Taking Stock of TAKE Supply Chain Solutions - Part 1






Over the past several years I’ve repeatedly heard of a supply chain management (SCM) software and professional services company called ClearOrbit that was recently renamed TAKE Supply Chain. I admit to initially being in a quandary how to figure out the company’s exact value proposition and differentiation, given that its corporate Web site and press release (PR) messages as well as webinar topics seemed to be all over the SCM map: from labeling, printing, and package visibility, via reverse logistics, warehousing, radio frequency (RF) and RF Identification (RFID) mobility, to procure-to-pay (P2P), and supplier relationship management (SRM).

After a while, I finally had my “a-ha!” moment of epiphany and realized the company’s mission: “To improve the speed, visibility and control of extended manufacturing and distribution value chains.” There are indeed many business problems encountered in managing globally extended supply networks.



For example, errors in demand plans and production schedules result in an increased days in inventory (DII) figure and greater direct material costs as well as negative financial impacts, while missed, delayed, or incorrect shipments also increase the DII metric and reduce revenue. Moreover, kitting and final assembly errors in manufacturing plants and warehouses cripple production efficiency, while incorrectly captured data result in costly scraps and rework.

In addition, invoice disputes and payment errors come at the expense of higher selling, general and administration (SGA) costs and direct material costs. Generally speaking, the lack of inventory visibility in the supply network increases the SGA and DII tallies, while poor customer, environmental, and Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) compliance result in higher SGA costs, lower revenues, and the need for a higher reserve allowance (that ties up the working capital).

"KISS" SCM Does IT

Since its formation in 1994, TAKE Supply Chain has developed innovative, easy-to-use, and flexible software solutions for use by rank-and-file employees in manufacturing plants and warehouses that have to deal with the aforementioned supply network issues. In addition to the keep it smart & simple (KISS) design principle, rapid implementations and proven return on investments (ROI) have been other guiding principles for TAKE’s SCM solutions to provide value for small and medium enterprise (SME) customers.

Still, these solutions can scale with expanding organizations and become enterprise-class solutions, with support for multi-national customers. In fact, over half of TAKE Supply Chain customers have revenues greater than US$1 billion. Needless to say, TAKE’s products leverage the existing IT assets of their customers, especially the most widely used enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems by SAP and Oracle.

With the ongoing economic downturn, companies must optimize their performance in order fulfillment to ensure customer satisfaction. Companies have also been investing in business intelligence (BI) and performance management solutions, as their supply chains become ever more critical to their business strategies. Thus, on a higher level, TAKE Supply Chain has been offering solutions that address the following issues and activities:

TAKE Supply Chain Genesis

TAKE Supply Chain’s progenitor, BPA Systems, was founded by Michael Palmer, Paul Palmer, and Larry Brouwer in early 1994 in Austin, Texas, United States (US). In late 1995, the company released the first version of its Enterprise Hardware Integration (EHI) platform for connectivity to RF devices and bar code printers. Its very first customer was Cisco Systems, who deployed its RF mobile applications.

In early 1997, BPA announced the availability of a supply chain execution (SCE) application with modules for receiving, inventory, manufacturing, shipping, and warehouse labels. One month later, the company was certified as a partner in Oracle’s Cooperative Applications Initiative. In September 1999, Austin Business Journal's "Top 25 Fast Growing Private Companies" list named BPA at the #10 spot for companies with revenues above US$10 million. The following month, the vendor was approved as a Certified Solution Partner in the Oracle Partner Program (what is today the Oracle Partner Network [OPN]).

In early 2000, BPA announced the availability of a Web-enabled version of its EHI platform product. In March 2000, the company received US$15 million in first round funding to expand its product line. In September 2000, the company was again listed on the Austin Business Journal's "Top 25 Fastest Growing Private Companies" list for companies with revenues above $10 million, this time at #7. The year closed with Tom Dziersk being appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Launching into ClearOrbit

BPA Systems announced in early 2001 the adoption of a new name and company vision by becoming ClearOrbit. That month, ClearOrbit released Supply Chain Labels, a Web-based compliance label printing service. Also in early 2001, the company named BEC Systems its preferred implementation partner for its software solutions in the United Kingdom (UK) and throughout Europe. In May 2001, ClearOrbit released the trademarked Gemini Series product suite for mobile data collection and supply chain visibility (SCV), which included a common platform product, Connect, and the following three applications: Automate, View, and Pro-Act.

That same year, the company’s first supplier collaboration customer (who prefers to remain anonymous) deployed the solution with well over 100 of its suppliers participating. The renowned high-tech customer had a problem reconciling invoices for products that may or may not have been shipped to the company by its numerous suppliers. With more than 100 suppliers, this reconciliation was consuming an inordinate amount of time and attention from an army of buyers and accounts payable (A/P) clerks.

To that end, ClearOrbit created a purchase order (PO) collaboration portal that tracked orders, shipments, and payables in near real-time for the supplier base. From this hindsight, the solution was perhaps painfully simple: once the customer had placed an order, the supplier would use the portal to confirm the order and print a barcode label for each box in the order. Once physically received in a warehouse, the barcode on the label would be scanned and the data sent to a back-office ERP system to update the transaction.

In mid 2002, ClearOrbit announced the release of Supplier-Owned Inventory (SOI) as the second module in its erstwhile Endeavour SRM solution suite that was later named Xtended Process Control (X.PC). In late 2002, the company launched its Orbiter Series to extend Oracle’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Mobile Supply Chain Applications (MSCA), which is now the Gemini for Oracle offering. John Reece joined the ClearOrbit executive team in 2002 as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) first, and became the CEO and President in 2005, at which time the company had 275 customers.

At this stage, the foundation of the company’s value proposition was formed (on top of the core data collection capabilities). ClearOrbit’s former Value Chain Collaboration Solutions, recently renamed the TAKE SRM Suite, are native P2P applications that cover the cycle of PO creation, PO acknowledgement, advance ship notice (ASN), goods receipts, invoicing, and payment advice. In addition to supplier network enablement, these collaboration solutions also have capabilities for request for quote (RFQ) and corresponding standing quote (SQ), package tracking, compliance labeling, ship confirmation, drop-shipping, and cross-docking.

Unlike other players in the value chain collaboration segment, ClearOrbit offered its customers an end-to-end on-demand SCM solution – where supplier collaboration, compliance labeling, shipment controls, package tracking, electronic invoice presentment & payment (EIPP), A/P automation, and rule-based workflow management were all addressed using an integrated out-of-the-box solution from one vendor. Customers not only benefited from the vendor’s product specialization, but also from its credible expertise of devising operational solutions, managing processes, and even owning business outcomes (if needed or preferred by the customer).

By 2007, ClearOrbit had about 300 market leaders as customers, such as Alcoa, Canon, Cisco, Welch’s, Texas Instruments, Panasonic, Colorcon, Biogen Idec, and Motorola. Its customers stemmed from industries such as high-tech, industrial products, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and defense (A&D), and consumer packaged goods (CPG).

Being TAKEn

In 2007, ClearOrbit was acquired and became a separate operating division of TAKE Solutions, Ltd., a publicly traded Indian business software and services company that delivers life sciences (i.e., clinical trials data management, epedigree traceability, etc.) and SCM solutions throughout global markets. TAKE Solutions acquired ClearOrbit to combine it with its existing SCM division.

In May 2009, the ClearOrbit name changed to TAKE Supply Chain, to reflect the company's continued expansion and transition into a single global division under its parent company, TAKE Solutions. The new name represents a unified identity for the SCM resources, products and services offered by TAKE Solutions' worldwide divisions.

TAKE Solutions is a global technology solutions and service provider, with significant focus across two principal business areas – Life Sciences and SCM. The company is listed on the Indian Stock Exchange. Started in the year 2000, TAKE has grown exponentially over the past decade and is today represented by over 900 employees (about 400 in the SCM division) catering to more than 400 marquee clients across 6 countries. With its global headquarters located in Chennai, India and US headquarters at Princeton, New Jersey, TAKE makes its global presence felt through its well-established offices across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle-East, and South-East Asia.

More than just a name change, TAKE Supply Chain is a reflection of its parent company’s overall strategy to grow the SCM business. The company has international offices in India, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Oman, and US offices in Austin, Princeton (TAKE’s North America headquarters),  El Paso, and Philadelphia. TAKE’s solutions have been deployed globally at thousands of locations serving tens of thousands of end-users.

TAKE Supply Chain provides tailored SCE solutions for leading manufacturers and distributors across a broad range of industries that include oil & gas, high-tech manufacturing, industrial services, telecom, pharma/healthcare, CPG, and government, to name only a few. As part of its parent’s SCM strategy, TAKE Supply Chain underwent a product rationalization exercise and has integrated a number of supply chain products from various operating units of TAKE Solutions into a single global product offering.

Building on top of former ClearOrbit’s major product lines (i.e., Returns Management and Reverse Logistics, Contract Manufacturing Execution, Warehouse and Distribution Hub Data Collection, and Barcode and RFID Print Management), current TAKE Solutions’ SCM offering consists of four main product groups, along with the recent general availability (GA) of several new modules, some of which came from the parent company. This blog series will now analyze all of these product lines, starting with Demand-Driven Supply Network (DDSN) solutions.

TAKE’s Demand-Driven Supply Network (DDSN) Solutions

Research shows that software as a service (SaaS) preference is growing across all SCM applications. To address this preference, in January 2010, TAKE Supply Chain formally launched its first SaaS offering to the market: OneSCM. This launch ushered in a new era for the software provider, as it had traditionally been focused on building and delivering on-premises enterprise SCM solutions.

OneSCM is an online supplier management platform that features a multi-tier, multi-tenant SaaS architecture and is designed for mid- to large-sized manufacturers and distributors. The platform connects all trading partners (currently over 35,000 participants) - from buyers to suppliers, contract manufacturers to logistics carriers and everyone else in between - into a single ecosystem that aggregates data from all participants’ back-office systems (regardless of which ERP system is in place) into a single, consolidated view.

In addition to providing an ecosystem of customers to work with, OneSCM helps organizations manage supply chain operations from procurement to invoicing with sophisticated P2P, Order-to-Cash, and A/P Automation capabilities. OneSCM was designed from the ground up to be a multi-tenant platform for manufacturers and distributors to work with their suppliers. The offering demonstrates a significant effort by TAKE Supply Chain and its recent focus on the supplier – i.e., innovating the collaboration capabilities to enable them to take a more hands-on approach to work with their customers.

Many of TAKE Supply Chain solutions extend the functionality of procurement, manufacturing, and warehousing systems from Oracle and SAP to eliminate supply chain, warehousing, data collection, and reverse logistics inefficiencies. Likewise, the OneSCM platform (both the hosted, on-premise, and hybrid versions) includes pre-built integrations with Oracle and SAP application environments to do the same. The product currently supports English and German, with Arabic in the works.

To put things into perspective, TAKE Solutions’ SRM functionality comes from ClearOrbit’s aforementioned X.PC product line and the late 2009 acquisition of EntComm and its Resonance product line. The EntComm acquisition provided TAKE with a multi-tenant SaaS solution with a strong messaging layer, and strong customer base in the oil and gas industry. This solution, Resonance, has been renamed OneSCM, but OneSCM currently delivers a larger SRM footprint than the individual X.PC and Resonance products.

The next part of this blog series will continue with an analysis of TAKE Supply Chain's main product lines, in particular the rest of its DDSN products (i.e., X.PC) and Demand-Driven Distribution & Fulfillment solutions (as the second major product line). In the meantime, your comments, thoughts, suggestions, or individual experiences with the aforementioned SCM issues and accompanying solutions are more than welcome.
 
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