SmartOps Steps Out in to the Cloud SCM

SmartOps Corporation is a quiet provider of supply chain planning (SCP) solutions that right-size inventory and capture more sales (by way of managing demand) for global enterprises that compete in complexity and uncertainty of their global supply chains. Deploying SmartOps’ solutions has dramatically improved supply chain performance at more than 50 Fortune 1000 and global 2000 companies in discrete manufacturing, consumer durables and packaged goods, technology, pharmaceutical manufacturing, distribution, chemicals, and retail industries. SmartOps is an SAP-endorsed software solution and technology partner with many joint sales efforts and customers, but its solutions also integrate with all leading enterprise application platforms.

For a long time the company’s bread-and-butter product has been SmartOps Enterprise Inventory Optimization (EIO), which is a comprehensive suite of software modules that enables organizations to plan and manage inventories across global supply chains. EIO modules allow companies to analyze crucial inputs and signals, model the impact of decisions on global inventories, and help ensure balanced inventory levels while respecting service levels and minimizing risk.

Similar to SAP in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) world, SmartOps EIO is a top-of-the-range offering with deepest multi-echelon inventory planning and optimization (MIPO) functionality. The MIPO algorithms and system functionality were built in an abstract, multi-industry fashion, which eliminates the need for customization. Smaller scale deployments can have short timelines, but because SmartOps products can operate at enterprise scale, it can take months to roll out across all global products, locations, supply chains, and business units for a large-scale customer. The offering does not offer strategic network optimization (SNO) capabilities, which are occasionally supplemented by Llamasoft. For more info, see TEC’s article SAP SCM—Stepping Out of Obscurity.

Cloud-based Demand Sensing

In early July 2012, SmartOps announced the availability of Enterprise Demand Sensing (EDS) - a brand new cloud-based analytics application to predict demand trends in order to boost sales, reduce stock-outs, and reduce expediting costs. EDS is the first application constructed from scratch on the company’s new multitenant platform as a service (PaaS) intended for cloud deployment. The new SmartOps cloud platform (live as of July 1, 2012) is built on open source components deployed through Cloud Foundry by VMware. It is designed for deployment in public clouds (currently Amazon Web Services [AWS]) and in private clouds when necessary.

The EDS functionality is another market alternative to the likes of Terra Technology, JDA Software, and ToolsGroup. EDS offers an alternative approach to predicting demand trends, supported by demand analytics. It automates the capture of demand trends, prediction of forecasts and sales order bias, and recognition of demand patterns to increase forecast accuracy at the level of granularity required for supply chain planning and execution.

EDS is designed to work with demand signals within the enterprise as well as external signals such as downstream point of sale (POS) data contained in Demand Signal Repositories (DSR). The offering helps improve performance of traditional time-series based forecasting systems that focus on historical information but ignore current demand signals. With embedded analytics and scenario analysis capabilities of EDS, companies can increase supply chain agility with fact-based demand response strategies and assess effectiveness of product promotion and launch activities.

SmartOps believes that the EDS approach for blending multiple internal and external signals into a demand opinion that can be used by SmartOps products for optimizing service levels, inventory, and production is unique in the industry. This cloud offering is intended for both existing users and prospective users. Some might see this move by SmartOps as building out an augmented suite of on-demand apps to up-sell to existing customers and counter all the possible revenue dilution from the SAP partnership (where SAP might often act as a senior “bigger brother” partner that takes control of the account even when the lead comes via SmartOps).

But, SmartOps says that SAP views this offering positively. SmartOps is working actively with SAP to ensure EDS and other SmartOps cloud products in the lab are complementary to SAP APO and Technology strategies (i.e., Cloud, HANA, Analytics, and Mobile).

Analytics Intelligence Module

In mid-July, 2012, SmartOps announced the availability of the SmartOps Analytics and Intelligence Module (AIM). The last two decades have seen significant technical advances in data storage and handling. As a result, companies now have massive amounts of data available for analysis, without efficient means to use it effectively. SmartOps AIM provides a brand new way to view supply-chain key operating parameters and performance data by drilling down to detailed levels via flexible filtering and charting capabilities. The solution is also resold by SAP as the SAP Enterprise Inventory Optimization by SmartOps, option for analytics.

The new SmartOps offering introduces an intuitive and focused mechanism to describe the current state of supply-chain performance, predict future outcomes, and prescribe the best action to meet strategic goals. The AIM module leverages the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) platform with a pre-configured data universe and reports for common workflows including Sales &Operations Planning (S&OP), supply-chain performance monitoring, executive dashboards, and ad-hoc reporting. The SmartOps AIM allows users to perform the following:

  • Capture the reality of forecasting performance and trends with the Demand Analytics Dashboard

  • Gain visibility into demand, inventory, and supply projections with the Target Performance Dashboard

  • Facilitate strategic supply chain analysis with the Scenario Comparison Dashboard

The AIM BI solutions are largely meant to be add-ons to SmartOps’ existing product set in either on-premises or hosted deployments. In the lab, the vendor is reportedly working on next-generation analytic products that leverage its aforementioned new Cloud platform as well as some of SAP’s latest thinking on predictive analytics. The vendor’s plan for architectural evolution from its current product set to the next generation is to operate a hybrid cloud in the interim.

We will have to wait and see how the strategy SmartOps unveiled in this mini PR blitz in July 2012 will unfold, and how the vendor will compete against is usual suspect competitors: Logility (formerly Optiant), ToolsGroup, Manhattan Associates, JDA, etc. Your views, comments, opinions, and experiences with SmartOps and its products are, as usual, welcome in the meantime.

Further reading:

TEC Article (April 2012) “Logility: Supply Chain Innovator and Workhorse”
TEC Article (February 2012) “ToolsGroup—Going Back to Its SCP Roots”
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