

strides in gaining supply chain visibility

discard potential, and in turn, reduce

supported a link between marketing, finance,

around the world.”

inventory obsolescence. This visibility has

supply chain, and manufacturing and did not

helped CooperVision make better decisions

have the right data available to conduct an

about production assignments and inventory

efficient corporate S&OP process. Now with

Greater visibility leads to tangible results

policies. Moving production from a high

access to global inventory, supply and

volume to low volume production line, one

demand plans, the company’s progress with

With a new ability to drill down into the detail

product family decreased from 20 months on

the corporate S&OP initiative is well underway.

behind the demand plans, CooperVision

hand to five months. “With Logility Voyager Solutions, we are better

quickly saw improvements in SKU-level With Logility Voyager Solutions, CooperVision

positioned to manage variability in the

analysis at the item level and aggregate view

sets time-phased inventory policies and uses

process, and have greater confidence in our

provides CooperVision with both a reliable

statistical safety stocks linked to the

numbers and ability to balance supply and

process and a significantly more accurate

comprehensive demand plan. “Understanding

demand to meet corporate goals,” concluded

forecast. With an accurate item level forecast,

the underlying drivers of our inventory levels


Corporate Profile

forecast accuracy. A detailed forecast


Logility With more than 1250 customers worldwide, Logility is a leading provider of collaborative, best-of-breed supply chain

Industrial markets served

solutions that help small, medium, large and Fortune 1000

Consumer Goods, Durable Goods, Electronics, Food &

companies realise substantial bottom-line results in record time.

Beverage, Life Sciences, Process/Chemical,


Service/Aftermarket Parts, Softgoods/Apparel, Specialty Retail and Wholesale Distribution.

Voyager Solutions is a complete supply chain management solution that features a performance monitoring architecture

Countries served

and provides supply chain visibility; demand, inventory and

Over 68 countries worldwide – global expertise, locally

replenishment planning; Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP);


supply and inventory optimisation; and manufacturing planning and scheduling. Solutions offered Performance Monitoring, Supply Chain Planning Optimisation,

Website: www.logility.com

Demand Optimisation, Inventory Optimisation ,Manufacturing Optimisation and Sales & Operations Planning.




December 2013


the Visibility to


the Velocity to

If you aim to be a top competitor, an optimized supply chain is a mandate. Logility Voyager Solutions™ can help you leave the competition behind. With Logility’s proven three-pronged strategy, OUTPLAN, OUTPACE, OUTPERFORM, DPNQBOJFT DBO NPSF QSPåUBCMZ TBUJTGZ DVTUPNFS demand—and stay in the winner’s circle—by getting the right products at the right cost to the right place at the right time. Leading companies around the world rely on Logility to achieve dramatic JNQSPWFNFOUTJOHMPCBMTVQQMZDIBJOFGåDJFODJFT JODSFBTFEWJTJCJMJUZBOE substantial bottom-line results in record time. Compete like never before with Logility Voyager Solutions.


Worldwide Headquarters: 800-762-5207 EMEA Headquarters: +44 (0) 121 629 7866

Special technology report

Planning, Forecasting, S&OP

Total visibility Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke with a number of spokespeople from the supply chain planning vendor community about some of the key developments and innovations that are currently enhancing and broadening the planning, forecasting and S&OP landscape. rom a technology perspective, as well as from a process standpoint, planning-related activities and methodologies within the worlds of manufacturing, logistics and retail have done anything but freeze in time. Just some of the many key talking points over the past few months and years have included the interest in Software as a Service (SaaS)/Cloud computing, the influence of mobile applications and the demand for more sophisticated graphical interfaces. Mike Novels, chairman & managing director of the Preactor Group, believes many of these trends have been driven by the increasing sophistication in Apps designed for smartphones and tablet platforms. “Users want a similar level of sophistication in the applications they use in their company,” he said.

(S&OP) and supporting technologies are fast evolving to include financial planning, trade-off evaluations and risk management best practices. This can make a big difference to the company’s bottom line, for instance, by making sure financial targets are met by knowing early on what will be the most profitable scenarios.


So let’s survey some of the current discussion points in more detail, looking first at some of the key developments from a process standpoint. Here, Patrizia Calvia, product marketing manager at TXT e-solutions, highlights 3 main innovation streams: •


“The Integration of strategic and financial planning with more classical supply chain planning processes: More than ever, the physical and financial supply chains need to be tightly connected. Key processes such as Sales & Operations Planning




December 2013

“The ability to extend planning solutions to actively support decision-making through sophisticated Scenario Based Planning capabilities. What-if/risk scenarios and assumption management capabilities are strong innovation areas. Different functions explore and compare different planning options, easily visualise impacts on other levels including the financial realm (financial ‘what-if’), and ultimately ‘socialise’ those scenarios to find consensus. “The convergence of analytical and planning capabilities. The ability to concurrently plan and analyse the process through correlated KPIs helps the timely identification of possible issues; enables fact-based decision-making and ultimately to have a clear understanding of the cause and effects at all levels, including impact on financial metrics and the P&L.”

Karin Bursa, vice president of Logility, is seeing two main themes that are driving big supply

chain benefits: S&OP and multi-echelon inventory optimisation (MEIO). “Far too often S&OP initiatives are still driven with spreadsheets,” she said, “and companies are realising they cannot obtain the full benefits of S&OP until they turn to advanced solutions to enable a closed loop, iterative process that will instil greater accountability across the organisation.” Bursa added that, at the same time, she sees tremendous opportunity to leverage more effective inventory optimisation techniques instead of the simple rules such as days of supply that many companies use today. “The benefits of MEIO are quickly being achieved by mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies as they identify ways to more profitably balance cost and service,” she continued. Bursa also observes that, today, companies have the opportunity to replace inventory with information. “In order to compete it is not just a matter of reducing costs, you must provide superior service that will drive future business,” she remarked. “The key is the ability to improve

Mike Novels, chairman & managing director,


Planning, Forecasting, S&OP

service while managing costs with more precision. Supply chain solutions, such as Logility Voyager Solutions, excel at this.” Additionally, Bursa perceives that supply chains are Patrizia Calvia, growing increasingly product marketing more complex – manager, number of SKUs, global reach, increasing customer expectations – and the processes of the past cannot keep up with this change. David Williamson, country manager UK and Ireland at Transporeon, observes that one of the key current talking points within the transportation planning space is track & trace. “For a transportation management company it’s almost like a badge of honour to say it has track & trace capability, but the question has to be asked how do they, and retailers, really benefit from this?” he said. “Most retailers rely on a multitude of suppliers, all with their own systems. So the challenge at the moment is how to overcome this complexity.” The best solutions, according to Williamson, are Cloudbased Software as a Service (SaaS) interfaces that are able to take in and provide information from a multitude of suppliers. He also points out that with a SaaS interface the user doesn’t have to commit to upfront capital expenditure. “You’re only paying for what you need, so it has a massive benefit from a cost perspective too,” he said. Barry Drummond, sales director of FuturMaster UK, believes the changes within the planning space are primarily technology-led. “Many customers now require significantly more analytics,” he said. “However it’s not just about being able to do analysis on sales or on financials that happened last month, it’s more about having the right data available to make effective business decisions today. Customers want to be able to drive those analytics on a more real-time basis. Therefore there are more conversations about analytics shifting to that level rather than pulling data out of a warehouse where it’s being aggregated up on a monthly or weekly basis rather than a daily or minute-by-minute basis.” Richard House, managing director of FuturMaster UK, considers that the ability to make better use of things such as EPoS data from large numbers of stores is increasing.


Special technology report

Also, he observes that S&0P has moved into Integrated Business Planning (IBP). “It’s all about presenting information in ways that can pull out the key messages for decision-makers quicker and easier,” he said. “The capability of modern supply chain planning & forecasting software is increasingly able to do this within a single tool rather than spread the information across a series of spreadsheets. And in the consumer goods space, there is a shift towards the more accurately managing the efficiency and profitability of promotional activity. This is driven partly by the economy, but also by the changing nature of the retailers and their demands for more promotions to be run in store. This is putting more pressure on manufacturers that supply the major retailers because when you run a promotion it changes the dynamics of the whole sales & operations process; everything from sales and finance to production planning and supply. Again, this is where IBP can prove very effective.” Danny Halim, vice president, industry strategy, at JDA Software Group, observes that many companies are still using lots of different types of software for their planning and forecasting tasks, which means they are often relying on a lot of approximations. “This may be fine if these companies are in the right niche of the industry in terms of providing the best products for specific industries,” he remarked, “but the question I would put to them is how sustainable is that going to be with all those disconnects in place? So I think Integrated Business Planning (IBP) needs to be carefully considered.” The next development Halim is seeing is one that is emerging as an effective extension of IBP; supply chain segmentation. “But this concept is really much more than just further development of IBP,” he stressed, “it’s also about being able to serve specific customers’ expectations as efficiently as possible while also optimising your profit margins. Without the right structures to operate this segment supply chain it is difficult to determine how best to improve these service levels and your own bottom line.” Arjen Heeres, chief operations officer at Quintiq, observes a number of developments, such as added functionality. “What we see as a growing market trend, and what Quintiq provides to its customers, is a move from single solutions such as scheduling or capacity planning solutions to more integrated systems – what we call a platform,” he said. “Here, the different business operations are collected; these could be different operations in the supply chain, or different functional operations such as sales, finance and production. So

there is more integration, which means more and more business control is being provided to the user.” Heeres added that, today, it is not just about generating the best schedule – which remains an important concern – it is also more about managing a company’s different operations. For example, a company might operate five factories with different logistics flows, supplying to different goods. It may have two or three big customers that the company needs to connect with, so it would need more full business control. “The company needs to know, for instance, what the consequences would be if something unforeseen happened somewhere within the whole supply chain, and know how to react to that in order to ensure the whole chain is quickly optimised again,” he said. Bill Harrison, president of Demand Solutions, believes that organisations can differentiate themselves to their customers and their stakeholders by improving their supply chain performance compared to their peers. He added that two key areas that Demand Solutions frequently discusses with its customers are Social Supply Chain and Integrated Business Intelligence. “We believe there is an opportunity to leverage something we refer to as the Social Supply Chain to create a disruptive impact on the performance and efficiency of the supply chain,” said Harrison. “The technology exists today to create networked interaction among all the key participants needed to investigate, evaluate and resolve issues within the supply chain – in real time. Companies no longer have to rely on email but can create interactive social environments for conducting business. Implementing a Social Supply Chain will result in improved decision making in a shorter period of time. Demand Solutions is a leader in this area, and has integrated Social capabilities into its DSX product suite.” Hugh Williams, managing director of Hughenden Consulting, makes the point that within manufacturing there are three critical elements – processes, systems and people – that work together to execute an effective planning regime. He Arjen Heeres, chief adds that, while operations officer sourcing the right IT systems plays a key



December 2013



Special technology report

role, as does planning process optimisation, one thing that sometimes receives less attention is the part people need to play. “Without people fully understanding why changes have been Martin Woodward, made to the managing director, company’s operational process, why new IT systems or functionality have been brought in, and how to operate them efficiently, then the company isn’t going to get the best value from its investment in change management.” Martin Woodward, managing director of ToolsGroup UK, points out that, for a lot of people ToolsGroup talks to, forecast accuracy is still top of the list; things such as what can be done to improve their statistical forecast and how causal events could be incorporated into the equation. “Because forecasting comes at the beginning of the planning process it is sometimes seen as the root of all evil for everything that happens subsequently,” he said. “But I think what is needed is more realworld information fed into their forecasting; such as point of sales data from the end customer. In this way, the forecast is likely to be more accurate, which, in turn, will ensure the planning process can run more smoothly.”

SaaS/Cloud And, within the planning-related software space, has the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, and the Cloud concept in general, had any notable level of impact on the market so far? House considers that a possible stumbling block to SaaS within the planning space is that most customers understandably want a solution that is very tailored and configured around their specific requirements. “Therefore, a Cloud-based model could be seen as being less effective,” he said. “Even though our own architecture is Cloud-ready, the Cloud model isn’t really what most customers want. Some users may be attracted to the subscriptionbased model where you manage the system for them in the Cloud, but there is still the question of customisation, and also some continuing concerns around security and reliability. They understandably want the systems to be completely risk-averse.” Novels comments that Preactor is not seeing





December 2013

Planning, Forecasting, S&OP

substantial levels of interest in the SaaS/Cloud model. However, he believes it would be naïve to think end users will not demand a choice of ‘on premise’ or ‘in the Cloud’ in the future. “Increasingly, ERP companies are offering this and we are already seeing browser-based scheduling applications appearing in the market,” he said, adding that, certainly, a hybrid model will be required in the future. Williamson reflects that if you look at the European market there is large uptake for Transporeon’s SaaS-based transportation planning interface solutions in the retail sectors in Germany, France, Poland, the Czech Republic and others. However, he observes that there is considerably slower deployment in the UK. “But we are gaining traction in the UK as more and more companies open their minds to the concept,” he said. “Then they will realise it has so many benefits for so little expenditure. More and more people are also recognising the benefits of linking everyone in the supply chain in real time and providing complete visibility through the use of a single modular integrated solution assessable in the Cloud,” he said. Heeres also observes limited uptake, but thinks it will have a greater impact over time. “I think uptake differs regarding what kind of market segment you’re looking at,” he added. “If you focus on very small companies with very standardised solutions, then I think the market is more open to SaaS because it is more logical to run it in the Cloud. Many of the larger companies have bigger projects and larger rollouts and they often have their own internal data centre servers. But many of these companies do ask us if we are Cloud-enabled and Cloud-ready; which we are. They want to know if we can support Cloud in the future. That’s important to them.” Bursa points to SaaS and the concept of the Cloud as something that is continuing to grow, with some industry analysts anticipating that it will become a US$3.3 billion market for supply chain over the next few years. “To meet our customers’ needs we offer a choice of deployment options including SaaS, hosted or on-premise,” she explains. “Every customer has unique challenges and for some a SaaS or hosted deployment is preferable, whereas others turn to on-premise implementations. It is not about one method cannibalising another…Logility offers the flexibility to deploy our software how our customers want it – SaaS, hosted or in-house. We also provide a variety of services and training to help customers be more successful.”

Calvia observes that business volatility and the strong call for slashed lead times are driving uptake of the Cloud for planning applications. “Opportunities are in terms of stronger connectivity and new collaborative models (inside and outside the organisation with customers and suppliers), speed of deployment, reduced operating costs, as well as scalability,” she said. “In processes such as forecasting, where a strong collaboration is needed across functions and geographies, the ability to physically distribute the application and to allow easy global access and visibility can have positive impacts on the responsiveness and quality of the process. Nevertheless I would not consider the Cloud model to be a ‘threat’ to on-premise. Planning processes are not standard ones. Solutions are typically sold and implemented in customerspecific ways.” Harrison believes SaaS is coming to the Supply Chain Planning market, but is not yet the dominant or driving force. “There are many potential drivers to SaaS, but it is not right for everyone,” he believes. Harrison adds there are many different drivers to SaaS. “For example, some companies look to SaaS for an economic benefit, while others view SaaS as a technological decision,” he said. “SaaS, however, is a valid option for some companies, but not all. For one thing, SaaS is not always less expensive on a 3-year or 5-year total cost of ownership basis. Additionally, there have been noteworthy issues with the security of data stored in the Cloud with some highly publicised security breaches. The Supply Chain Planning function works with very sensitive information – including customer lists, sales, pricing, etc. Not every company is comfortable moving this sensitive data to a SaaS environment. As a result, within the Supply Chain Planning space, we believe it likely that both SaaS and On Premise will continue to exist for many years.” Woodward reflects that five years or so ago the trend was very much that ToolsGroup customers purchased perpetual licences for on-site installation. “Since then this has almost completely changed to a SaaS model where, at least for the initial installation, nearly Karin Bursa, vice everything we do is president, provided as a service,” he said, adding that the


Planning, Forecasting, S&OP

reason for this change is agility. “Companies can get set up very quickly, they can then access the services very quickly, and it doesn’t dictate what where the final solution actually lies. So for Danny Halim, vice president, industry the past few years, strategy, particularly over the past couple of years, we have focused mainly on getting people set up and running and using our Application as a Service. Then, we have sometimes migrated this back into their own data centre. So SaaS doesn’t constrain you from doing some things on premise; it can be a hybrid very easily.” Compared with the on-premise model, Halim believes the Cloud concept has a real influence and impact on many of the innovation strategies for many software solutions at the moment.” He adds that it also has an impact on the way many users are determining their go-forward strategy in terms of IT infrastructure requirements. “But it’s a change management issue, it’s not just about the IT infrastructure but there are also a lot of organisational considerations to take into account,” said Halim. “Many users are currently not ready to just move everything to the Cloud; particularly the more mission-critical company-sensitive information they rely on. And this could include planning functionality. So I think going forward companies will increasingly have a roadmap in place in terms of what applications they want to move to the Cloud and what they want to keep on premise.”

The impact of mobility And are modern mobility solutions, such as mobile computers and tablet PCs, having an impact or influence on planning-related systems? Novels believes that being able to update and view data in an APS application in graphical form and remotely using platforms such as smart phones and tablets will become the norm in the coming years. “We had this capability many years ago, but there was little take-up until phones became smarter and the tablet arrived,” he added. Drummond reflects that we have now reached the point where we are online and connected almost all the time, and we can work in a more real-time collaborative way. For example, fieldbased people can visit customers and have


Special technology report

conversations about what’s actually happening more in real time. A customer service person or a key account manager can sit down with the customer and say ‘let’s have a look at this week’s forecast’, or ‘let’s have a look at stock versus what your forecast looks like’, and actually make the changes in the system at that moment. This then goes into the whole supply chain planning process almost immediately, so things can happen quickly.” Williams believes the area of demand sensing is going to grow, and mobile solutions – such as smartphones, tablet PCs and other handheld devices – will increasingly become a facilitator of this in terms of providing real-time data wirelessly from customer sites and in the field back to ERP and planning systems in order for companies to better anticipate current demand. Bursa also has no doubt that supply chain mobility is an exciting opportunity that will keep the enterprise connected wherever key personnel might be. “They’ll have access to key supply chain information on their phones and tablets with quick access to alerts, current status, customer analytics, order information, etc.,” she said, adding that employees will also be able to update information, resolve issues and drill into more detail, all at their fingertips. Williamson maintains that, from a mobility perspective, the key to real-time updates in the field is, of course, the driver. “If you link the drive in probably that is where you get the best visibility of the vehicle and the vehicle load,” he said. “You can have GPS tracking etc. on an individual load, but what you really need is to be able to capture that type of information from multiple suppliers in multiple ways in the most efficient way possible. This can be a challenge if you and your partners rely on multiple systems.” Williamson added that with Transporeon companies can track a driver’s smartphone on the transportation management system our system and have real-time visibility of that particular vehicle and its load. Woodward has seen that the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is changing the way people are accessing all kinds of applications. “Specifically within our domain, the accessibility of Point of Sale (POS) data – being able to feed that back through the supply chain – is enormously important,” he said. “We recently finished an installation at Costa Coffee where, for us, one of the most exciting aspects of the project was that Costa can now sense demand every four minutes. The company now benefits from wireless connectivity which is able to feed sales information back to the head office; providing a

continuous feed of information as to what people are purchasing.” Calvia believes mobility is unquestionably changing applications and how information is shared and Barry Drummond, consumed. She sales director, comments: “Planning processes can now be extended through mobile to new non-traditional users; productivity is kept high while on the move; and even more importantly, relevant data is made available for decision-making, wherever that might be. TXT has recently launched its TXTMobile platform which is a powerful example of how the frontiers of innovation can be extended to new processes and functionality.” Heeres also believes mobile solutions are very important as an extension of the core planning functionality. He explains that a lot of Quintiq’s work is concerned with planning optimisation. Heeres maintains that knowing where people are and what tasks they are performing is critical, therefore smartphones or other handheld devices are invaluable in order for staff to relay automatic identification data to the back office, and to provide GPS coordinates so companies know where individuals are currently located at any one time. “The more real-time information you have from these devices the better you can plan and manage everyday tasks as well as disruptions etc.,” he said. Harrison considers that forecast collaboration is an important part of the supply chain process of many mature planning organisations. He adds that this collaborative effort can be either within the organisation, typically with the sales force, or between organisations. “In either case, offering access to the planning systems wherever the collaborator may be is important,” said Harrison. Additionally, we have learned that it is desirable to deploy a very easy to use interface for the sales Bill Harrison, team, since planning is president, not their primary activity. So yes, mobile solutions are an important



December 2013



Special technology report

component of planning systems – so much so that Demand Solutions even offers an iPod APP to support its forecast collaboration.” Halim observes that retail is one area that is taking mobility very seriously because it is impacting on demand. “Some mobility applications are being used by their own staff – smartphones, scanners, RFID etc., but they also need to ensure that there are applications that help their customers to shop,” he said. “They need to further improve their customers’ in-store and online shopping experience.” There is also the workflow aspect of mobility solutions to consider, says Halim. David Williamson, country manager UK and Ireland,

Planning ahead What might be the next key developments in the planning-related software solutions space over the next year or two? Halim anticipates continued enhancement of the segmented supply chain concept. “This will continue to look at how to better strategise and measure different supply chain segments within the context of a single supply chain,” he said. “It will also continue to look at how to eventually tune the segments; maybe in terms of different inventory policies or different logistics routes etc. The aim is to do this in an agile manner without the need for big IT projects to reconfigure each of the segments.” Novels observes that the market for APS tools is expanding in existing markets, while, for companies such as Preactor, there remain new markets to penetrate. “If we look at the penetration of Preactor in the UK, for example, based on the number of sites compared to Manufacturing GDP then we can see huge opportunities in continental Europe, North America and Asia in the coming years,” he said. “In my opinion the constraint to a successful penetration of those Richard House, managing director, markets is the dearth in the availability of well-trained APS





December 2013

Planning, Forecasting, S&OP

system implementers around the world.” Halim also sees greater update and development of planning and supply chain workflows within mobility, which will further empower planners and sales personnel, and even managers and board-level executives to access and share information in a more seamless, real-time manner within the four walls or in the field. Additionally, Halim believes another area of ongoing development will be the logistics control tower concept. He explains that there are transportation management, warehouse management and manufacturing execution solutions. But, from a planning standpoint, the question is how do users best combine all of this information; how do they connect transportation, warehousing etc. and then loop it back all the way to integrated business planning, monitor it and be able to respond quickly to change? Williamson points out that Cloud-based SaaS transportation planning solutions are in their infancy in terms of adoption in the UK; while the continent has seen considerably greater uptake. However, he believes there will be a considerable increase in deployment within the UK in the near future. “Once more people come to realise the benefits in being able to track realtime information from the driver, and manage multiple suppliers through our kind of SaaSbased interface, then the popularity of this type of transportation planning model will increase substantially in the UK,” he said. For Bursa, the ability to better manage new product introductions is a key area of focus in the supply chain world. “The pace of new product introductions continues to quicken, and companies need to accurately forecast demand, clearly understand the impact on production and distribution and optimise inventory investments,” she said. Another area of continued investment highlighted by Bursa is performance management and supply chain analytics. “As end-users become increasingly mobile we are going to see the need for more powerful and actionable analytics to be available regardless of where one is,” she remarked. House believes collaboration in conjunction with mobile technology is going to continue to be a key area of development. He also anticipates increased awareness of Big Data demand sensing, and how companies can read signals from consumers and integrate these into their more short-term forecast. He points out that there is a lot of scope for improving planning and forecasting performance in that area; for example, around promotional activity. “The aim

is to respond as quickly as possible to what you expect the impact of the promotional activity to be,” he said. Harrison sees ongoing development in the direction of Hugh Williams, Social Supply Chain managing director, Management and Social Sales & Operations Planning, while Calvia believes Cloud, mobile and the strategic use of Big Data will continue to drive research and development. She adds that, from a process point of view, what is driving innovation is a management approach which is ever more ‘value-driven’. In Heeres’ view, there will be further evolution in terms of more power in optimisation, as well as more mobility development and more uptake of SaaS and Cloud. He also anticipates more integration, providing fuller business control; having a system in place that provides support throughout all functions, as well as looking ahead and making decisions on how to run the business. Heeres points out that this is essentially IBP, which Gartner talks about. “I don’t think you could call this a revolution; it’s more an evolution – continuing to develop the positive changes that have occurred over the past few years,” he said. What Williams currently sees happening, and therefore believes will continue to develop, is the awareness by top-level management of change management based on the idea of supply chain transformation. “And, as mentioned earlier, a large part of the ‘processes, systems, people’ piece will need to focus more on people to a greater degree,” he said. Woodward sees the continuing opportunities around Big Data to be huge. He also foresees the continuing expansion of the S&OP process to reach further into IBP. “I don’t really see it as just supply & demand balancing; I see it more in terms of its planning, and the more players and dimensions you can get into that planning process,” he said, “and the more you can model the behaviour of the business and project it going forward, the more effective it will be. Woodward adds that the key word is agility. “So it’s about being fast, but not necessarily being big. It’s about the ability to respond quickly and effectively to demand.” 




lanning Profile


Solutions offered Shippers and carriers battle daily with increasing competition in the logistics market. Pressure to consolidate fluctuating volumes of cargo, high fuel prices, statutory regulations and an insufficient number of drivers limit the possibilities of reduced costs. Chances to improve can be found in cooperation, supported by intelligent IT solutions such as Transporeon. The solution provides a cost-effective, transparent way of handling all transport logistics processes. The Transporeon platform is structured in modules: • The heart of the platform is the electronic Transport Assignment module, which manages hauliers and freight rates. • The second module, Time Slot Management, offers an ideal solution for dock and yard management. This can be used in combination with transport assignment or stand-alone. • Transporeon offers Transport Visibility of the assigned loads, with which proof of delivery can be tracked throughout the process. Industrial markets served The use of the Transporeon platform is of interest for all industrial companies. Relevant savings potential can be yielded in industries with high logistics costs in relation to the value of goods. Examples are: Automotive, Building materials, Chemical industry, FMCG, Electronics, Energy, Retail market, Timber, Plastics, Airfreight, Machine Construction, Paper – cardboard – printing, Recycling & Waste, Steel & Aluminium and Forwarders Countries served Transporeon serves customers worldwide from its headquarters in Germany and sales offices in 24 countries, across Europe, USA and Asia. The company also has Customer Care centres in Poland, Belgium, Germany and Italy.

Corporate Profile

Transporeon is a logistics platform provider that connects shippers from industry and trading companies with their logistics partners: hauliers, drivers and consignees. The platform optimises and accelerates logistics processes by Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. The Transporeon Group was established in 2000 and is now a European market leader for elogistics platforms, enjoying a high degree of acceptance among shippers and their hauliers. Currently more than 850 industry and trading companies, more than 40,000 carriers and more than 100,000 users from 80 countries are connected via the Transporeon platform. The platform, as well as the customer service, is available in 21 languages.


Website: www.transporeon.com


TRANSPOREON Contact: David Williamson | Phone: + 44 (0) 1527 908757 williamson@mercareon.com | www.transporeon.com

Printing & Labelling


UDI on the right track David Taylor, business development manager Manufacturing UK & Ireland, Zebra Technologies Europe, looks at recent legislation concerning unique device identification (UDI) within the US medical device industry, and surveys the type of cutting-edge printing & labelling technologies currently available that can help ensure both legal compliance and a more efficient and accurate tracking & traceability regime across all manufacturing sectors.

n order for goods to be tracked and traced during the process of manufacture, allocating a unique serial number to each product is a wellestablished and understood practice. However, one sector – medical device manufacturing – is about to take this concept to a new level, whereby all medical device manufacturers across the globe will need to comply with a new unique device identification (UDI) number regime if they are to be able to supply goods into the US market.

also have the number directly marked on the product itself. Many of these manufacturers also rely on serial number identification for their own purposes; for example, if there is an issue reported in the field they can trace a particular product all the way back through the supply chain and interrogate issues such as storage or handling, right through to the manufacturing line it was produced on – and even the component materials used to make it.

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is to issue a set of compliances that will be introduced at different times, depending on the level of complexity or classification of a particular medical device. This essentially involves putting a UDI number on every single medical device that is produced in order to more quickly and accurately identify any potential product problems and improve patient safety.

Mandatory requirement


For some time, the better-known higher-end medical goods manufacturers have allocated serial numbers for products such as hip joints and spinal implants. Such items often not only have a serial number on the packaging they are delivered in but





December 2013

The difference now is that, within the US medical device sector, legislation is not going to be just a tracking & traceability issue but also a legal compliance issue. It is not now something that individual manufacturers that supply medical devices into the US market can choose to do simply because it suits their own particular processes – it is now a mandatory requirement. Furthermore, the UDI numbers themselves will need to be logged with the FDA. Manufacturers will be required to apply for a set of UDI numbers through compliance bodies such as GS1. When the UDI

numbers have been issued, the manufacturer’s ERP system will be able to generate and allocate UDIs for individual manufactured items. Then, once these UDIs have been used to mark a particular device the manufacturer will need to inform the FDA that they have been used, and on which devices. Using this UDI methodology, the manufacturer and the FDA can check at any time who produced a particular device and where it was manufactured. They will even have wider supply chain visibility in terms of who supplied the materials used to make a particular device, and who shipped it to the customer. In other words, this is going to take tracking & traceability to a whole new level of sophistication and accuracy, which within the medical device industry has to be good news for medical practitioners and patients alike. The final UDI regulation was issued by the FDA a few weeks ago, although some work concerning formats and templates as part of the compliance regime remains ongoing. Nevertheless, the decision as to whether UDI is going to happen has been made, and there are schedules for implementation that have already been set out.



And such an important development within the medical device manufacture industry may soon have a far-reaching influence on the tracking & traceability methodologies put in place within other manufacturing sectors. With this in mind, Zebra Technologies believes now is the ideal time for manufacturers in all industries to take advantage of state-of-the-art printing & labelling technologies available today in order to help them confirm and validate that goods are correctly marked in accordance with all relevant legislation applicable to their particular market place.

Autonomous reporting For example, Zebra Technologies’ LinkOS technology – available on an increasingly wide range of our printing & labelling solutions – allows users to benefit from autonomous reporting into the printer. If your network is connected to Zebra’s ZT230 mid-range desktop industrial label printer, that unit can be set up to autonomously connect out to the Cloud and report on not just what it has printed

but also send an image of what it has just printed. With technologies such as LinkOS readily available, now is an ideal time to put better systems and data aggregation in place in order to leverage multiple tracking & traceability benefits. Not least of these is the contribution to a zero-error methodology and being able to use data to find specific information related to individual component parts or items that have been manufactured. This is a visibility desire that we are now seeing increasingly across many different industry sectors, and one that is fundamental to a Factor of the Future end-state. We see manufacturers from many different sectors – such as automated parts, automotive, aerospace and many more – highlighting issues of visibility within their production processes, as well as within their upstream and downstream supply chains. Technologies such as Zebra’s LinkOS can help put the fundamental basics in place to enable companies to leverage maximum efficiency and accuracy benefits within this context.

Printing & Labelling David Taylor: “With technologies such as LinkOS readily available, now is an ideal time to put better systems and data aggregation in place in order to leverage multiple tracking & traceability benefits.”

It is true to say that there is nothing completely new here; it is essentially about taking existing well-established technologies and bolstering them with some new software elements and the benefits that the Cloud affords, while using available data to improve the operational processes within the manufacturing environment. This wider and allencompassing tracking & traceability methodology is a key component of the Factory of the Future concept. For further information on the Factory of the Future concept, see the article by Matt Parker, Zebra Technologies Europe’s head of market development, in the October 2013 edition of this journal www.logisticsit.com/digital 

Zebra Technologies

Solutions offered By illuminating the events in their value chain with real-time data about their assets, people and transactions, Zebra is helping customers to unlock dramatic improvements in operational performance, as well as inspire new ideas for innovation in their organisations. Industrial markets served • Manufacturing. • Transport and Logistics. • Retail. • Healthcare. • Government. • Hospitality. Countries served Worldwide.

Website: www.zebra.com




December 2013


Corporate Profile

A global leader respected for innovation and reliability, Zebra Technologies Corporation offers technologies that give a virtual voice to an organisation’s assets, people and transactions, enabling organisations to unlock greater business value. The company’s extensive portfolio of marking and printing technologies – including RFID and real-time location solutions – illuminates missioncritical information to help customers take smarter business actions.



Success story

Mobile solutions keep production and logistics rolling at Bridgestone ridgestone Corporation is the

position it needs to maximise

world’s largest manufacturer of

the availability of products to

tyres and rubber products. It

customers, while minimising

employs over 140,000 people

inventory across its diverse

worldwide, operates 184 plants

range of products.


Bridgestone’s business analysts and managers in production, logistics and warehouse operations need to be able to monitor and respond to business issues as and when they arise. By deploying several Honeywell Dolphin 7800 mobile computers, they are able to identify and respond to situations wherever they occur much more quickly than before.

in 25 nations and sells products in more than 150 countries. Bridgestone Europe (BSEU) is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium and

Warehouse efficiency

employs over 13,000 people. It has nine tyre

Updating its warehouse

manufacturing plants, several of which are in

forklifts with the latest

Spain, three logistics centres (one in Madrid),

generation of vehicle-

a major R&D and testing centre in Italy and

mounted mobile computers

speed this process up. By

two state-of-the-art proving grounds.

has helped Bridgestone to

wearing the ring scanner on a

speed up data handling, drive

finger, employees keep both

Bridgestone tyres are fitted to one in every

down error rates and eliminate

hands free for handling heavy

five vehicles in the world including everything

unnecessary forklift mileage,

and bulky tyres. Data capture is

from motorcycles and cars to tractors and

saving time, cost and energy

commercial vehicles. All of the world’s major


achieved quickly, safely and comfortably by simply pointing the

car manufacturers fit Bridgestone tyres as

finger and scanner at the barcode.

original equipment. In Europe most of the

After evaluation against other rugged vehicle-

company’s sales come from the aftermarket.

mounted computers, Bridgestone chose to

Mobile troubleshooting

equip its forklifts with Honeywell’s Thor VX8

Business challenge

mobile computers. As well as being much

Bridgestone’s business analysts and

more affordable and more powerful than rival

managers in production, logistics and

With tyres critical to the safety of drivers and

devices, the fact that the Thor VX8 can run

warehouse operations need to be able to

passengers in the world’s one billion plus

the Windows XP operating system also meant

monitor and respond to business issues as

vehicles, Bridgestone takes its commitment to

that it could be seamlessly integrated into

and when they arise. By deploying several

those using the 200 million fitted with its

Bridgestone’s existing warehouse

Honeywell Dolphin 7800 mobile computers,

products extremely seriously. Bridgestone’s

management software. It also offers the

they are able to identify and respond to

company mission “Serving Society with

company a simpler route for migration to any

situations wherever they occur much more

Superior Quality” requires all parts of its

other system in the future.

quickly than before.

performance and reliability. Meeting this

Deploying the Thor VX8 has also helped the

Whether in quality, stock control or logistics,

commitment, while keeping the company as a

company to improve the reliability of its

these powerful EDAs (Enterprise Digital

competitive leader in the global tyre market,

inventory management by facilitating faster

Assistants) allow Bridgestone’s managers to

requires state-of-the-art systems to monitor and

and more accurate tracking of products.

access accurate data in real-time and take

control production and logistics. Strict quality

Further savings have come from more efficient

advantage of photo and e-mail functions for

control and full traceability are essential.

use of resources throughout the production

fast and effective problem solving. The


warehouse manager also uses Honeywell’s

business to deliver to the highest levels of

The product ID of every tyre needs to be captured and stored, so that wherever it is

rugged Marathon field computer, which

Hands-free scanning

enables him to go into the vast warehouse

origin. Bridgestone’s huge plant in Burgos,

Bridgestone production workers need to

applications in the ERP system.

Spain manufactures vast quantities of tyres

examine every tyre to ensure product quality

every hour, requiring real-time visibility of the

is to the highest standard before capturing

production, storage and distribution to

individual product IDs, a crucial but time-

optimise operations. For Bridgestone to

consuming process. Introducing Honeywell

Managing all of an enterprise’s mobile

maintain its profitable and market-leading

8650 Bluetooth Ring Scanners has helped to

devices can be a complex, disruptive and

used it can always be traced back to its


IT Decemebr 2013



and maintain contact with mission-critical

Mobile device management


Success story


labour-intensive operation, especially over an

Seamless integration with existing

extensive site. By successfully deploying

warehouse management system, open to

Honeywell’s Remote Mastermind to manage


its entire estate of mobile devices Bridgestone has been able to free up its IT department to

Simplified mobile device management freeing up IT resources.

concentrate on core activities, while spending a fraction of the time previously required for updates and diagnostics.

Conclusion The range of Honeywell solutions deployed in

Disruption to users is also minimised as

different areas allows Bridgestone to fulfil its

devices are kept deployed in the field.

mission: ‘Serving Society with Superior

Remote Mastermind integrates security,

Quality’ by offering high performance,

remote management, configuration,

improved quality and efficiency, error

deployment, diagnostics and detailed

reduction and cost savings. 

reporting in a centralised solution. Changing the configuration of hundreds of devices can be handled centrally in just a few mouse clicks, regardless of type of device.


Key benefits

Client: Country: Market: Application:

Fast and accurate inventory management has reduced errors and recovery costs.

More efficient use of production resources and reduced forklift mileage.

Accurate real-time reporting and alerts.

Effective field checks in the warehouse with access to all applications.

Hands-free scanning of bulky tyres.

Bridgestone. Spain. Manufacturing. Inventory management, production control, warehouse management and IT systems support. Partner: Alfaland. Product Solutions: Honeywell’s Thor VX8, Dolphin 7800, Marathon field computer, Bluetooth ring scanner and Remote Mastermind.

Corporate Profile

Honeywell Scanning & Mobility Honeywell Scanning & Mobility (HSM) is part of the Automation

Industrial markets served

and Control Solutions (ACS) business group of Honeywell. HSM


is a leading manufacturer of high-performance image- and laser-

Collection & Delivery.

based data collection hardware, including rugged mobile


computers and barcode scanners, radio frequency identification

Field workforce.

solutions, Voice-enabled workflow and printing solutions.

Retail. Warehouse.

With one of the broadest product portfolios in the automatic

Ports & Intermodal.

identification and data collection industry, HSM provides data collection hardware for retail, healthcare, and transportation

Countries served

and logistics companies seeking to improve operations and


enhance customer service. Additionally, HSM provides advanced software, service and

Website: www.honeywellaidc.com

professional solutions that help customers effectively manage data and assets. HSM products are sold worldwide through a network of distributor and reseller partners.




December 2013



Warehouse Management



Vanderlande Industries introduces next step in Warehouse Automation at LogiMAT 2014 n a world of technology, innovation is key. Vanderlande Industries’ customers are challenged by changing market demands, such as increasing labour costs, little available space and many small orders with short delivery times. These are only a few of the challenges today’s warehouses and distribution centres have to face. It is a constant search for solutions that reduce operational costs, generate higher productivity, optimise space utilisation and enable high service levels. Vanderlande Industries provides these solutions.


At LogiMAT 2014 the company will present what it describes as the next step in flexible warehouse automation; ‘a revolution in shuttle technology’. Before the event, however, let’s take a look at the company’s well-established technology. Vanderlande Industries is a leading supplier of automated warehouses and distribution centres, with a track record of over 1000 satisfied customers in a wide range of industries. Through its in-depth understanding of business processes in warehousing and distribution, the company provide competitive automated solutions for goods receiving, storage, order picking, consolidation and shipping, and its flexible solutions meet the changing market demands.

be equipped with many different load handling devices. QuickStore AS/RS systems are developed and manufactured by Beewen, a Vanderlande Industries company which is one of the leading European suppliers of AS/RS systems.

Increase storage density Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are a key technology in modern warehouse logistics, and are beneficial in a range of warehouse processes: bulk storage, order picking and order consolidation. AS/RS systems enable storage density to be increased by up to 60 per cent. Vanderlande Industries offers the QuickStore range of AS/RS systems. The range includes various miniloads, the HDS shuttle system and the Microshuttle. QuickStore AS/RS systems can





December 2013

12 levels can start with 2 shuttles, keeping the initial investment low. As throughput requirements increase, shuttles can be added individually.

Efficient and accurate order picking Flexible Microshuttle Microshuttles are not dedicated to one storage level but can move between different levels in the racking via a lift. This type of system is referred to as a ‘roaming shuttle’. The shuttles have ‘on-board energy’ by the use of capacitors and use wireless communication. Each Microshuttle system can grow with the business and throughput of the customer. For example, a system with

Order picking accounts for up to 60 per cent of warehouse costs. Processing customer orders quickly and accurately also has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. Automated order picking systems can increase the user’s productivity up to 1000 lines per man-hour, improve your picking accuracy up to 99.99 per cent and enable users to deliver higher customer service levels. Selecting the best order picking system for a business depends on the



LET US HELP YOU TO: Reduce operational costs - Optimise space utilisation - Improve accuracy Reduce through put time - Provide ergonomic working conditions for employees

Find out what we can do for you at: www.vanderlande.com

Warehouse Management



characteristics of the particular operation and products in question. Vanderlande Industries offers a broad range of order picking systems for loose products, cases and pallets, including zone picking systems, goods-toman systems and batch picking systems, right up to fully automated case picking and tote picking systems.

Ergonomic solutions Vanderlande Industries comments that its customers want to offer their employees an attractive working environment while at the same time achieving high productivity and short learning curves. The company is aware that workstation design is a critical success factor to achieve high employee engagement. That is why it developed the @Ease workstation range: its proven ergonomics enable operators to maintain high productivity for sustained working periods.

Pick@Ease improves performance Vanderlande Industries’ Pick@Ease is a good example of such a workstation. With this process products stored in standard-sized plastic containers are retrieved from storage racks by automatic cranes (AS/RS systems)

Microshuttles are not dedicated to one storage level but can move between different levels in the racking via a lift.

and brought to the operator via a conveyor system. The operator picks the required amount of products out of the product container and places it in another standard-sized plastic container, representing a customer order. The operator workstation plays a crucial role in such a system. A single order picker working with the new system can replace up to 9 ‘traditional’ order pickers. The new system also improves the performance of the overall warehouse, as it

significantly improves picking accuracy, ensuring the customer gets the correct order at the right time. Find out more about Vanderlande Industries and see what it can do for you at www.vanderlande.com, or visit the company at at LogiMAT 2014, Hall 1, Stand 731, from 25 to 27 February 2014 in Stuttgart Germany. 

Corporate Profile

Vanderlande Industries


Vanderlande Industries is a leading material handling company with more than 60 years of experience. The company has successfully automated more than 1000 warehouses and distribution centres worldwide. Vanderlande Industries specialises in designing and building intelligent IT driven material handling systems and related services, which cover the entire distribution centre process, from Goods Receiving to Shipping. These solutions enable customers to organise their process in the most efficient, cost effective way. Vanderlande Industries’ automated material handling solutions have low labour requirements, make efficient use of available floor space, and enable companies to deliver higher customer service levels, while keeping costs down. Vanderlande has sales exceeding EUR 700 million and employs 2700 people of whom more than 50 per cent have a college or university degree. Vanderlande Industries operates from its headquarters in the Netherlands and Customer Centres in many countries. Solutions offered Vanderlande Industries specialises in designing and building intelligent IT-driven materials handling systems and related




December 2013

services, which cover the entire distribution centre process, from Goods Receiving to Shipping. Our solutions include order picking/order fulfilment systems, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), sortation systems, conveyor systems/internal transport systems and Warehouse Management and Control Systems (WMS/WCS). Industrial markets served Vanderlande Industries has automated well over 1000 warehouses and distribution centres, which can be found in a wide range of industries, such as: food retail; non-food retail; fashion, footwear and accessories; media and games; office supplies; business-to-consumer; pharmaceuticals and personal care; parts & components and automotive. Countries served Vanderlande Industries serves customers worldwide from its headquarters in the Netherlands and Customer Centres in many countries worldwide.

Website: www.vanderlande.com


Warehouse Management


Company news

MACS Software enters into partnership agreement with MetaPack arehouse management software specialist MACS Software has announced a partnership agreement with MetaPack, the delivery management platform for local and global e-commerce operations. MetaPack’s software is used by many major fulfilment houses to handle the distribution and management of online sales to 200 countries via 80 carriers for companies such as Tesco, B&Q, Halfords and M&S.



DRIVEN BY INNOVATION, FOCUSSED ON INDUSTRY MACS Software has provided warehouse management systems (WMS) for over 21 years and has been involved in e-commerce from the outset. The company has developed an interface that allows the seamless transition of data between the MetaPack system and its own WMS to provide management information across multiple warehouses and carriers. MACS’ managing director Tony Liddar commented: “We are delighted to be working with a major delivery management platform such as MetaPack. Online retailing is expanding at a phenomenal rate and the systems that control the storage and distribution of goods need to stay one step ahead. Joining forces with MetaPack is a natural progression for us and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.” 


MACS Software at a glance MACS Software Ltd. provides warehouse and logistics solutions for small- to medium-sized enterprises. Since 1991, MACS Software has helped companies in the UK and European markets streamline their warehouse management and logistics to achieve lower costs, higher profits and satisfied customers. MACS provides user-friendly and cost-effective software packages to many industries, including; food, retail, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, electronics and efulfilment. A number of clients testify that MACS software has transformed their businesses and more than paid for itself within months. In addition to its UK and European business MACS has a successful programme working with a US Government supplier and its aid relief programme. The programme promotes peace and stability by fostering economic growth, protecting human health, providing emergency humanitarian assistance, and enhancing democracy in developing countries. MACSwms solutions help the aid industry to distribute anti-viral drugs, in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Caribbean islands.

The big event in handling for manufacturing and distribution professionals delivers contacts, content and communities with the power to transform your business: • Showcase your products and services at an innovative exhibition at the heart of Europe • 15,000 professionals. 73% are involved in the decision making process • 150 exhibitors, suppliers of handling equipment or automated systems

MACS often works with countries that do not embrace best practices in warehouse management that the UK is accustomed to. To address this, the company works closely with Logistics Learning Alliance to train people to UK standard warehouse procedures at MACS training facilities in the UK before completing WMS software training. Training is an important part of the MACSwms solution.

BENEFIT FROM DISCOUNTS AND SPECIAL SERVICES. Exhibit in a UK pavilion. More information, contact: Thomas di Masso, thomas.dimasso@reedexpo.fr, +33 1 47 56 65 46

MACS Software provides solutions for warehousing, bonded warehousing, distribution, manufacturing and third-party logistics (3PL) at single or multiple sites for 2 to over 100 users.


Organised by

&LOGISTICSIT www.intralogistics-europe.com MANUFACTURING

December 2013 Transport & Logistics


Special technology report

Warehouse management

What’s in store?

Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke with a number of spokespeople from the warehouse management solutions community about recent – and possible future – developments in this all-important technology space. smooth-running warehouse or


increasing demand for ergonomics. “Optimally,

the biggest talking point at the moment and

distribution centre has always

this is achieved by a combination of fit-for-use

WMS integration with effective carrier

been critical if all the related

user interfaces and optimised physical

management systems is critical to giving the

elements within the supply chain

workstation setups,” he said. “Good working

customer flexibility in how they receive their

are to run smoothly – and this, of

conditions have a positive impact on the

goods. Kay adds that, historically, the supply

course, always will be the case. Nevertheless,

motivation and performance of workers and can

chain, and particularly the warehouse, has been

the methodologies put in place with the aim of

reduce their sickness absence times. An

seen as a cost centre in which to minimise

achieving best practice can always be further

ergonomic and easy user interface will also have

spend. “What we’re increasingly seeing is how

developed, as indeed can the technology

shorter learning curves for the staff, which is

the introduction of appropriate automation

backbone required to keep things flowing in and

especially important in dynamic workforce

technology leads to a rapid return on investment

back out of the warehouse environment. So,


when combined with a WMS that can make the best use of it,” he said.

amid this backdrop, what are some of the most important current business and operational

Additionally, Eppert maintains that the increase

talking points within the world of warehouse

of e-commerce business is influencing WMS

Tony Hampson, managing director, BEC


development. “Customer orders are getting

(Systems Integration) Ltd., believes there is now

smaller and the expected throughput time is

more of a requirement for real-time interfaces into

Martin Eppert, product manager at Vanderlande

getting shorter,” he said. “Same-day delivery is

these systems. “Real-time integration is now the

Industries, considers that one of the most

seen at the horizon. The WMS has to support this

norm and what's expected, rather than offline

interesting topics concerning warehouse

development with suitable planning and

batching up of information and reporting after the

management system (WMS) development at the

scheduling functionalities to maintain warehouse

event,” he commented.

moment is how to present the right information in

efficiencies.” Graham Gittins, product manager Supply Chain

the right way to the system. “More and more graphical dashboards are seen in systems

Derek Kay, business development director,

Management at Advanced Business Solutions,

nowadays, even combining WMS-related

Logistex, also considers that the burgeoning

reflects that few processes within the world of

information with process information from other

eCommerce industry has brought a number of

warehousing are new. “They largely revolve

system; for example, the lower control levels in

topics to the fore; how best to handle smaller

around the fairly standard practices of bringing

case of automation,” he said, adding that doing

orders and later cut-offs, management of returns

items in, putting them away, and retrieving them

this in a good way enables the supervisors to

and minimising final mile delivery costs, the

again quickly and accurately at the right time,”

make the best use of the available resources

traditional bulk warehouses need to adapt to

he remarked. “So it’s a case of constantly striving

and in this way reduce costs.

meet these new requirements.

to improve these existing processes. However, a

Eppert also made the point that there is an

He believes the latter of these is without doubt

lot of the current debate is about how to get the





December 2013

best out of the increasingly vast amounts of data


Warehouse management

Special technology report

in order to improve

ensure the WMS is ready before the problem

solutions is on the increase as customers are


has manifested itself.”

forever seeking the tighter, integrated seamless

performance and

Tony Hampson, BEC (Systems Integration) Ltd

solution as opposed to batched/timed uploads

supply chain visibility

Brorsson has also witnessed a surge in e-

– thus providing data transfer dynamically and

for the company.”

commerce activity, and observes that these

enabling clients to see updates in up to the

types of suppliers have slightly different

second, real-time mode. He added that BEC is

Mikael Brorsson,

demands than the average wholesaler or

also seeing the uptake of leasing as opposed

product manager,

retailer. “There is large volume of very small

to capex requirement within this technology

Consafe Logistics,

orders, major variations in the order flow,

space, and believes this to be a positive

considers that

delivery of the product to a private consumer

financial step forward for both the suppliers and

flexibility to stay

who is not always home to receive the goods,

customers alike.

current with ever

large quantity of troublesome returned

changing demands is key. He also cites the

goods,” he said. “It’s one thing to sell the

Kay reflects that system interfacing has always

need for transparency and traceability in the

product and collect payment via an attractive

been the area that has required customised

supply chain as something that, while not new on

website; it is quite another matter to pick,

code, and he believes that hasn’t really

the user’s wish list, remains very much within the

package and transport the product to the

changed. “Better specifications and tools like

top five key requirements. “The key to success for integration is connected to process knowledge,” he added. “To be able to understand the advantage with integration no matter the size of the company you have to understand what processes the company needs and demands. This type of deep knowledge is collected through experience from

The requirement for seamless, real-time solutions is on the increase as customers are forever seeking the tighter, integrated seamless solution as opposed to batched/timed uploads – thus providing data transfer dynamically and enabling clients to see updates in up to the second, realtime mode.” – Tony Hampson, BEC (Systems Integration) Ltd.

implementations in combination with deep logistics competence. We see that our customers who are in generation 4 or 5 of their

customer, when the customer is home,

XML schemas have meant that defining the

WMS focusing on enhancing their existing

without the seller being knocked out by costs.

interfaces is much improved, but in reality you

solutions with new functionality such as Yard

E-commerce logistics is very different from

rarely come across two identical interfaces even

Management, Workforce Management, TMS etc.

traditional logistics. It is characterised by

when dealing with two ERP implementations from

For customers in generation 1-3 the WMS itself is

large volumes of very small orders, and is

the same supplier,” he said. “Having

in focus and any a rolling out a working solutions

completely different from picking and

comprehensive and clearly defined interface

to more warehouses and additional countries.”

packaging a pallet or two for a store.”

requirements for the WMS at least means that faced with the same from the ERP supplier it

Gittins believes the main drivers for better

should just be a case of mapping the data rather

Reasons underpinning development

utilisation of supply chain-related data are

than writing something new.”

And what are some of the reasons behind

cooperation. “The better all the people

Hampson points out that customers have

many of the above trends and developments?

involved in the supply chain are able to

demanded that their systems become more

In the case of e-commerce, Kay’s view is that

cooperate though the more efficient use of

open and accessible . “They don't want to have

the requirements themselves have come

data, the greater will be the business and

to go back to their ERP provider for every

about from fact that the UK is the biggest

operational benefits for the company,” he

change and may want to do more themselves or

adopter of e-commerce retailing in the world.

said. “Improved processes can also have a

choose who to partner with for different aspects

“The UK public has enthusiastically embraced

large impact on cost control and profitability

of the solution,” he remarked.

Internet shopping both from home and ‘on the

which is key in supply chain organisations

go’ through tablets and smartphones,” he

where margins are often very tight.”

improved performance, visibility and

said. “The result has been a huge surge in

Gittins has observed that more and more people are now aware of the benefits of reliable

single-line item orders which need to be

integration between core systems, including

efficiently processed through the warehouse

Making the connection

WMS. “With such integration in place companies

for delivery. Many WMS suppliers are still

Have ways of best integrating WMS with other

can more effectively take the risks out of data

struggling to catch up. The best way to keep

systems developed to any notable degree over

sharing,” he said. “Dual keying was always a

ahead of the game is to work with customers

the past year or two? Hampson believes that

risky process in the past, now that process isn’t

to anticipate the next market requirement and

the requirement for seamless, real-time

really necessary. As well as avoiding much of




December 2013



Special technology report

Mikael Brorsson

Warehouse management

the risk of using

In terms of the technology, Eppert sees a trend

themselves or do they just want a known cost

inaccurate or outdated

towards the reactive online type of interfaces

per month for managing and maintaining that

information, integration

instead of classical and less reactive batch-

system. Most companies don't want to pay for

can also help the staff

oriented communication. “This allows for closer

this upfront – they would rather lease it.”

to work more

process integration, e.g. being able to

productively and more

automatically print and add a delivery

Gittins comments that he has observed some

accurately. The

note/invoice and shipping label reflecting the

WMS vendors promoting a SaaS version of their

modern ways of

latest pick results and measured parcel

offering as their core model. “I’m not sure that

interfacing have

weights,” he said.

the SaaS model is going to change the world

resulted in major

overnight,” he reflected, “and think that the SaaS

improvements to the

According to Eppert, customers are becoming

model applied to WMS is still largely in its

process of data

more and more aware of the value of their

formative years. However, the whole area of

sharing within warehousing and the wider supply

software solutions and the risks, if they don’t

Cloud raises the question about general


work as expected. Therefore, he observes that

deployment models; for example, the potential of

upfront testing of the integration of a new system

a SaaS-based software package to save on

Gittins adds that Internet technology continues to

into the customers overall IT landscape has

upfront capex and provide a level of functionality

evolve. “Web services can now make common

become more important. “This is achieved by

that could be of benefit to the organisation.

information of all kinds available to people within

setting up special test environments including

Interestingly, the 3PL market has relied on a

a social, consumer or business environment,” he

remote connections, mimicking the dynamic

multi-tenanted environment for some time. So the

said. Similarly, Gittins points out that common

behaviour of the connected MHE system, to test

concept of software deployment in a Cloud

libraries are starting to become available. “For

a proper integration before the software goes live

environment is not strictly new.”

example, the standards organisation GS1 will

on site,” he said. “More and more customers are

soon start making supply chain-related data

participating during this integration test phase in

Brorsson’s view is that increased demands on flexible delivery and payment models are

The Cloud concept allows more companies to invest and to start small to be able to grow with the solutions, adding the functionality that they need, when they need it.” – Mikael Brorsson, Consafe Logistics.

boosting interest in SaaS WMS offerings. “For us, the Cloud concept allows more companies to invest and to start small to be able to grow with the solutions, adding the functionality that they need, when they need it,” he commented.

resources more publicly available,” he

the test lab, which gives them an excellent

Eppert reports that he has seen very few serious

commented. “In so doing, organisations will have

opportunity for training with their new system and

requests for a SaaS model so far, stating that in

access to better quality information rather than

being well prepared for a smooth commissioning

the context of automation projects the WMS is

having to rely on something of a mixed bag that

and ramp-up phase later on.”

seen as an additional investment to the usually

we have at the moment.”

more expensive equipment. “For a ‘public Cloud’ Eppert also makes the point that the

approach we have seen little interest so far,” he

One area that can be enormously improved

heterogeneous world of logistics still requires

added, “but for small- to mid-size systems we

through greater levels of reliable integration is

suppliers to be flexible with integrations that

see increasing interest and opportunities in

traceability, according to Gittins. “This continues

connect to the existing IT landscape of the

‘private Cloud’ solutions, having the benefit of

to be a hot topic within the supply chain world.

customer. “This hasn’t changed so far,” he

reduced IT setup and maintenance costs. This is

Somebody’s finished goods are somebody

added. Brorsson currently sees more demands

enabled by the general progress in

else’s raw materials. And one food product could

on flexible integrations and more detailed

communication and virtualisation technology.”

run through 20 or 30 processes before it arrives

demands for solving problems in specific areas

at your dinner table. Most recently we had the

of the supply chain.

Kay observes that SaaS as a payment model,

horsemeat scandal. It’s a shame that the subject

available from most WMS vendors, has given customers an alternative option for purchasing

of tracking and traceability most often seems to get attention when something goes wrong.

At your service

the WMS. However, he believes it can be a

Tracking and traceability remains one of those

Has the Software as a Service (SaaS) model had

double edged sword. “Initially it might seem

things that companies opt into but only at a

any notable level of impact on the WMS software

great to avoid capital expenditure, especially for

voluntary level rather than through legislation.

solutions market so far? “Only in that people

a fledgling business. However three years down

However, I understand that European legislation

keep asking about it,” said Hampson. However,

the line when you’re dependent on the WMS and

will come into force within the food industry in the

he believes there are two sides to this. “Do they

you still have to pay every month just to use it, it

near future.”

want the hassle of managing the system

might seem like a false economy.”





December 2013


Warehouse management

Special technology report

Kay adds that, in his view, Cloud technology has

withstand rough handling,” he said. “Tablet PCs

potential issue with

been over hyped. “It certainly has its place, but it

and smartphones are most useful for providing

regard to mobile

doesn’t actually provide a better solution than an

management information both within the

devices. However, he

on-premise WMS system, often quite the

warehouse and externally. The ability for an

makes the point that

opposite,” he remarked. “Recent glitches with

operations manager to check the current status

when people get

Cloud technology have caused downtime for

of his pick operation whilst off site is obviously a

these devices stolen

Instagram, Netflix, Amazon, Intel and Google. If

useful feature. Smartphone alerts for operational

or they leave them

those companies can’t guarantee a reliable

alarms also mean personnel can react more

somewhere, systems

connection to their services what hope does a

quickly to problems and consequently resolve

integrators such as

UK SME using a Cloud WMS have?”

them more rapidly.”

BEC need to integrate

Graham Gittins

services such as geoGittins observes that mobility is certainly a very

fencing into their

On the move

hot topic at the moment within the world of WMS.

offering. In this way,

Are mobility solutions such as mobile computers

“Advanced Computer Software has just won an

devices can be quickly locked down and wiped

and tablet PCs having an impact or influence on

award in the US for developing a new mobile

so that any sensitive information is removed.

WMS systems? Brorsson believes this is

application for calculating an individual’s

undoubtedly the case. “Users want access to

expenses. And if you have people using their

data/information anywhere. And our mobility

own mobile phones to do their expenses there’s

The big question

applications bring this possibility to our users.”

no reason why they wouldn’t also be able to use

Is Big Data having an impact on the world of

Eppert also believes mobility solutions will have a

their own mobile devices to do various question

WMS solutions? Eppert believes the answer is a

big impact on WMS systems. “The progress of

& answer-type tasks related to their company’s

definite “yes”. “The WMS is asked to deliver

this technology enables new possibilities also

WMS. For example if sales staff speaking to

more detailed internal process data to the BI

within the warehouse,” he said. “For example, if a

customers want to gain permission to release

platform to facilitate deeper data analytics,” he said. “Especially combining process data from

Rather than basic data warehouses, what’s needed is cubes or matrices of information that have already got the type of data companies require presummarised and cross referenced. This may be an expense but it’s also a technology that I think more people are becoming familiar with.” – Graham Gittins, Advanced Business Solutions.

various views of the warehouse can give a better insight in improvement potentials. For example, monitoring the timestamps of when delivery orders were downloaded to the WMS can help to find out why deliveries were issued later than expected in addition to just looking at their priority.” Eppert added that he believes the

service technician has to solve an equipment

stock in order to satisfy an order more or less in

correct interpretation of the data will stay a

defect, he benefits from having all related

real time, there’s no reason why a service

human task for the time being and will not

information immediately available at the spot on

module couldn’t be provided in a format that

become fully-automated in the near future. “In

his tablet. Furthermore if he needs remote

could be fitted onto a mobile device. By using

this sense Big Data should be understood as the

assistance, he wants to illustrate the problem

such a device field sales personnel could

approach to take good decisions based on good

with his mobile video camera while discussing

receive confirmation from the warehouse that

information,” he said. “A challenge for the future

the situation with a specialist, potentially sitting

either stock is or isn’t currently available. Then,

will be to elevate media information like pictures

thousands of miles away in his office (see, for

they can relay that information to the customer as

and movies taken from the processes in a

example. the new EYE4U solution of

soon as they receive it.”

Vanderlande Industries). We will see more of these applications in the future, as the mobile

Hampson’s perception is

technology evolves quickly. In general there is a

that people now have an

big common cultural trend towards being online

expectation that they can

everywhere. People’s expectation is that this is

get their enterprise

possible with any kind of modern software,

information wherever they

including WMS.”

are, so they don't have to be at their desk or in the

Kay makes the point that a busy warehouse can

premises. “They can get it

be a very harsh environment for mobile devices

at any time of the day,

that haven’t been designed for rugged use. “The

wherever they are,” he

reason most handheld devices used for picking

said. Hampson recognises

are so bulky is because they are designed to

that data security is a




December 2013



Special technology report

warehouse to the level

operational database otherwise you run the risk

technology suppliers whose systems are

of data analytics.”

of the reporting tools impacting the performance

integrated within the suite of systems you find in

of the WMS operation itself,” he commented.

many modern warehouse environments. For

Gittins points out that

“Having historical reference data can allow you

instance, Voice-directed picking systems, RFID

he has spent 16 years

to identify trends that can in turn allow more

technology and mobile devices of various types

on the software side of

efficient use of equipment and the workforce.

– truck-mounted terminals for use in the

warehousing and has

What is important is not to compromise the WMS

warehouse, smartphones or tablets with touch-

realised first-hand the

amount of data available today

Derek Kay

Warehouse management

compared with what used to be around just a few years ago. “And

What is important is not to compromise the WMS by trying to make it a Jack of all trades. Keeping the data and BI reporting separate from, but fed by, the real-time operational WMS gives you the best of both worlds.” – Derek Kay, Logistex.

much of this data is tied up with dashboards and

by trying to make it a Jack of all trades. Keeping

screen technology for use by sales staff in the

business intelligence, with people analysing it in

the data and BI reporting separate from, but fed

field. It’s all about ensuring staff are given the

order to better understand historical, current and

by, the real-time operational WMS gives you the

means to work as effectively as possible.”

future trends,” he said. “The danger is that rather

best of both worlds.”

than resulting in companies being able to make

Mikael Brorsson’s view is that most WMS are

more informed decisions they can very easily get

similar to each other, with few differences. “We

to the point where all they’ve really got is

What’s the difference?

create additions to our WMS that fit our existing

‘analysis paralysis’. If they end up spending

What are some of the main functionality

customers perfectly, such as Warehouse 3D, a

more time analysing data than using it to

differentiators within the WMS vendor

solution for layout planning your warehouse in

business advantage they’ve got a problem.”


3D,” he said. Brorsson also cited the

Gittins reminds us that at the larger end of the

functionality Adaptive multi-cycle, that minimises

This, states Gittins, is where Big Data comes

market, there are those companies who do a lot

empty driving in the warehouse, using the

in. “Rather than basic data warehouses, what’s

more of the hard integration, suppliers of

forklifts more efficient in adaptive task

needed is cubes or matrices of information that

conveyors, sorting systems, robotics, etc. “I think

interleaving. Additionally, he points to Dynamic

have already got the type of data companies

that as things progress this type of automation

location allocation, for better use of space and

require pre-summarised and cross

may become increasingly more commonplace,”

less administration.

referenced,” he remarked. “This may be an

he said. “Fortunately, there are some third-party

expense but it’s also a technology that I think

components available that can make that type of

For Eppert, the ability to integrate in an optimal

more people are becoming familiar with. And I

integration easier for some of the smaller WMS

way into the specific IT context of the customer

think as Big Data becomes increasingly

vendors. Then, there are the specialist

is crucial. “The existing IT setup usually reflects

recognised for the advantages it can offer, the more companies will value the expertise that can be provided by people who understand how to filter out the data chaff and focus on the information that is of direct benefit to the organisation.” Brorsson maintains that there are very few companies that have control of their data in full. “It is more common that our customers need to do a vast internal work in order to ‘clean’ data before implementing an WMS,” he said. “When the WMS is in use, customers request solutions to support their need for analytics in retrospect analyses for their warehouse operations and for proactive operations planning.” Kay’s view is that Big Data is only useful if you have good tools to turn it into it big information. “What is important is to ensure the WMS records all the important information separately from the





December 2013


Warehouse management

Special technology report

its benefits. The part

a significant investment, which has to be safeguarded,” he said, adding: “Having a state-

Moving ahead

mobile devices play in

of-the-art and future-oriented development

What might be the next

making end-to-end

platform is important, as WMS setups are

innovations/developments to look out for in the

track and trace and

usually in service for many years. Additionally,

world of WMS software over the next year or


Eppert considers that a good support of

two? Brorsson points to truly zero modification

communication more

mechanised processes should be part of the

deployments and customers’ requirement for a

seamless will continue

WMS as well, as there is the steady tendency

standard WMS with basic functionality in order

to develop. Overall

towards further automation for cost and quality

to enhance implementation speed, quick

supply chain visibility

reasons. Eppert also maintains that ergonomics

integration and usage of the system. Brorsson

will continue to

in the software and the workplace setup is

adds that over the next few years he believes

improve, with real-

crucial, as it influences the performance of the

that new advanced technology will partly drive

time monitoring and real-time events becoming

workers and the supervising staff, as well as

the development of WMS functionality. For

the norm for a lot of warehouse professionals.

their learning curves.

example, he considers that usage of Google

Greater levels of flexibility will also continue to

Glass in a warehouse would be a way of

improve. For example, if plan A isn’t considered

According to Eppert, the facilities of the WMS to

incorporating new technology. Brorsson also

to be the best option, plan B,C or D can be put

easily manage and supervise the warehouse

foresees other new ways of working in a

into action in its place as part of a largely

processes are very important as well. “A good

traditional warehouse operation, and believes

automated process. Increasingly, we will see

WMS assists the supervisor by presenting the

that usage of dashboard solutions in warehouse

functionality built into the system that can

important information in an easily accessible

operations will be more frequently used.

compensate for certain events not going to plan.

Martin Eppert

So computers, through their ability to analyse

In general there is a big common cultural trend towards being online everywhere. People’s expectation is that this is possible with any kind of modern software, including WMS.” – Martin Eppert, Vanderlande Industries.

information quickly, will increasingly be able to do analytical and comparative thinking in an automated way.” Generally speaking, Kay believes we are likely to see movement in two key areas; storage of

way,” he said, adding that, besides the

Eppert believes one key development in the

key information and increased accessibility to

functional aspects, it is important to look at the

area of WMS to look out for will be the

that information, wherever you are in the world.

organisation of the WMS supplier as well – for

integration of new solutions such as automated

He added: “Recording of information regarding

example at their experience in the customer’s

shuttle systems; allowing for scalable storage

warehouse operations, order profiles and KPI’s

business area, their development processes

solutions or automated mixed palletising

coupled with good business intelligence tools

and ability to deliver. “For a successful long-

solutions. These solutions, he says, ask for

will allow managers to more effectively manage

term relationship it is important to find the right

specific support at WMS level to get the most

their teams and monitor trends to ensure

partner,” he added.

benefit out of the system.

continuous improvement in their operations. Access to this information via mobile devices

Kay believes the majority of the vendors

Eppert added that he sees a future challenge

remaining in the marketplace all have a good

for the WMS software world in the burgeoning

and easy to use app’s is going to be critical.”

understanding of how to run a standard

conflict between the impressive innovation

As a general reflection on the WMS industry,

warehouse operation. “They wouldn’t still be

speed and release cycles on the consumer

Kay’s view is that the recent recession has

around if they hadn’t,” he remarked. However,

market on the one side and the demand for

seen a number of WMS suppliers merge with,

Kay’s view is that the differences are between

future-proof investments in the world of logistics

or be taken over by, businesses whose focus

what could be described as the ‘Enterprise

on the other. “For example, mobile terminals in a

is more commercially biased. “As logistics

WMS’ suppliers who have substantial financial

warehouse are often in operation for many

professionals will know, trying to run a

backing – but consequently higher price tags

years, while the capabilities of usual

warehouse with an accounting system does

and whole-life costs – and the independent

Smartphones and its applications are improving

not necessarily provide the best results,” he

WMS suppliers who can provide effective

monthly,” said Eppert. “For me as product

remarked. “Those specialist WMS suppliers

WMS solutions for manual operations. “WMS

manager it’s an interesting task to assist in

who have been strong enough to survive the

systems that can support automation ‘out of

introducing these new technologies into our

past four years and continue to provide

the box’ can give a complete solution with the

logistics world.”

innovative and comprehensive solutions are key to supporting an industry facing the

ability to enhance warehouse operations with appropriate automation as and when

Looking forward, Gittins returns to the subject of

major changes brought on by the growth in

needed,” he said.

Big Data. “We will hear a lot about Big Data and





December 2013



Special technology report

Voice-directed picking

Spread the word Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke with a number of spokespeople from the Voice-directed picking solutions vendor and systems integration community about a number of current key talking points. These include areas of development that are providing even more compelling benefits for the end user, and possible further innovations that could surface over the next year or two.

oice-directed picking solutions continue to become increasingly attractive to end users in a number of vertical sectors such as warehousing and retail. And since its initial introduction a few years ago this technology space has seen a number of notable leaps forward. So, bringing our Voice technology up to date, what are some of the current main points or discussion within the Voice-directed solutions space? Ronan Clinton, CEO of Heavey RF Group, believes the world of Voice logistics over the past couple of years has very much become the solution of choice for busy and growing warehouses. In his view, one of the chief reasons for this is the ongoing developments and production of the recognition components and the ability for operators to use Voice as an effective data inputting tool. “This continues to be a key element in the operation of any application which uses Voice as the medium,” said Clinton. “This, coupled with more innovatively developed off-the-shelf software allows customers to choose a less expensive, higher performing solution that deliver all of the benefits that Voice has to offer.”


According to Darrel Williams, regional director Northern Europe & South Africa at Vocollect. integration of scanning and Voice technology is a key talking point. “It’s no longer an ‘either/or’ scenario,” he says. “We are seeing clear situations where certain tasks are best fulfilled by Voice technology and others through scanning – Voice for all productivity, focus and validation activities (ensuring the correct locations or quantities) and scanning or RFID for data collection (unique batch information).” He Ronan Clinton adds that the recent acquisition of Vocollect/Intermec





December 2013

by Honeywell illustrates that the AIDC industry recognises that this harmonisation of technologies best meets end-user requirements.

Another main current discussion point, according to Darrel Williams, is about optimising your resources. “In an ideal world one resource should fit every purpose. Voice technology goes some way to achieving this. As well as delivering the expected productivity and accuracy benefits, Voice must address the needs of a multi-national, diverse workforce. It goes without saying that every spoken language and dialect must be accommodated in any and all combinations. Likewise, a company’s equipment and people need to be able to fulfil every task, in any environment assigned to them, with a consistently high level of performance. Vocollect’s simple, directive Voice solution enables all workers using a single hardware platform to execute every warehouse process, without the need for task-specific training resulting in a flexible multi-skilled workforce.”

Anton du Preez, group sales director at VoiteQ, considers that, at a broad market level, some of the key developments are: the expanding number of industries that are adopting Voice-directed work, the application of the technology to process tasks beyond picking and the ‘consumerisation’ of voice recognition. “We’re seeing an upward trend in the use for Voice in stock movement processes such as Putaway and Replenishment,” he said. “Voice is also starting to provide value outside the traditional four walls of a warehouse in areas such as inspection. The increasing availability of voice recognition on consumer devices will drive user awareness and further broaden the range of Voice applications in the market.”

du Preez adds that it is important to distinguish the requirements for industrial, line-of-business Voice from those of a consumer. “The return on investment of line-

of-business applications is based on shaving seconds off a repetitive process and this demands high performance, highly accurate recognition – any repetition or mis-recognition Anton du Preez means those saved seconds are lost. Consumer applications need to deal with a far wider vocabulary and are not as time critical. So both approaches to voice recognition have their place and we see consumer-grade voice recognition simply expanding the overall Voice market.”

Tim Williams, distribution divisional director at BCP, believes it is now all about having full control of the warehouse with Voice (wall-towall Voice) rather than just using Voice for picking, in order that the benefits of Voice can be delivered right across the warehouse operation. “Until recently Voice was virtually synonymous with Voice picking,” he remarked, “but now more and more vendors are developing Voice functionality for other warehouse operations – and there’s a trend towards full Voice WMS (warehouse management systems) rather than bolting a Voice pick system onto an existing WMS.”

Tim Williams also considers that there is increasing awareness that warehouse operations are often more complex than generally perceived, and that a fully integrated WMS designed around Voice can deliver much more functionality and flexibility. “It’s something we, at BCP, identified right at the start and, as a result, we’ve been delivering wall-to-wall Voice WMS solutions since the beginning, implementing the first UK wall to-wall Voice solution in the UK food & drink industry way back in 2002,” he pointed out. Additionally, Tim Williams believes there is an increasing demand for more


Voice-directed picking

Mikael Brorsson

sophisticated statistics to help effectively manage the warehouse workforce and for systems to be ever more easy and intuitive to use and maintain. This, he maintains, is another driver for a single Voice WMS to manage all operations.

Andreas Finken, president of topVOX Inc. (US) and managing director of topVOX Ltd. (UK), reflects that Voice picking started in picking sector and has become a reliable solution for other applications in the logistics sector. “New solutions that we provide to other branches, e.g. for check by Voice for the maintenance sector or manufacturing industry, are based on a speech dialogues with an enhanced vocabulary,” he said. “As topVox provides a speaker-independent system it is easy to implement new Voice solutions in other business branches. Besides our customers and prospects look for Voice solutions that are hardware independent and that can be used even with iOS and Android based devices.”

Tony Hampson, managing director of BEC (Systems Integration) Ltd., considers that there is now more of a requirement for realtime interfaces into systems such as Voice, WMS and ERP etc. “Real-time integration is now the norm and what's expected, rather than offline batching up of information and reporting after the event,” he said. Mikael Brorsson, product manager at Consafe Logistics, believes that although traditional picking is the most common methodology, some ‘Voice mature’ operations now look to utilise Voice in other areas such as put-away, cycle counts and packing etc.

Jon Hall, group operations director at Touchstar Technologies, comments that during these difficult economic times, end users have been put under increased pressure to reduce costs whilst remaining operationally effective. “With budgets constrained it has been difficult to justify implementing any form of technology upgrade,” he remarked. “Voice can deliver on average an ROI within 12 months and its business case can be easily built by way of a simple warehouse walkthrough. Whereas


Special technology report

Voice-directed solutions were typically applied to picking scenarios, warehouse and logistics operators are now realising productivity improvements of between 10 and 35 per cent, with up to 99.9 per cent operational accuracy across the full spectrum of warehouse processes. An increased awareness of the technology and potential benefits the solutions can bring to the wider warehouse operation has certainly increased the awareness and interest in the technology.”

Hall added that the ergonomics of the Voicedirected hardware has also developed tremendously over the years – more specifically, he makes the point that the size and weight of batteries in comparison to their power has allowed Voice terminals to become smaller lighter and work for longer between charges. “Operationally this has contributed significantly to productivity increases and user acceptance of the technology,” he said. Also, Hall reminds us that Bluetooth wireless technology has become an integral element of Voice directed solutions, in part due to the reliability of Bluetooth as a Voice-streaming technology.

According to Andrew Southgate, sales director at Zetes, there are five key topics currently being discussed within the Voice technology arena:

1. “Trained versus untrained systems: Having the ability to choose between speaker-independent (untrained Voice systems) whereby the user does not have to train a voice template profile for the system is a significant development because it is highly beneficial for companies with a highly seasonal workforce.

2. “Vendor-independence: this is another hot topic and is a strength of Zetes’ MCL platform, because it means customers are free to choose any hardware vendor they want and are not tied into a particular brand.

3. “Voice in the Cloud: The concept of Voice software in the Cloud is another hot topic and this is also totally device-independent – there is no need to purchase a new software licence if you change to a different hardware platform. For instance you may be running an MCL Voice picking application on a Motorola device

and then in the future wish to switch to Intermec devices; there is no requirement to buy an additional MCL licence for the Intermec device, since the licence cost is based on a monthly subscription and will continue running as before.

4. “Financial models: The pay per month/ pay as you go formula for buying Voice is also attractive for people who want to invest in new technology using operating expenditure (opex) rather than capital expenditure (Capex). This makes it possible to react more quickly to requirements and allocate a monthly fee rather than have to embark on a lengthy capex approval process.

“This model is particularly attractive for 3PLs because it is so flexible and means they can have access to Voice technology and a pool of hardware devices for the duration of a contract in order to make it more profitable. If the contract comes to an end, the 3PL has the option to re-use devices at other sites without being tied in or simply return the devices to Zetes. This is an important marketing innovation for 3PLs because it allows them to invest in technology in a financially efficient way.

5. “Integration with peripherals: e.g. scanners, printing, RFID, AGVs now also synergy with pick to light modules is another important innovation. For example it is possible to combine Voice picking with a trolley equipped with light modules. This allows the operative to pick multiple assignments simultaneously and identify the correct location on the trolley with a light at each stage. The light is displayed at the relevant location where picked products are dropped and this helps to make the whole process faster and more accurate.

“When Voice picking is integrated with AGVs this can improve productivity by an additional 25 per cent above and beyond original levels because a new pallet can be automatically commissioned at the same time as the full pallet is dropped off.

Tim Williams



December 2013



Special technology report

Previously this stage could waste up to 25 per cent of total picking time.”

Integration Looking in more depth at the theme of integration, have Andreas Finken ways of best integrating Voicedirected systems with other systems (eg. systems such as WMS, ERP, supply chain management, etc.) developed to any notable degree over the past year or two? Hampson believes the requirement for seamless, real-time solutions is on the increase as customers are forever seeking the tighter, integrated seamless solution as opposed to batched/timed uploads – thus providing data transfer dynamically and enabling clients to see updates in up to the second, real-time mode. According to Hampson, BEC is also seeing the uptake of leasing as opposed to Capex requirement within this space. “This is a positive financial step forward for both parties – both the suppliers and customers alike,” he said.

Darrel Williams points out that Vocollect Voice integrates with any WMS or ERP, and comes as standard with many leading systems. “However, with the diversity of EU business systems there remains a strong argument for bolt-on middleware solutions,” he added. “We apply our I.P. to create IDEs that utilise openly sourced development tools and languages. By offering these to a range of partners around the world, we enable diversity in both architecture and solution type to suit each market and region.”

Hall observes that middleware is becoming more sophisticated and ERP vendors are ensuring that they are providing better interfaces for Voice-directed solutions. “There are plug-and-play systems which are brilliant sales tools, however in reality the payback for Voice only comes when the processes are optimised for Voice,” he said. “Any attempt to short cut this optimisation results in a poor implementation that is prone to failure (or at best gives little improvement in productivity).”

Clinton comments that Heavey RF has seen a significant amount of pressure placed by customers on the WMS companies to provide





December 2013

Voice-directed picking

simpler integration methods. “Matching this with the latest integration standards has made it considerably easier for customers to avail of the benefits of middleware without sacrificing the functionality of the WMS,” he said. “This also enables customers to benefit from both WMS experts and Voice experts, instead of one trying to fulfil the other’s shoes – a method which has produced less than optimum results for early adopters.”

Continuing the middleware theme, du Preez observes that the vast majority of successful Voice solutions still operate via middleware execution systems or via direct WMS interfaces. He makes the point that one notable development in the integration of Voice with back-end systems has been the introduction of screen-to-Voice solutions where an existing text-based handheld or PC screen is Voice-enabled – speaking the prompts to the user and entering their verbal responses into the screen; as if typed or scanned. “This has the advantage of not requiring any change or integration to the back-end system,” he said, “but does limit the Voice workflow to that of the existing screens. These screens can be sub-optimal for Voice and therefore the business benefit would be lower than that of a fully optimised Voice system.” du Preez also points out that integration of Voice with back-end systems is a core competency of established Voice providers and that there are a range of open, standards-based integration options available. “Of much greater importance are the operational improvements and the associated business case,” he added.

Tim Williams reflects that integrating Voice into WMS is not as easy as it is often represented. “And I believe this underlines the movement towards tightly integrated Voice WMS rather than bolting middleware Voice solutions into existing WMS,” he said. “It’s less risky, much more robust and delivers more functionality.” Brorsson comments that there is a requirement for tighter integrated WMS versus Voice solution for better use and access of existing business logic; not just downloadable pick lists.

Southgate points out that Zetes has not seen any recent significant changes with regard to integration. “There are still two primary ways to integrate Voice – the direct interface and using middleware,” he says. “In the latter case, the business logic required for picking is controlled by the Voice system.” Andreas Finken explains that topVox provides standard

interfaces to all common WMS and ERP systems. “Middleware is only included if the customer requires that,” he added. “New is our SAP-certified Voice solution Lydia Connector 7.0 for Voice that integrates directly into SAP business modules like SAP WM or EWM without any middleware. With Lydia Connector 7.0 for Voice the complete application logic of the Voice solution still remains within the SAP business module(s). All standard processes – such as receiving, picking, replenishing, put-to-store, crossdocking, cycle counting and returns management – are supported by Lydia Connector. Even VT-based systems can now benefit from Voice easily with our new Lydia VT Connector.”

Mobility Are mobility solutions such as mobile computers and tablet PCs etc. having an impact or influence on Voice systems? Hampson’s perception is that people now have an expectation that they can get their enterprise information wherever they are, so they don't have to be at their desk or in the premises. “They can get it at any time of the day, wherever they are,” he said. Hampson recognises that data security is a potential issue with regard to mobile devices. However, he makes the point that when people get these devices stolen or they leave them somewhere, systems integrators such as BEC need to integrate services such as geofencing into their offering. In this way, devices can be quickly locked down and wiped so that any sensitive information is removed.

Darrel Williams considers that, at its simplest level, Voice is another user interface. “It is the evolution of AIDC, improving on speed, human ease of use and driving better results than more user-intensive interfaces, such as tablets and mobile computing devices. Voice enables end users to do what their business requires of them in the best possible way, rather than their being encumbered by technology.”

du Preez explains that the open nature of newer software architectures, such

Jon Hall


Voice-directed picking

as Vocollect’s VoiceArtisan, enables Voice terminals to easily integrate and interact with other mobile devices. “An example of this would be the provision of user Tony Hampson training via the user’s mobile phone rather than paper or a PC application,” he said, adding: “Integration with back-office systems is generally provided by the existing Voice applications, however more sophisticated Voice solutions include web-based dashboards and reports that can be viewed by users and supervisors on phones, tablets and PCs.”

Clinton comments that Heavey RF’s focus is within the four walls of the warehouse and it has not seen tablets or mobility influence Voice logistics solutions. However, he adds that the company has seen them complement these solutions by providing interfaces that can give performance statistics and alerts via tablet or smartphone to key management personnel. “This is purely complementary and not an influencer,” he said.

Finken points out that topVOX is receiving more and more requests to provide tablet PCs that work with its Voice solution. “This poses no issues for us as we provide a hardwareindependent solution,” he remarked. “We operate on all Windows applications as well as iOS and Android platforms. Providing the device can connect to either a tethered or Bluetooth headset, we can work with it. We have a couple of customers who use such devices for product pictures from the web for final recognition purposes and even for Goods In processes as well as for more visual control over warehouse locations. In a more field-based application we also have them deployed in Switzerland to perform vehicle checks similar to the MoT in the UK.”

Tim Williams’ observation is that tablet devices are being used at senior levels for management of the warehouse, to quickly identify hotspots, such as empty pick faces, for example. However, he adds that there’s no real movement in this direction on a day-today operational basis. “Indeed, this would go completely against the whole ‘hands-free, eyes-free’ ethos that underlines Voice


Special technology report

technology in the warehouse,” he said.

Having seen a move away from vehiclemounted terminals in favour of handheld terminals, Hall explains that TouchStar is now witnessing a move back to using vehiclemounted terminals which, says Hall, is seen as a safer and less damage-prone alternative. He adds that the trend back towards vehiclemounted technology has also influenced the development of Voice-directed solutions. “Vocollect’s vehicle-mount ‘Talkman’ solution means users are now able to adopt Voice across the full spectrum of warehouse activities,” he said.

Hall added that, for data provision, there is always a place for tablet PCs and laptops to facilitate visibility and effective reporting/auditing at management level for Voice. However, a major consideration here, in Hall’s view, is the ruggedness of any of the tablet solutions. Hall also made the point that the influx of cost-effective Android tablets into the logistics market may impact on the uptake of Voice systems in the logistics market. “These do not offer any real technical advantage to the end user, but due to budgetary constraints, they are perceived as a cheap alternative when users look to refresh their current hardware estate. These are not suitable for a demanding warehouse logistics application.”

Southgate considers that the mobility question relates to two wider trends, which are currently hot topics in the world of enterprise IT – the consumerisation of IT and bring your own device (BYOD). Southgate does not see this having an impact on Voice systems because Voice picking is an industrial process and tends not to be performed using consumer devices. What has changed, according to Southgate, is the expectation of users. “They want software applications that are more intuitive and easy to use, and we have addressed this with the introduction of speaker-independent recognition,” he said. Brorsson considers that the world of mobile devices has had no real impact on Voice solutions as yet, but believes this may change in the future.

Big Data within the Voice world Is the much talked about trend of Big Data having an impact on the world of Voice solutions? Darrel Williams’ view is that we

should rather ask ‘Are Voice solutions having an impact on the world of Big Data?’ “Voice technology enables businesses to collate detailed data at an unprecedented level, allowing them to make fully informed decisions from the most comprehensive dataset ever,” he comments.

Clinton believes Big Data is crucial to current and future Voice deployments. “It is the manipulation of massive amounts of significant data and simplifying it into formats which enable real business enhancing decisions to be made,” he points out. “When you have down-to-the-second analysis of everything that happens in your warehouse, you have to ensure that you manipulate the correct data for the best decisions and not simply get bogged down in massive amounts of data. This fine-tuning process will become more a feature of Voice as we move forward.”

Hall explains that TouchStar focuses on provision and presentation of this data, allowing staff at all levels to monitor and manage their operation efficiently and effectively. “One of the benefits derived from a real-time system is real-time data,” he said. “It is imperative that we use this real-time feedback to act on issues as they arise.”

Southgate considers we have yet to see any real impact of Big Data on Voice systems. However, he believes we can be sure that in the future the data a Voice system provides – inventory information or cycle counting, for example – could be a feed to Big Data systems. “But this has not influenced the design or functionality of Voice system itself,” said Southdate. “What is most likely is a scenario in the future where Big Data could help organisations to further refine and optimise their warehouse processes – but this is still a way off.”

du Preez considers that while data from the Voice system might be included in an overall collection of corporate data sets appropriate for Big Data analysis, Big Data is really on scale beyond what would typically be required for a Voicedirected application. That being said, he

Andrew Southgate



December 2013



Special technology report

adds that sophisticated Voice applications provide detailed and highly valuable Business Intelligence insights and analytics of warehouse operations in the form of webbased dashboards and tabular reports.

Future innovation What might be the next innovations/developments to look out for in the world of Voice-directed systems over the next year or two? Tim Williams believes we will see a reduction in the cost of the hardware element of Voice solutions as the market grows and demand increases, while Southgate considers companies should watch out for greater support for other warehouse processes and Voice playing larger role going beyond picking functions. “For example, we are expecting greater use of Voice for inventory management functions; i.e. cycle counting, replenishment, Voice-directed put away and also directing reverse logistics processes,” said Southgate. “We also anticipate greater variety of bespoke applications, maybe even new ‘servicing’ applications which are guided by Voice technology – but there is also still a lot of untapped potential in the logistics market.”

Brorsson maintains that multimodal technology will become more prevalent to manage more complex processes. Southgate agrees that true multimodal functionality will become more widespread. However he also observes there is currently a misconception in the marketplace between multimodal and multipurpose. “Multimodal applications using Voice are quite distinct,” he said. “They enhance the process using additional devices. For example, they use a touch screen to introduce an additional verification stage showing the picker that they have selected the right type of item (colour of apples for instance, or unit of measurement) which is very different to multipurpose, whereby the user can select a variety of devices for a task. Multimodal working could also be used to help guide a worker through the ideal path in a warehouse, according to the combination of items to be picked.” Additionally, Southgate expects much greater adoption of the Cloud model because he believes it offers so many cost reduction advantages.

Clinton believes that Voice as an input medium will become much more widespread across many different technologies and disciplines over the next two to three years.





December 2013

Voice-directed picking

“Be it Voice-dedicated devices, multi-modal handheld and vehicle mount solutions, tablets, PCs etc., the ease of use on many applications will improve resulting in even wider adoption,” he remarked. “I expect to see voice used in more retail applications as well as much heavier industrial and manufacturing environments for productivity and accuracy, as well as health and safety benefits.”

Hall believes the awareness of the real business benefits that Voice can derive will be applied to new business processes and continue to drive innovation. He adds that the use of pen/paper and keyboard as a medium for communication, command and feedback will become a thing of the past. “Voice will continue to advance and improve with more natural speech synthesis, more accurate speech recognition with a wider vocabulary and intelligent interpretation,” he commented.

Darrel Williams comments that Voice technology is about being simple, so making small, incremental changes. “Up until recently I would have said that developments for the future would have been the integration of other functionalities, such as scanning, screens and RFID, into a Voice-led device,” reflected Darrel Williams. However he adds that this is no longer a futuristic vision since as of this month (October 2013) this concept has become reality with Vocollect’s A700, a hands-free Voice and scanning device. In terms of other future developments, Darrel Williams sees clients pushing the application of Voice into areas such as Voice-operated machines and field service.

In the next year or two, du Preez expects to see examples of current Voice technology being applied to applications outside the four walls of the warehouse – in areas such field service, inspection and in-store. He also expects headset technology to continue to evolve with wireless headsets becoming the norm and headset ergonomics continuing to improve. And for existing Voice customers, du Preez expects to see continuous improvement in user training, ease-of-use, asset management and operational analytics.

Finken’s view is that mobile devices will be more compact, smaller and easier to handle, while Voice systems will support new operating systems such as next-generation Windows. Finken also believes we will see speaker-independent solutions being requested and deployed. “We only ever use

the latest Voice recognition technology in our solutions and when people get to use it they realise the power of it,” he said. “They soon come to the conclusion that a trained Voice solution Darrel Williams is just so out of date and massively limits flexibility as temporary staff spend the first half a day trying to get used to it after training and then the next week retraining their Voice template.”

According to Finken, one of topVOX’s customers hosted a reference site visit for the company recently where topVOX had two prospective customers looking at the solution. “They had both been told how ‘unreliable a speaker-independent solution was’ by another provider and had reservations until they realised that the operator they were following on the day, who was operating at full operational speed, had only started in the business two hours before they turned up. They have both implemented our solution since.”

Clinton reflects that despite the initial impression that there are a lack of options within the Voice industry, the reality is that there are many and varied options and methodologies. “It is important that a business looking to adopt a Voice solution thoroughly investigate – and validate – the different choices and options available to ensure the best outcome possible,” he said. “For example, a 10 per cent increase in productivity may be hailed as a success by some companies; however they may be missing out on much greater gains and shorter returns on investment by selecting a better paired solution.”

Darrel Williams believes Voice is all about improving what we do today and providing a vehicle for future innovation in process execution. “It is imperative that Voice technology fits the needs of businesses but does not try to dictate or limit the direction in which to go,” he said, concluding: “Nobody should be constrained by technology. Any operation can benefit from the use of a Voice application.” 


Success story

V OICE technology

Voice pickers at Unilever operational in no time with ZetesMedea Challenged to find a way to retain loyal workers and start up a new distribution centre, Unilever Greece turned a difficult situation to its advantage, using the next-generation, ZetesMedea Voice picking solution. he economic situation in Greece forced many companies, including Unilever, to make tough operational choices. In December 2011, having decided to shut down a manufacturing plant, Unilever was concerned about laying-off the workers involved. As the company was also opening a big distribution centre in Schimatari, they chose to transfer those workers to the new warehouse and train them as pickers.


The challenge for Unilever was twofold. Not only did it need a quality logistics solution, able to integrate directly with the new warehouse's core ERP system SAP, it also had to consider that it would be operated by people with no technology or picking experience. Following an extensive research and selection process, Unilever chose to implement the ZetesMedea Voice picking solution. ZetesMedea, Zetes' logistics execution solution allows all warehouse processes to be optimised. Product movements are registered

from goods received, through to picking, replenishment and truck loading, offering realtime visibility and therefore enabling enhanced critical decision making. Through using the system, the number of data input errors dramatically decrease, and warehouse operators can also work more efficiently as they are fully task-focused. ZetesMedea integrates the latest data capture technologies such as barcode, RFID, Voice and ImageID. In Unilever's case, the choice for Voice was justified by the fact that the process requiring optimisation was picking, where Voice has proven to offer many advantages. Zetes' Voice picking solution is powered by MCLvoice, developed by MCL Technologies.

Rapid implementation of one month The solution was implemented in just one month. Using SAP's standard integration options, an advantage of the solution was that it eliminated the need for any intermediate business logic layer. Direct SAP integration also allowed Unilever to store business critical data in one location, with the voice devices

managed and the individual operator sessions tracked directly by using existing SAP tools. Within a few days, all of the operators successfully adapted to working with the Voice devices as a highly productive, efficient picking team. Today the team has grown, with newcomers picking up the system in hours. Unilever now intends to implement the same solution at another distribution centre it is developing. George Baglatzis of Zetes in Greece Hellas commented: "Zetes' approach to Voice is to offer as much flexibility as possible. The untrained approach chosen by Unilever illustrates the advantage of making inexperienced users operational and efficient in no time. This has allowed Unilever to save jobs but is also a useful feature for companies which have to deal with peak times periods during which they need to hire staff for only a short period of time. By saving training time, they become more competitive." 


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