Manhattan Associates Wrap-up

Nautica signs up for supply chain execution solutions; provider allies with Alien on RFID

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Chicago  June 13, 2003  Supply chain execution specialist Manhattan Associates took advantage of the retail solutions show in Chicago this week to escape the early summer heat and humidity in its home base of Atlanta, heading north to the Windy City with a file folder full of press releases regarding a new customer win, as well as a new joint solution with Alien Technology intended to make RFID more accessible to retailers.

First, the provider revealed that apparel manufacturer Nautica Enterprises is set to implement Manhattan's solutions in a bid to gain real-time visibility into its supply chain, with the goal of achieving improved decision-making and increased efficiency.

Nautica, which reported sales of $693.7 million in its most recent fiscal year, will implement Manhattan's Trading Partner Management (TPM) and Warehouse Management System (WMS) suites, as well as the provider's Performance Management Application in its 500,000 square-foot distribution center (DC) in Martinsville, Va.

The clothier chose Manhattan in part based on the ability of the provider's solution to let the manufacturer keep pace with its growing and evolving needs. "We expect to realize immediate benefits from Manhattan Associates' supply chain execution solutions," said Jim Calo, senior vice president of operations for Nautica. "We are also confident that these solutions will meet our future business needs and support our growth in the marketplace."

The manufacturer, which also operates retail outlets, has chosen to implement the TPM suite first to meet its immediate need for improved real-time inbound shipment tracking capabilities. Additionally, TPM will give Nautica's suppliers the ability to create advanced ship notices (ASNs) and corresponding barcoded shipping labels, allowing increased visibility into when a product will arrive as well as streamlining the inbound receiving process.

The company is counting on these capabilities to help improve decision-making across its supply chain, enabling the company to improve inventory management. TPM also will enable Nautica, its partners and manufacturers to share essential information via the Web in real-time.

In addition to TPM, Nautica plans to implement Manhattan Associates' WMS suite and the Performance Management Application in its retail business, with the wholesale business to follow. WMS will enable cross-docking and also will enable Nautica to take advantage of real-time inventory control, task interleaving and vendor compliance tracking for its own supplier base, according to the solution provider.

Manhattan says that with the Performance Management application, Nautica will gain real-time access to such key information as resource allocations, activity reports by function, piece rates used to estimate completion times, pick ticket cycle times, stock-keeping units (SKUs) per order and order profiles. This information will enable Nautica to perform more advanced reporting and analysis, giving the company a better understanding of its operations.

"Manhattan Associates' TPM, WMS and Performance Management solutions will allow Nautica Enterprises to optimize the performance of its supply chain," said Bruce Eicher, vice president for customers and professional development at Manhattan. "These solutions also will provide Nautica Enterprises with more flexible, scalable and easier-to-maintain technology that will help the company continue its leadership in today's highly competitive market."

Expanding RFID Capabilities

Meanwhile, Manhattan Associates, which just recently upgraded its supply chain execution offering (see related story), also announced a new solution and a new alliance intended to expand the provider's radio frequency identification (RFID) capabilities.

At the show, Manhattan unveiled its RFID Middleware solution, which is intended to provide the technology and implementation services required to integrate RFID hardware into third party supply chain management software packages, including Manhattan's own supply chain execution (SCE) solutions.

This stand-alone solution will be compliant with the most recent electronic product code (EPC) specifications and will have the ability to support hardware that is not EPC compliant, according to Manhattan. Currently scheduled for commercial availability during the third quarter of this year, the RFID Middleware solution is designed to help companies streamline the integration of RFID technology into their supply chain. The goal is to decrease the time and labor associated with RFID projects.

Offered through Manhattan's Enterprise Integration Services, the solution includes software that facilitates the integration of any system with RFID hardware and professional services to ensure smooth implementation.

"This offering leverages our RFID domain expertise, experiences gained through our involvement in the Auto-ID Center, as well as the partnerships we have formed with leaders in the RFID industry such as Symbol Technologies, Alien Technology Corp., Siemens Dematic and Zebra Technologies," said Eric Peters, senior vice president for products and strategy at Manhattan Associates. "Our RFID Middleware solution will help customers who have purchased off-the-shelf RFID hardware to efficiently bridge the gap between this technology and their current solutions."

Alien Alliance

And speaking of Alien Technology, Manhattan joined with Alien to unveil a hardware-software bundle that merges RFID technology and SCE solutions in a single solution.

The jointly developed "RFID in a Box" solution, targeted at retailers, contains a bundled package of RFID technology from Alien along with supply chain execution applications and professional services from Manhattan. The suite is intended to facilitate implementation of RFID technology and give retailers a faster, less-onerous pathway to realizing the benefits of RFID, such as real-time inventory control, while also enabling vendors to meet current and future RFID-compliance requirements.

The solution includes RFID readers with two antennae per reader, as well as a fixed number of RFID tags from Alien to label and track goods. Customers will receive a limited license version of Manhattan's Trading Partner Management (TPM) application, allowing them to enable their suppliers to remotely generate RFID tags and apply them to goods. In addition, the solution will include remote EPC printers to print the RFID tags.

"RFID is moving quickly from a theoretical exercise to a real requirement," said Peters. "Leading retailers like Wal-Mart are setting specific dates that they will require RFID compliance, which has significant ramifications for any supplier that does business with them. The importance of incorporating RFID into the supply chain is becoming top of mind for all retailers but most are not sure where and how to begin."

Peters said the "RFID in a Box" bundle would allow retailers and their suppliers to "jumpstart" RFID adoption. "This solution is a practical, cost-effective first step for retailers to take advantage of RFID," asserted Peters.

"With this pre-packaged RFID solution, we've addressed one of the biggest obstacles to RFID adoption, which is providing an out-of-the-box solution that is fast and easy-to-implement in the distribution center," added Stavro Prodromou, CEO of Alien Technology.

According to the two providers, the remote RFID tag generation capability will allow retailers to track inventory using RFID tags and experience some of the key benefits of RFID immediately within their facilities, including increasing inventory accuracy and labor productivity while decreasing human error and labor costs.

In addition, Manhattan and Alien said they will provide customers with professional installation services, including three months of services covering pilot to proof-of-concept, as well as assistance with business case documentation, if needed.

The "RFID in a Box" offering is one byproduct of a strategic partnership between Manhattan and Alien announced this week and intended to more closely align the two companies' RFID initiatives.

The strategic partnership calls for joint marketing, joint development and cross-selling between Manhattan and Alien.

A recent study by systems integrator Accenture suggested that RFID technologies could save the packaged goods, retail and freight transportation industries billions of dollars each year, but barriers to broader adoption of the technology remain. Read the February 6, 2003, iSourceonline article.

For more information on RFID projects underway today, see the iSourceonline articles on initiatives at Benetton (April 9, 2003) and Gillette (January 8, 2003).

For more information on wireless tracking solutions for the supply chain, see "Needle in a Supply Chain Haystack," the Net Best Thing column in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business.