Warehouse management is viewed by all involved in Logistics as a key to being successful in this fast moving industry. But the price of IT systems with the right mix of functionality for the SME market has been a major issue in the reticence of these organisations moving away from the use of Excel spreadsheets. 3M Supply Chain Solutions has been a major player in the warehouse management system (WMS) market with its HighJump product since their foundation in April 1983. They have over 1,300 customers worldwide; these include such well-known names as Duracell, Sony, Yamaha, Pepsi, Toyota, Bridgestone and of course parent company 3M. At the end of 2007, 3M Supply Chain Solutions released a version of their WMS—HighJumpWarehouse Advantage-45—specifically for the SME market. Bloor was given a briefing on the capabilities of this new venture by Chris Goldsmith (Director, Product Strategy), Hugh Murphy (EMEA Marketing Manager) and Chad Eckes (Director, Product Strategy).
Goldsmith stated that "Globalisation continues to increase competitive pressure even for smaller companies, which result in several challenges for these companies. They are being forced to innovate while, at the same time, they need to cut costs to remain viable. SMEs have fewer resources but must interact with larger, more advanced companies in the global supply chain. On top of this, goods movement and logistics are riddled with inefficiencies due to lack of investment in technology." In the past SMEs may have needed new systems, but were unable to afford a long and expensive implementation cycle. Additionally, they have wanted a simple system without the full complex support for warehouse management, but this system has to be able to grow with them. Because of their size, SMEs also need a system with fast employee adoption. What an SME would really like is a WMS vendor who will provide them with best of breed functionality and architecture without best of breed pricing and, most importantly, who will be there in the future.
Eckes explained further: "3M Supply Chain Solutions has built HighJump Warehouse Advantage-45 to address the pains of SMEs. It is a rapidly configured WMS that is designed to be fully implemented within 45 business days. The solution contains all the key warehouse management features an SME needs, and is built upon the same technology as our enterprise-class WMS—HighJump Warehouse Advantage." WA-45 provides the following WMS features:
- Tracking and visibility of inbound orders
- Receiving: automatically validates receipts against orders
- Directed put-away: ensuring the right materials are put away in the right location. Materials can be put away using a variety of algorithm choices, including FIFO and LIFO.
- Picking: support for by order, batch or label.
- Coordinate packing and shipping processes to increase fill rates and cut preparation time for shipping documents and ship confirmations.
- Replenish materials automatically so associates have sufficient inventory to fill orders, and short-shipped orders are minimised.
- Inventory control: 3M Supply Chain Solutions claims that the solution can achieve up to 99+ percent inventory accuracy, visibility and traceability.
- The system captures every transaction in the warehouse and presents operational information through a web interface.
- A web page development tool, WebWise, that allows the user to edit and create pages, so users see information in the terminology and format to which they are accustomed.
To achieve the 45 day implementation, 3M Supply Chain Solutions has provided a number of aids to make implementation easier and faster. These include:
- Playbook: the analogy Goldsmith and Eckes gave Bloor that it was like a sports playbook
- User guide: this provides specific direction by Job Category; namely the warehouse leader and the system administrator
- HighJump University: this is a set of online courses, involving about 30 hours of class time. The courses are aimed at the SMEs' key users with the goal of making them productive from day one
- Warehouse Wizard: this wizard provides an easy to use means of converting the Logical Warehouse definitions to the actual Physical Warehouse environment.
Murphy described the flexible pricing of WA-45, "For some users, we realise that they want to make an outright purchase so WA-45 is available on license covering a maximum of 20 concurrent users. Other users prefer a subscription-based manner. So WA-45 is also available in this way. The conditions are the same as for the perpetual license, and clients sign for at least a one-year license, which is renewable annually. WA-45 also has an la carte functionality, allowing a user to only buy the functionality they need."
With the current pressure of SME logistics companies, WA-45 is a welcome addition to the software available to run effective warehouse operations. Bloor are particular impressed with the way 3M Supply Chain Solutions has gone about the engineering of a version of their Tier 1 product to meet the needs of SMEs, but at the same allowing them to grow into the larger system. The portfolio of tools to support the quick implementation is very impressive. 3M Supply Chain Solutions is consolidating their position as a serious player in the WMS market.