At first blush, "Platform Thinking" seems like a pretty prosaic message. After all, the other major supply chain vendors (SAP, Oracle, JDA/i2) have already crowed for years (and recently) about their great underlying platforms. But Manhattan has a point to make. Not only has their application portfolio expanded far beyond their WMS heritage, but over the past 5 years they have spent more than $200M on R&D to expand and migrate their portfolio onto a common, SOA base. This has become the necessary underpinning for taking Manhattan and their customers into important new realms that most retailers must master to stay competitive, notably cross-channel integration and cross-process optimization.
An ongoing theme for us with retailers has been the critical importance of integrating their multiple channels and touch-points with their customers: brick and mortar store, website/ecommerce, call center, catalog, mobile marketing, etc. It shouldn't matter whether the customer is coming in through the web, talking to a store associate, or calling the 800 number, they want the person/site they are talking with to be able fulfill their requests flexibly, easily, and quickly. Providing buy-anywhere/fulfill-from-anywhere/return-anywhere integration across channels has huge implications for the supply chain and its technology foundation. Having an integrative platform makes much it much easier to create workflows that span different corporate functions and technology modules. Manhattan has done just that, providing new capabilities like "Distributed Selling," which integrates order capture, up-sell, cross-sell, and customer changes across locations, making them available in the call center, at the store, and on the web. In addition to tying together their own modules, they integrate a variety of third-party services to provide things like credit card authorization, fraud checking, and other capabilities within the selling workflow.
In a stove-piped world, each function optimizes within its own realm - transportation planners optimize transportation, inventory planners optimize inventory, warehouse managers optimize the DC, sourcing and procurement optimizes spend, etc. As we all know, locally optimal is globally sub-optimal and that goes for cross function as well. Manhattan has introduced a number of cross-functional optimizations. One example is the postponement of allocation and transportation decisions. Typically at the time an order is released to your supplier, you specify which quantities go to which destination. But by the time it is built, shipped, and reached the deconsolidation point, things have changed. So it's better to postpone those destination and quantity decisions as late as possible. That requires integrating a variety of information such as DC and store inventory levels, POS and demand data, in-transit inventory and ASNs, transportation resources (e.g. number of outbound trailers) and labor resources. Manhattan integrates these to make smarter postponement decisions and allows better planning of all the resources (labor, trucks, storage, etc.) at the deconsolidation point, the DCs, and the stores.
Elements of the Platform
So what's in this platform, anyway? Here are some of the elements:
· Common security and single sign-on across modules
· Business rules engine, enabling cross-application multi-module workflows that can be built by Manhattan, its customers, or third parties
· SOA framework - providing inbound and outbound connectivity - the workflow can punch out to third party services, such as credit card verification, tax calculation, GIS (Geographic Information Services), fraud detection services, etc. It can also be used by external partners to "punch in" and integrate their systems to portions of the Manhattan-based workflow.
· MPS (Manhattan Platform Services) - includes UI tools and personalized views
· Common Business Objects - such as users, roles, customers, POs, ASNs, etc. These provide the foundation for a single-version-of-the-truth across the enterprise and trading partners.
· Optimization engine - provides platform optimization across components
· Mobility (the power to act, anywhere, anytime) - the various Manhattan components inherit mobile capabilities built into the infrastructure, such as caching of data for use in disconnected mode.
· Analytics and reporting - a common reporting framework that delivers supply chain-wide, closed loop holistic reporting, such as for monitoring KPIs
· Scalability and virtualization strategies, providing runtime flexibility and lower total cost
So, Platform Thinking is more than just a new slogan for Manhattan. There is some real substance here in areas that should matter to retailers and anyone with complex supply chains and channels.
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