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HighJump Grows in a Period of Low Growth Through Adaptable, Broad Function Products Part Two: Market Impact

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: April 15 2003

Market Impact

On February 10, HighJump Software (www.highjump.com ), a privately-held provider of adaptable, Internet-based extended supply chain execution (SCE) solutions, announced that it has lately secured significant new customer wins and global partners in its ongoing efforts to become the industry leader in providing global SCE solutions.

HighJump joins the ranks of a slew of its upbeat rivals, Manhattan Associates (see Logistics.com Becomes The Newest Of Manhattan Associates ), RedPrairie (see RedPrairie - New Name For A Brave New Value Proposition Paradigm ), G-Log, HK Systems, Provia (see Provia Proves Its Way To Success) and Yantra (see Yantra Leader in Distributed Order Management, But Wait There's More ), which all have been thriving in great part because they provide a broad array of components of extended SCE.

The consequence of today's extremely tight IT budgets is that people have very real needs to save money and improve customer service. Delivering the right part, at the right time & place, and at the lowest possible cost has become an imperative, particularly in a wobbly economy. As a result, the SCE market has indisputably lately been growing faster than its other applications siblings, given its more apparent provision of hard benefits (e.g., improved inventory accuracy, improved space utilization, improved labor productivity, etc.) with quick deployments, appetizing price tags and detailed total cost of ownership (TCO). To that end, warehouse, yard and transportation management have emerged as some of a rare remaining areas where companies still have an ample opportunity to redesign and optimize, while, at the same time, deploying these is less time-consuming and more oriented towards tangible payback.

Gone are also the days when these cumbersome systems were only affordable by large Tier 1 global corporations, due to their early functional out-of-box inadequacy and the need for every individual project to be a huge customization and system integration adventure. The above-mentioned bullish vendors have lately shown the ability to provide their clients with a strong standard product set that requires limited modifications, making it easier and more cost effective to upgrade and to realize the strong value proposition and new features in the upgrade. The fact that WMS software (particularly the legacy instances) tends to be among the most customized of enterprise applications, which often makes it more affordable for companies to forego the upgrade process and just install newer more out-of-box functional WMS applications.

Part of the reason for continued investments in SCE may also stem from the fact that the C-level executives are becoming increasingly (and sometimes painfully) aware of the damage that unsuccessfully managed inventory can cause, particularly in light of increasing demands for lower costs, reduced order cycle time, increases in order frequency while diminishing order sizes at the same time, mushrooming of stock-keeping units (SKUs), growing customer/supplier visibility and vendor managed inventory (VMI) requirements, to name only some recent change drivers.

In addition to the above demanding functional capabilities to optimize inventory management, seamless integration of transactional and decision-support applications has become quite important, and, consequently, modern SCE systems provide the tactical, transactional backbone for order fulfillment and visibility atop their core functionality of order management, warehousing, transportation, and inventory management. To be able to react to fluctuating demand, respond to customer specifications, and coordinate real-time event messages from multiple disparate systems, these systems are being further enhanced with decision support capabilities and planning engines aimed at inventory and order status visibility.

While the above vendors have many common threads within their success stories, they all do have some specific differentiating value propositions. Otherwise, how else would one explain the ongoing plight or lackluster performance of some publicly held SCE vendors like EXE Technologies, Industry-Matematik International (IMI), Descartes Systems and Catalyst International if just a mere SCE designation would be a guarantee of success without keeping products abreast of latest trends and/or without good execution? Old technology and/or mismanagement would render any company non-competitive regardless of how favorable the market situation can be.

This is Part Two of a three-part note. Part One detailed recent announcements.

Part Three will analyze HighJump SCE solutions.

Part Four will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.

Adaptability is Key

Although a combination of factors bodes well for HighJump's success, a key differentiating word at its camp is "adaptability". HighJump's CEO, Chris Heim, claims, "HighJump is fundamentally different because our solutions are designed to embrace change throughout their lifecycles, which enables our customers to achieve the lowest total cost of ownership of any SCE solution available. From the base platform and initial implementation to ongoing changes and upgrades, the architecture of a HighJump system ensures your success in today's dynamic environment." We concur with the industry's need for adaptability, as stated in the article "What's Wrong With Application Software? Business Changes, Software Must Change With The Business." .

During our recent meeting with its executives, we were impressed by HighJump's approach to adaptability. It starts with an application platform designed to manage change. The combination of a set of adaptability tools and the ability to embed business logic into reusable Lego-like "building blocks" brings a level of system configurability that is relatively rare in application software today. These adaptability tools empower the customers to tailor the system to their exact requirements quickly, easily and cost-effectively without the use of custom code, but rather by configuring (or adding new) pieces of business logic.

Further, while every seasoned CIO knows how implementation cost overruns can marginalize the projected benefits of a new system before it is even live, system upgrades can pose even greater risk and expense. As any IT manager will attest, predicting the scope and cost of future upgrades is a task riddled with uncertainty, as no one can reliably predict what the company's circumstances will be in a few years following an implementation. For example, Will the company grow its business as expected into new product areas, industry segments, and geographic regions? Because no one has the answers to these questions (let alone knows what all the questions are), it is impossible to know exactly what upgrades will be needed or how much they will cost.

HighJump Software has to that end also long launched a program that seeks to alleviate some of the upgrade uncertainty. Its Change Insurance policy guarantees an up-front fixed price for certain system upgrades/modifications that may occur within the first two years of use. Upgrade categories for instance include maximizing worker productivity, facilitating collaboration with suppliers, enabling just-in-time (JIT) and others that may be defined by the customer. These modification scenarios (e.g., part number field expansion or customer-specific packing lists) have resulted from information collected in meetings with industry analysts, partners, customers, and sales people.

To spark interest in the new insurance policy, HighJump Challenge program is urging prospective clients to compare the upgrade prices to those of its SCE competitors. As a marketing tactic, the fixed-price guarantee is a bold move that promises to attract a great deal of interest from users, as well to prompt competitors' creative counteractions such as RedPrairie Approach (see RedPrairie - New Name For A Brave New Value Proposition Paradigm ).

The real aim of the program is to draw attention to the adaptability and flexibility of the HighJump architecture that HighJump strongly feels is its greatest differentiator. Most vendors resist fixed pricing because upgrades typically carry unforeseen difficulties that arise after the vendor has committed to the price. HighJump's insurance is an internal vote of confidence in its ability to deliver upgrades and enhancements to customers with minimum development effort. The vendor also pledges to never make a source code change for a customer, while all the customers always receive the same upgrade. Some of them are free to make their own changes, since their business logic is stored separately from the application, and it is unaffected by the upgrade process (i.e., new upgrade application functionality can be merged during the process). Rosemount, with ~50 own customizations, would be an exemplary case. The rigidity of competing SCE solutions often makes cost containment during the initial implementation, modification and upgrade processes difficult, if not impossible, which is a competitive advantage for HighJump in particular instances.

Collaborative Order Fulfillment

While HighJump is best known for its warehouse management software, which remains a major breadwinning product, a large measure of its recent success is also attributable to the company having extended its offerings to address increasingly required collaborative order fulfillment management. As a result, customers are able to buy a broad, fully integrated set of applications for e.g., yard management, transportation management, supply chain visibility, and event management.

Generally speaking, WMS applications traditionally automate activities falling within the four walls of a warehouse, such as receiving, put-away, picking, staging, packing, and shipping. The software market for WMS has consequently become more and more competitive as the products have evolved to address the lion's share of customer requirements. HighJump obliges to that end with Warehouse Advantage, the main module within its WMS, by addressing both the aspects of inbound warehouse management (i.e., license-plating, lot/serial number/date/unit of measure (UOM)-based tracking control; user-configured, rules-based put-away and cross-docking practices; handling unknown receipts, image capture and resolution) and outbound warehouse management (e.g., pick and pass; pick and marry; batch (to be separated at pick-face); bulk (to be separated at pack station); packing, loading and shipping).

The module also addresses the aspects of inventory management (e.g., cycle counting and physical inventory management), of labor management that plans, manages, measures and reports performance level of warehousing personnel and that monitors current warehouse activity levels and estimates future workloads to schedule resources via both engineered and dynamic standards with the what-if' analysis capability, and of web-based appointment scheduling with the capability to drill-own into advanced shipping notice (ASN) or purchase order details.

Like any software technology that has been reaching maturation, WMS products have evolved to a point where there is little differentiation among them. Still, since the warehouse is no longer merely a static storage facility, it now has to use real-time data to closely match supply to demand, eliminate the need to hold excess inventory, and increase the flow of goods throughout the supply chain. Therefore, due to the SCE software's capability to handle these complex requirements, there has been a trend of postponing many light manufacturing operations (e.g., final assembly, customized packing, labeling, engraving, etc.) from shop floors to warehouses and distribution centers (DCs), and a WMS package plays a key role in the company's postponement strategy to delay the customization of products until after the products, or a set of common components, have left the manufacturing plant. To that end, introducing the value-added services capability (e.g., kitting assembly and disassembly, multiple bills of material (BOMs), special instructions and labeling) within the Warehouse Advantage was HighJump's apt answer to helping its customers reduce the costs associated with their supply chains, where one of the most significant facilitators is postponement, and that is where kitting helps because it allows enterprises to keep their products in a more generic state for as late as possible.

Other WMS Capabilities

Further, HighJump's full function warehouse management system also includes a cartonization tool, Container Advantage, to plan and optimize the organization of items into shipping cartons. This packing optimization feature saves time for packing materials (i.e., cartons/pallets/containers) and reduces shipping expenses in the picking and packing of customer orders. Container Advantage improves picking efficiency by selecting the number and size of cartons needed to pack orders for shipment based on each item's dimensional cube, orientation restrictions, stacking factors, weight and compatibility with other items.

The vendor offers many other capabilities within its WMS functionality such as Slotting Advantage, determining the optimal slot size and place for any SKU based on data such as demand (i.e., whether it is a fast or slow-moving item), product groupings and physical characteristics, to also keep picking operations smoothly despite frequent promotions and changes to product mix. Doing this manually is almost impossible in environments where hundreds of SKUs get added and/or deleted every week. HighJump provides both reactive and proactive re-warehousing methods, and algorithms to e.g., optimize space, labor, or many other factors. Also powerful is the support for task interleaving (i.e., letting one person perform more than one task in order to reduce idle' time, such as picking something up while returning from a put-away task) capability by utilizing dynamic work queue management, and by applying user-configured, either priority-, task-, or proximity-based algorithms.

Besides the highly functional WMS, HighJump provides a comprehensive and adaptable suite of other SCE solutions. Like many other SCE vendors, HighJump has thus revamped its strategy to attack the lucrative business-to-business (B2B) collaboration and visibility software market. Since its beginnings as a mere WMS vendor, HighJump has expanded its domain expertise into fulfillment collaboration, and consequently, it now offers a SCE suite of applications it calls Supply Chain Advantage. Part Three will discuss the SCE Solutions.

This concludes Part Two of a four-part note.

Part One detailed recent announcements.

Part Three will analyze the SCE Solutions.

Part Four will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations

 
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