Provia Tackles RFID in a Twofold Manner Part Four: Global Availability

Global Availability

These days when radio frequency identification (RFID) is constantly on everyone's lips, and when every relevant enterprise application vendor is hedging its bets towards becoming RFID-ready or is even convincing the market that its RFID-compliant solution is exactly what the doctor (such as Wal-Mart, Target, Albertsons, and the US Department of Defense [DoD]) ordered, the typically quiet Provia Software (, a privately-held provider of supply chain execution (SCE) software solutions, naturally feels the time has come for it to be more vocal about its RFID endeavors, albeit after it has already put so much effort in terms of the proof of concept in the field.

Most recently, at the end of May, Provia announced at the Distribution/Computer Expo 2004 in Chicago, Illinois (US) that its ViaView event/alert management and decision support product plays a key role in offering visibility to supply chain data for companies supplying RFID-tagged products to Wal-Mart and other retailers.

Moreover, at the end of March, Provia announced that it has aligned itself with its parent company of over fifteen years, Viastore Systems, a leading provider of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), and material handling control systems, with over 3,000 cranes installed worldwide.

However, RFID has not been the only focus in Provia's recent partnership and product enhancements endeavors. Provia might also stand apart from its peers in the enterprise applications industry by claiming that behind every one of its installations is a satisfied client. The company touts that its number one asset is that it keeps its commitments and delivers on time and within budget, and thus, 98 percent of its clients renew their 24/7 support contracts with the vendor every year. Aiding Provia on the implementation front are several integration partners, including general consulting houses like former PricewaterhouseCoopers (now IBM Global Services), Deloitte Consulting, and smaller system integration services firms like former Digiterra (now ciber), St. Onge, and Q4 Logistics.

Equipped with a direct sales force in North America supported by regional teams, Provia also reports strong presence and sales in South America. It has particularly been successful selling in South America's third party logistics (3PL) market, through its partnership with system integrator Tecsys Latin America (TLA), with offices in Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela. At the beginning of 2004, Provia further announced that its SCE solutions ViaWare and FourSite are now available as logistics software solutions to leading Caribbean companies through an expanded relationship with Provia's Latin American distributor, TLA. The initiative into the Caribbean region involved the collaboration and support of Provia, TLA, and also Roger Marshall, a supply chain service provider with over nineteen years of supply chain experience in the Caribbean region.

This is Part Four of an eight-part note.

Parts One through Five detail recent announcements.

Parts Six and Seven will discuss the market impact.

Part Eight will note challenges and make user recommendations.

Parts One through Four will be published between August 11 and 14.

Part Five to Eight will be published August 18 to 21.

Partnering With Menlo Worldwide

For some time, however, we have also expected Provia's global reseller agreement with one of the larger 3PL providers, as to expand its presence to Europe and the Pacific Rim. To that end, late in 2003, Provia and Menlo Worldwide, one of the world's largest supply chain companies, announced that the two companies have signed a global reseller agreement. With the agreement Menlo, a long-time Provia client, is now a ViaWare WMS reseller on a global basis, which can now sell, implement, and support the Provia solution as part of the company's global service offering, since its global sales force will now be able to offer Provia's ViaWare WMS as part of the Menlo DirectTech portfolio of technology solutions.

The result should be global availability of the Provia solution, particularly in Europe and the Pacific Rim. Menlo Worldwide was formed in December 2001 and includes the operations of Menlo Worldwide Forwarding (formerly Emery Forwarding), Menlo Worldwide Logistics, Vector SCM, Menlo Worldwide Technologies, Menlo Worldwide Expedite!, and Menlo Worldwide Trade Services. It has revenues of $2.7 billion (USD) and employs more than 15,000 people. Its companies also provide global supply chain services under the Menlo WorldwideSM brand including air freight, ocean freight, global logistics management, urgent transportation, supply chain consulting and technology, and customs brokerage and other trade services in more than 200 countries. Menlo Worldwide is based in Redwood City, California (US) and is a business segment of CNF Inc., a Palo Alto, California-based, $4.8 billion (USD) management company of global supply chain services that also has businesses in regional trucking and trailer manufacturing.

As a matter of fact, Menlo Worldwide Logistics was Provia's first 3PL client that currently uses Provia's ViaWare WMS and SPS products in over fifty client-specific facilities across the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The new agreement builds upon the existing traditional 3PL relationship, as Menlo can now license Provia's WMS product to existing Menlo clients, which may now operate the software themselves, or may use Menlo's technology and staff on a transitional or permanent basis.

Through Menlo's existing co-development agreement with Provia, the company should be able to develop product extensions that meet the specific needs of its customers as well as seamlessly combine ViaWare with its other SCM solutions. It can now offer ViaWare to customers that are interested in leveraging Menlo's global operations and engineering capabilities when they purchase a warehouse management solution. Utilizing the Menlo sales team to resell ViaWare in addition to Provia's own sales force should expand ViaWare's presence to a much larger audience and increase Provia's market penetration and brand enhancement to a global audience. Provia might be able to include the Menlo-originated clients as that many more sites around the world using the Provia WMS solution.

For Provia, the ability to increase the awareness of the company's SCE solution for a global audience through the company's long-standing partnership with Menlo was the natural next step of the relationship. Namely, Menlo was one of the earliest adopters to embrace Provia's total cost of ownership (TCO) concept, in which its clients are empowered to manage their projects from the initial implementation, and capable of making rapid system configuration changes and upgrades with minimal involvement from Provia.

Client Ownership is Facilitated

To refresh our memory, Provia is distinguished from many other vendors by its possibly unique approach to implementation services. Its Knowledge Transfer Methodology allows clients to learn the "nuts and bolts" of the product in a two-week course before the start of the implementation. This methodology also allows its clients to perform upgrades with little or no assistance from the vendor. Provia also offers a self-paced, web-based training program designed to let clients demo its products for one month to practice what they have just learned. This approach typically leads to quicker training and implementation of the actual product as use of internal resources can bring clients great cost savings in addition to building expertise for ongoing maintenance.

Client ownership is facilitated by Provia's emphasis on the packaged aspects of its suite and its stance against customizations that can quickly ensnare project timelines. While a packaged-approach is not for all clients, those who have chosen the methodology have good things to say such as Owens Corning, Menlo Worldwide, Applied Industrial Technologies, TaylorMade-adidas Golf, and Lanier Worldwide, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ricoh Corporation, to name some.

Priding itself on quick implementations and generally lower TCO, in part due to "holding the customer's hands during the initial phases" and then empowering clients to control implementations and upgrades at each site with handy tools provided by the vendor, Provia continues to deliver tools designed to make product implementations; upgrades, warehouse configuration; host integration; test scenario data loading and refreshing; full volume simulation and results testing; vertical market configuration templates; and ongoing testing an easier and more streamlined process.

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. To that end, with the relatively recent release of the following four tools, Provia continues to strive to reduce the need for such spending, allowing supply chain managers to more easily, accurately, and rapidly optimize their systems:

  • The Data Manager aims at simplifying 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 also 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 also 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 and 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 the 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.

This concludes Part Four of an eight-part note.

Parts One through Five detail recent announcements.

Parts Six and Seven will discuss the market impact.

Part Eight will note challenges and make user recommendations.

Part Five to Eight will be published August 18 to 21.

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