Analyzing Manhattan Associates’ Supply Chain Platform Play - Part 2

Part 1 of this blog series analyzed Manhattan Associates’ innovative Supply Chain Process Platform (SCPP)-based applications, such as Supply Chain Intelligence (SCI) and Total Cost to Serve (TCS). The Manhattan SCOPE suite’s modules were also discussed as well as the company’s recent evolution from a mere supply chain execution (SCE) provider.

The article concluded that Distributed Order Management (DOM) is a critical “cerebral” application of the entire suite. A smart order management system takes customer orders and decides which warehouse (or any other viable inventory location) is best suited to fulfill them based on inventory on hand, inventory in transit, and delivery requirements.

Order Lifecycle Management and Cross-Suite Composite Apps Do the Trick

Where Manhattan has really invested its efforts lately is in the Order Lifecycle Management suite, which is designed to optimize order fulfillment across a distributed supply chain. By managing orders across all channels from inception to physical fulfillment (and ultimately through physical returns if applicable), the suite helps to optimize inventory deployment while reducing overall fulfillment costs. This suite enables the following functions: DOM, Store/Customer Gateway, and Reverse Logistics Management.

The common goal of these solutions is to improve the agility of the supply chain while reducing the overall amount of inventory required to maintain high levels of customer service. They enable organizations to evolve from a facilities-based distribution model to a more holistic, network-based perspective. As a result, organizations can do the following:

  • Free inventory to drive maximum profitability and customer service across channels

  • Redirect inbound supply directly to customers and alternate stores or distribution centers (DC’s) based on real-time demand signals

  • Optimize cross-channel inventory by enabling a single supply planning and inventory management process enterprise wide

DOM Orchestration and Optimization

On the procurement side, DOM proactively tracks and monitors a purchase order (PO) and shipment throughout its lifecycle and allocates incoming inventory according to current network inventory needs. Optimization can come from orchestrating cross-channel inventory flow management within a DC, and from fulfilling (shipping) customer orders straight from inbound flow points.

On the sales side, DOM can provide real-time available to promise (ATP) figures and perform necessary sourcing, allocation, and scheduling actions. The module also does order lifecycle tracking (via tracking numbers and delivery confirmations) as well as inventory segmentation (on wholesale vs. retail) and perpetual inventory allocation reconciliation in the network.

Sales-side optimization can come in many ways, starting with optimized sourcing, i.e., choosing the lowest-cost fulfillment path. For example, a customer orders 50 widgets and expects immediate delivery. Legacy order management systems make decisions only based on inventory availability and ZIP codes. However, transportation options might change the equation, while warehouses capacity and inventory segmentation also require consideration. Needless to say, the optimal answer is not always the one that seem  obvious.

Another way for optimization to take place is during multi-channel order management. For example, DOM applications can help customers buy online and pick up in the store. The process starts with a customer navigating to the seller’s Web site and selecting item(s) while also indicating the preference for in-store pick up. Inventory availability is displayed for the preferred store(s) to help the customer select the pick-up store,  ultimately add item(s) to the virtual shopping cart, and proceed to checkout.

After the checkout, the inventory is reserved at the selected store with an estimated pick-up date and time provided. Once the customer provides his/her credit card details, the DOM system authorizes and confirms the order, and a store associate receives a pick up request to retrieve the merchandize. Finally, the customer receives an email indicating the item’s readiness. When he/she picks up the order, a store associates settles and closes the transaction.

Similar processes take place when ordering online and waiting for a home delivery, ordering in store and waiting for home delivery, and other multi-channel scenarios. Home delivery is typical for grocers, who need to pick and deliver large orders (with over six order lines) to customer homes. Home delivery requires warehouse management system (WMS)-like store picking capabilities to manage efficiency as well as notable systems integration and order state management.

Extended Network-based Fulfillment

This brings us to the DOM optimization aspect of going beyond the DC and fulfilling orders from the extended network. DOM capabilities can save the sale when an item is out of stock in a store by sourcing and shipping from another store. The solution considers all stores’ plans, current inventory levels, staffing, and transportation situations when making sourcing decisions.

Drop-shipping, or the ability of retailers to direct orders to their vendors for direct shipment to customers (see TEC’s previous article entitled “Drop-Shipping: Internet Retailers’ Little Helper”), is another concrete application enhanced by DOM. To that end, the system has to consider vendors’ inventory levels, the sourcing and allocation logic, then manage and monitor the fulfillment process and on boarding of new vendors in the supplier network.

Future developments of Manhattan’s DOM product will enable users to graphically model the various paths that an order can take from its creation through closure. In addition, an improved ability to manage virtual inventory pools in the software while allowing the DC to manage a common pool of physical inventory is envisioned.

The recently added "Distributed Selling" capability integrates order capture, up-sell and cross-sell, as well as allowing changes by customers across locations, whether via the call center, at the store, and on the Web. The DOM module also integrates a variety of third-party services to provide actions such as credit card authorization, fraud checking, and other capabilities within the selling workflow.

Enter Extended Enterprise Management (EEM)

The final component of Manhattan SCOPE is its set of X-Suite Solutions. As their name suggests, cross-solution composite applications represent the integration of two or more solutions or solution components to solve a specific business problem. SCOPE’s modular service-oriented architecture (SOA) facilitates the creation of these cross-suite applications.

As one example, the Extended Enterprise Management (EEM) connects organizations with supply chain ecosystem participants to create insight on key supply chain events and improve how goods are ordered and move through supply chains. EEM synthesizes the following solutions: Supplier Enablement, Hub Management, Transportation Enablement, Store/Consumer Gateway, Collaborative Gateway, Supply Chain Visibility (SCV), and Supply Chain Event Management (SCEM).

The EEM composite application facilitates quick and fluid interactions with trading partners, optimizes order management, creates compliant case labels and advance ship notices (ASN’s) upstream, assures quality inventory and shipments, and responds efficiently to events in order to increase on-time delivery rates, improve inventory control, and meet demand expectations.

Manhattan will continue to improve EEM’s ability to efficiently and effectively on-board new trading partners and enable cross-functional supply chain collaboration both externally and internally. The idea is to further leverage “action-oriented” dashboards and analytics to manage the holistic supply chain by exception. In addition, the goal is to enable store locations as fully functional nodes in the supply chain as well as management of the dynamic lifecycle of orders, shipments, invoices, chargebacks, etc.

The final part of this blog series will analyze how Manhattan’s SCOPE, SCPP, and DOM capabilities have been harnessed by multi-channel retailers. In this space, Manhattan will likely compete with Sterling Commerce (now part of IBM), Oracle Retail (including the recently acquired ATG e-commerce platform), TAKE Supply Chain, DemandChain, Epicor Retail, etc. In the meantime, your comments, thoughts, suggestions, or individual experiences with the aforementioned SCM tools are more than welcome.
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