Waer Systems—Integration, Process, and Presentation in the Supply Chain

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Long known as a supply chain firm with specialized capabilities around warehouse and inventory management, U.K.-based Waer Systems has never been one to sit still, and in the years since the company’s founding in 2000, Waer has evolved and matured its solutions and services to focus on integration, with virtually any enterprise system, in large multi-national enterprises. Waer’s solutions demonstrate complex capabilities in the areas of inventory and warehouse management and adjacent technologies (RFID, kanban, vendor managed inventory (VMI), kitting, cross docking and batch/lot tracking).

While many would describe (and have described) Waer Systems as a supply chain solutions and services company, Waer prefers to refer to itself as an agile software development company delivering niche supply chain, integration, and business intelligence capabilities to large enterprises. Being a smaller outfit that cannot afford not to be agile (they have some 15 employees), Waer makes no attempt to be all things to all people. Rather, the company focuses on delivering niche supply chain capabilities to larger enterprises, offering the expertise to bolt its solutions onto larger systems to provide significant extended supply chain functionality.

Waer started out in the aerospace industry (Schenker Aeroparts, a division of DB Schenker is one early and longstanding customer) with its WAERlinx solution, and since then the company has expanded in numerous ways, not always successfully. (After getting a round of funding from a venture capital firm 2009, disagreements resulted in Waer closing its Chicago office, and tactically withdrawing from a local presence in the U.S. market.)

Waer, undeterred, has proceeded to further develop its WAERlinx product, develop an integration service and solution—WAERflow (which embeds Flow Software’s integration technology) and, more recently, introduce the WAERconsole mobile management reporting tool with the release of WAERlinx version 8 in October 2013.

WAERlinx has evolved from being Waer’s warehouse management and supply chain execution system to being its core transactional engine with a much broader set of capabilities, organized—more or less clearly—into three ‘functionality hubs’:
  • Supply Chain (forecasting, kanban, global visibility, vendor managed inventory, reverse logistics/returns processing, supplier collaboration, and supplier performance);
  • Work (cross-docking, inspection and quarantine, RFID, task interleaving, ASN management, bonded inventory, and stock count analysis); and
  • Parts (part master data repository).
This organization of the hubs under WAERlinx is intended to make the user’s experience with the system feel logical and intuitive. Waer can configure the solution for the customer with a considerable amount of flexibility and precision, enabling or disabling just the features and functions that fit the customer’s needs.

Waer’s WAERflow is an integration service utilizing Flow Software’s software, which Waer has been offering for about 5 years. While WAERflow plays an important part in utilizing the full potential of Waer’s capabilities, WAERflow can be used as a stand-alone integration offering. Equipped with supply chain-specific templates, WAERflow can also be customized to end-specific data formats.

An interesting WAERlinx/WAERflow case study is DB Schenker’s contract with Airbus to service the A380 and other Airbus aircraft. Schenker sets up service hubs in close proximity to major airports (such as London Heathrow, Singapore Changi, Paris Charles De Gaulle, Dubai, Seoul Incheon, and Beijing Capital) where it stocks parts from suppliers in a vendor-managed arrangement. Either Schenker or the parts supplier can receive orders; Schenker then delivers these parts to Airbus engineers and maintenance personnel at an aircraft stand or to the hangar.

Schenker has used WAERlinx to get warehouses up and running in as little as half a day, and then uses WAERflow to integrate Schenker’s WMS to Schenker’s ERP system, to customer systems (aircraft manufacturers Rockwell Collins, and Hawker Beechcraft, and airline customers), and to repair suppliers.

Schenker came to Waer to fill a void that could not be satisfied by its ERP vendor, and Schenker now uses Waer solutions at some 16 of its warehouses.

The key capabilities delivered to Schenker by WAERlinx and WAERflow include:
  • over the Web inventory visibility to the OEM suppliers
  • visibility of demand, inventory, inquiries, and reports
  • status of parts (serviceable/unserviceable), and where these are located at any point in time
  • status by any part number/serial number combination
With the release of WAERlinx version 8 in October 2013, Waer has also added WAERconsole, a mobile business intelligence and management reporting tool that Waer had previously worked on with a couple of customers on a more customized basis.

Waer approaches management reporting and presentation from a highly pragmatic, bottom-up, customized approach. Starting from the standpoint of what an executive or a team needs to see, Waer used its experience integrating with enterprise systems to plan how to extract the necessary data, and then designed a dashboard and graphical user interface (GUI) to fulfill its mission of filling niche needs with high-performance solutions.

WAERconsole uses HighCharts’ technology to produce a user interface that is clean and engaging. Waer uses Pentaho Kettle for ETL (extract, transform, and load) processes, and then integrates to the end-user’s BI tool of choice.

WAER’s solutions are Java-based, designed to be agnostic with regards to application server or database and the company continues to offer its solutions primarily (almost solely) as software-as-a-service, on a single-tenant hosted basis.
Vertical Focus
While aerospace and defense continues to be an area of great strength for Waer, the company has also found some traction in logistics providers and niche distributors, and strong interest but isolated traction in the healthcare and the retail food and beverage industries. Waer’s value proposition seems to be as much around the company’s strong tactical approach and experience plugging its niche supply chain capabilities (to provide critical supply chain extensions to larger enterprise systems) as around specific vertical expertise.

If you think about how DB Schenker is using WAERlinx and WAERflow, Waer’s supply chain capabilities could be value-add extensions to several notable ERP vendors. Waer has started some work with NetSuite. This leads us to wonder what lies in store for Waer and whether some cloud ERP vendors may begin to think of Waer as more than just an integration partner.
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