Provia Proves Its Way To Success

Event Summary

On February 5, Provia Software (, a somewhat tacit but quite steadfast privately-held provider of supply chain execution (SCE) software solutions aimed at catering for the entire order-to-delivery' collaborative process needs, announced that it has completed 2002 with over 80 client sites going live during the course of the year, which was also one of the company's most profitable years ever. The more than 80 client go-lives were a combination of new and upgraded sites worldwide, and reportedly came from a wide variety of industries, including consumer packaged goods (CPG), third party logistics (3PL), wholesale/industrial distribution, high-tech/electronics, and retail.

In addition, a number of Provia's clients added new products from the Provia suite to their logistics strategy, reflecting Provia's continued success in both attracting new customers and marketing into its client base with new solutions. Provia credits a part of its success to the fact that Warehouse Management System (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 new more out-of-box functional WMS applications.

This is Part One of a three-part note.

Part Two will discuss the Market Impact of recent announcements.

Part Three will cover Competitive Strategy, Challenges and make User Recommendations.

Provia Background

Provia Software began life as a subsidiary of German elevator system manufacturer Haushahn GmbH, whose elevator technology led it to develop material handling and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). The need for and growing interest in software to manage automation in North America led to the formation of Grand Rapids, MI-based Haushahn Systems & Engineers (HS&E) in 1988. Under the leadership of CEO Ken Lewis, HS&E established its business in software and material handling and AS/RS for large warehouse distribution and logistics operations. Though AS/RS remained an important offering, HS&E began to evolve into a full-fledged SCE vendor. Today the company offers a Tier-1 WMS and integrated software modules for Yard Management (YMS), Transportation Management (TMS), Small Parcel Shipping Management (SPS) and Order Management for 3PL customers (OMS). Additionally, Provia has added a web-based visibility, event/alert management and performance analysis product called ViaView.

In July 1999, HS&E became Provia Software, and according to the company, the name Provia' was chosen because of the word's combined Latin roots — the word Provenio means 'proven', whereas the word Via means 'a way'. The combination of the two reflected then the notion of a proven way to success', which was definitely confirmed by its 2002 results. The combination of new and existing clients, upgrades, and new products all contributed to Provia's near record profitability in 2002.

Recent Product Announcements

In September, Provia announced the availability of its ViaWare WMS product for the Microsoft Windows 2000 platform. With the release 6.0, Provia claims to be the first vendor to offer true Tier 1' level functionality in a single WMS for the Windows 2000, Linux and Unix platforms. Available since December 15, Provia's Windows 2000 WMS reportedly has exactly the same functionality as the company's Unix-based product because the same source code is used for both versions. By offering the same WMS product for both Unix, Linux and Windows 2000, Provia aims at delivering a standard, scaleable and database independent solution capable of meeting the needs of the most demanding WMS environments. Provia's single-source strategy also includes database independence, so that companies can choose between an Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, or Informix database for the WMS. Additionally, this should allow the company to completely focus R&D on a single WMS product.

Further, in May, Provia released the latest version of ViaView, its supply chain collaboration and visibility product. ViaView 2.0 includes significant enhancements to event/alert management, and an engine for monitoring the escalation of events and non-events (i.e., events or activities that did not happen, but were supposed to). The enhanced event management in ViaView 2.0 automatically searches for a pattern of repetitive events throughout the day/week/month. When trends or patterns are discovered, ViaView creates alert messages notifying the appropriate parties.

In addition to event management, ViaView 2.0 also includes event escalation, with which, in addition to monitoring events, ViaView also monitors operator responses to those events. For example, if an error condition continues for a certain amount of time after ViaView creates an initial alert, ViaView will send another alert to the same person, and/or escalate the alert up the chain of command to ensure visibility and resolution of a potentially critical condition.

Another important and often overlooked area that event escalation addresses is the monitoring of seemingly uncorrelated events. An example of how ViaView can monitor for patterns of events over time would be repeatedly short-shipping the same client multiple times. While each individual short-shipment might trigger a ViaView alert, the product also monitors the bigger picture and would alert users to the more important repetitive pattern emerging and allow for a faster resolution of the root cause of the problem.

Last but not least, in April, Provia announced the general availability of the latest version of the company's FourSite third party logistics (3PL) software product. With the release of FourSite 4.1, Provia's 3PL solution is now available for the Unix, and Windows 2000 server platforms and with Oracle, Informix and SQL Server database support, and each configuration uses the same source code. Having the identical product available in multiple platforms and databases should offer Provia clients the freedom to select the configuration that best fits their business needs.

The latest version of Provia's FourSite contains several additional enhancements including:

  • RF (Radio Frequency) Receipts Added warning message if received quantity exceeds expected quantity

  • RF Trailer Loading Users can now load material from pack locations

  • RF Move Stock Users can now move stock into an assembly location

  • Reports Added index to improve speed of stock status by date report; added product department to the items under minimum report; added ability to show both net and gross weight on the list lot history report; added ability to run the transportation mode report for multiple customers; added transport information and more selection fields to the pre-route audit report

  • Archiving Users can choose to exclude carton data from the archive process; streamlined archiving process to speed archiving

  • Location Setup If a customer or product is changed on a forward pick location, FourSite automatically cancels outstanding replenishments

  • Orders/Receipts A quick trailer pop-up screen was added to allow for quick entry of trailer numbers

  • EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Users can now send extract error report to a file, an email address or a fax number

Enhanced Implementations

Priding itself on quick implementations and generally lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), in part due to "holding the customer's hands during the initial phases" and then empowering its clients to control implementations and upgrades at each site with handy tools provided by the vendor, very recently, on February 18, Provia announced four tools designed to make product implementations, upgrades and ongoing testing an easier and more streamlined process. These are included with Provia's ViaWare WMS product, and the vendor believes the new tools underscore its commitment to providing clients the lowest TCO for their WMS.

By empowering clients to handle these functions, Provia attempts to limit ongoing costs that might erode the overall value of the solution. Currently, many supply chain and logistics executives invest a great deal of effort and related services spending, just to manage difficult product upgrades and rollouts. With the release of the following four tools, Provia strives to reduce the need for such spending, allowing supply chain managers to more easily, accurately and rapidly optimize their systems:

  • The Data Manager supposedly simplifies user configuration of warehouses during implementation, and manages the data needed for subsequent sites. It manages data groups to support configuration, testing and training, it supports repeatable, complex testing scenarios, and it is integrated with Microsoft Excel for mass data loading and complex manipulation.

  • Clients should be able to reduce integration efforts between ViaWare and their existing ERP or host system with Gateway Simulator. This tool creates data needed to properly test the integration and performs error checking of test data, and is integrated with Microsoft Excel for data manipulation.

  • Template Manager should simplify system personalization, allowing rapid configuration of ViaWare WMS for particular vertical industries, including CPG, 3PL and wholesale distribution. It supports changes in terminology/language, and it supports vertical market templates.

  • Finally, clients should ensure optimal system configuration with Warehouse Simulator, since by simulating WMS transactions used in normal warehouse operations, this tool tests the actual effect of system and facility throughput on configuration changes. It offers a system stress test' during configuration and before go-live by simulating all RF transactions, while supporting over 100 simultaneous users. It also allows volume testing of exact client configuration, measures system and facility throughput, and tests effects of configuration changes.

Further tackling the issues of lowering TCO, in July, Provia announced the availability of an upgraded host environment for Provia implementation partners. With this hosted environment, Provia implementation partners can access Provia's SCE product suites through a secure Internet connection for testing, training and documentation. The hosted environment for implementation partners is an offshoot of a similar service that Provia has offered to clients for several months. Provia clients including Yamaha, Applica Consumer Products, and H.B. Fuller have reportedly utilized this hosted service for training, configuration workshop activities, and to more quickly obtain hands on experience with the Provia suite. The result has been shorter implementation time frames, reduced travel time and overall lower expenses.

This concludes Part One of a three-part note.

Part Two will discuss the Market Impact of these recent announcements.

Part Three will cover Competitive Strategy, Challenges and make User Recommendations.

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