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ERP and Warehouse Management: Technology, Challenges, and User Recommendations

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: September 22 2005

Technology Strengths

Leveraging a common development framework is an important distinction for midsized companies seeking an ERP back-office system with strong warehouse management capabilities, and Adonix is one of the few software vendors with such an integrated offering on the same platform. Based in France, this privately-held vendor offers enterprise solutions to medium, process and discrete manufacturing companies. Other mid-market enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors Infor (former Lilly Software), Epicor Software, IBS, SYSPRO, Exact Software, 3i Infotech, and Sage ACCPAC, also offer strong warehouse management system (WMS) products in addition to their traditional ERP products, and could prevent the likes of Manhattan Associates, HighJump, Catalyst Internationals, RedPrairie, and Provia from penetrating the ERP mid-market, in the less complex environments, with basic case and pallet picking, straightforward task interleaving, and selectable radio frequency (RF), label, and paper by work area requirements.

Part four of Adonix' Mid-Market FORMULA—Adopting Best of Both "Organic Growers" and "Aggressive Consolidators" series.

Although we do not debate the WMS, transportation management system (TMS), yard management system (YMS), small parcel shipping (SPS) functionality or even supremacy of these best-of-breed players, many prospective customers may like the trade-off of marginally less robust functionality for a one-stop-shop arrangement from their ERP provider. Moreover, the sluggish economy has recently caught up with the otherwise resilient supply chain execution (SCE) market and the competition has intensified because ERP vendors, particularly tier one vendors such as SAP, Oracle, and SSA Global (see ERP Vendors Intrude on SCE/WMS Safe Haven), have also entered the market.

Many ERP/WMS one-stop-shop solution-seeking customers will likely achieve significant integration cost savings by taking advantage of the Adonix Geode GX system's pre-defined, two-way interface to X3. This interface may become invaluable in passing customer, order, shipping, and packaging information between the two applications, especially for performing value-added activities like multi-packs, repacks, and picking verifications in the warehouse, and in producing accurate bills of lading (BOL) and customer invoices. For more info on how pesky this interfacing between disparate applications and the need for data replication can be, see ERP and WMS Co-Existence: When System Worlds Collide.

This is Part Four of a four-part note.

Part One detailed the company and its products.

Part Two discussed Adonix' strategy.

Part Three analyzed Adonix' warehouse management system response.

Challenges

Still, there are relatively limited financial resources to adequately fund multiple key strategic initiatives, when compared to the research and development (R&D) investments of bigger competitors' l SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft Business Solutions R&D (absolute values versus in percentage of total revenue). Developing global channel and brand recognition, and facing formidable competition within the Adonix' target market (particularly the North American market) are the challenges Adonix will have to reckon with.

The business remains challenging to even the most established mid-market vendors, since an intensifying product architecture rejuvenation and functional enhancements cycle and continued market consolidation exert fiscal pressure across the sector. To that end, the vendor has another predicament to solve, as the conglomeration of Adonix legacy applications over 3,500 customers, many of whom need to upgrade mainframe applications to newer architectures. Although Adonix is targeting these as well, it remains to be seen whether the new X3 product can meet the demands of larger corporations among this install base that continue to rely on the legacy applications. Adonix' focus on mid-market might not fly with some of these companies, where it will have to overcome the market perception of a relatively unknown, tier two ERP vendor, while trying to cater to all these different markets will fly in the face of having one face to the customer worldwide, i.e., brand recognition.

Adonix must be careful not to spread its development resources too thin trying to maintain its multiple platform product configurations. Moreover, despite its careful examination of market trends, Adonix needs to strengthen itself in two areas: is yet to be fully Microsoft. NETcompliant, and needs to have an radio frequency identification (RFID) client project in the US (however, Geode GX technology is RFID-compliant and with clients in Europe).

Because its R&D resources will have to be handled prudently and sparingly, Adonix will likely remain better suited to the more conservative mid-market companies that do not want to be on the "bleeding edge" of technology, and prefer to work with tried-and-true technology solutions. Customers currently not requiring native RFID capabilities, fall within this category; however, it is a matter of time when the need for RFID will present itself, giving many WMS players the competitive edge (see RFID—A New Technology Set to Explode?).

Further, however broad (to include both distribution, discrete, and process manufacturing) and wellbalanced the functionality of X3's is, in order to become recognized as a true differentiator in the market, Adonix will have to exhibit greater vertical focus beyond its few distribution industries. To that end, Adonix should develop templates, wizards, and implementation methodologies to further decrease the time and expense of implementation projects, as well as to vertically incline its product offering. Even if these sectors do not necessarily need strong product lifecycle management (PLM) and engineering capabilities, they still might need product information management (PIM) (see The Role of PIM and PLM in the Product Information Supply Chain: Where Is Your Link?), which is an area where Adonix has not been vocal, to say the least.

Also, the vendor should try to increase its base of reference accounts from the 1,200 or so companies that have purchased X3. The sixty-five sites it has in the US (which recently grew from former and new CIMPRO users) may still be insufficient to boost brand recognition and make a splash in the North American market. Internationalization requires significant investment. Additionally, Adonix' limited R&D funding needs to also to "beef up" its indirect channel, possibly with many more high-profile partnerships. These challenges are not only attributable to Adonix, which is certainly in a better situation than many of its smaller peers, such as Made2Manage Systems, SYSPRO, 3i Infotech, Softbrands, or Intuitive Manufacturing Systems, all of which have similar aspirations and hurdles.

Adonix, nonetheless, needs to make its presence in the global enterprise applications mid-market known more vigorously. Through public relations and other marketing efforts, it needs to become recognized as a mid-market distribution, discrete, and process manufacturing ERP player or it will not be invited to play in many prospective companies selections decision-making. Although its pre-sales consultants intimately know the finer points of formula management for process manufacturing, Adonix will have to sift through its new knowledge and skill set that has resulted from its acquisitions of Gruppo Formula, ABEL, CIMPRO, and others. It will have to evaluate their sales forces, partners, and any new channel partners. To further increase its spread, Adonix should consider attaching a more targeted general market than processing marketing, for example. It should address sub-markets (e.g. bakeries) to gain faster traction and create a greater success profile.

User Recommendations

Those in Adonix' target market as well as general, multisite and multinational distribution and manufacturing companies (and their divisions) with a revenue of $30 to $300 million-a-year (USD) and with up to 200 concurrent users per site, should consider the company's value proposition. However, they avoid selecting it without looking at what the other vendors have to offer. Adonix often comes ahead of larger global players in terms of functional fit, pricing, and understanding of the local requirements in the distribution area. Enterprises in France or Southern Europe (especially Spain and Portugal) should short-list X3. However, customers outside Adonix' successful geographies may want to exercise due diligence and check Adonix' regional support before moving forward.

Before the CIMPRO acquisition and subsequent array of wins, the US market had been somewhat slower to warm up to Adonix' solution, which is not surprising given the number of incumbent peer solutions that are already present. Nevertheless, for US companies with small domestic and international operations, Adonix can prove to be of interest, as it is already available in seven languages (English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, modern Chinese, and Mandarin Chinese), and the sales and financial product modules have localized features. The company has had a number of successful international implementations and support for subsidiaries of larger enterprises outside France, which should help it overcome some local prospects' possible anxiety to deal with—until recently—a relatively unknown vendor.

The industries that would most likely benefit from using its products are discrete and process industries with standard manufacturing and extensive distribution requirements such as consumer packaged goods (CPG), wholesale, retail, chemicals, industrial and commercial machinery, electronic and electric supplies, furniture, rubber and plastics, etc. Adonix Geode GX might be a good WMS solution for mid-market companies that are growing and want software that can be re-configured to grow with them, with little or no providing vendor's intervention, and which want to extend their existing IT assets incrementally.

From a functional standpoint, a company considering Adonix should currently receive or ship more than 5,000 truckloads or 1,000 parcels per day, currently replenish a forward picking area manually, need variable configurations for multiple warehouse sites, and manage more than 200300 stock keeping unit (SKU). Furthermore on the prospective users' profile, they often need to interact with automated equipment such as conveyors, and they might need software to manage complex or multiple workflows including serial numbers, lot control, date controls, and kits, likely with unlimited desktop access through a thin client or browser-based user interface.

Existing users of earlier product releases may benefit from querying the company's future product development, product migration path, and service and support strategy. Incidentally, while Gruppo FORMULA users should like their prospects' offerings, they should consider Adonix' impressive acquisition track record, and ask the vendor for more product roadmap details to see the potential benefit from functional convergence with X3. The same holds for Adonix X3 users, who should take the time to discern any possible benefits and synergies between merging the two ERP product lines. For more general recommendations, see How to Cope When Your Service Provider is Acquired.

Detailed information about Adonix products is contained in the Technology Evaluation Centers at http://www.erpevaluation.com/ and/or http://www.scmevaluation.com/.

 
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