Today is the final day of Manhattan Associates’ 2016 annual user conference in Orlando, FL. The conference has about 1,200 attendees, including attendees from 41 Manhattan partners. From a corporate perspective, Manhattan had 500 new hires last year, bringing total staff to 3000 employees. As a WMS product manager said to me, that’s quite the expansion from the 50 person firm he joined back in the 1990s.
This year’s conference theme is “Deliver a Fulfilling Experience.” And I found the conference to be fulfilling- with countless customer case studies, product updates, and of course inspiring key note presentations. Manhattan Associates has already delivered 28 product updates this year, but I will focus this article on key new warehouse management features being demonstrated at the conference, and other significant complementary supply chain enhancements.
WMS Product Releases (v2016)
Mobile Picking Application
Manhattan Associates released a new mobile picking application that runs on Android or iOS and is geared toward e-commerce fulfillment that experiences extreme peak season fluctuations that require seasonal workers to support the increased warehouse volumes. The intuitive user interface is designed with the goal of reducing employee training time to get workers productive more quickly. The screen layout incorporates touch responsive areas that are familiar to smart phone users and can pull item images or descriptions to assist in visual identification. And the display can be set to landscape or portrait mode to accommodate the task at hand. Finally, the application integrates to labor management so information such as estimated vs. actual task completion times can be recorded and displayed.
Pack Station User Interface
A new pack station user interface is included in v2016. The new UI is designed for a full-sized screen and is touchscreen-enabled to allow for intuitive interaction. It can display item images, to ensure order packing accuracy, and relevant order info such as all items in the order to be packed. Task related information such as estimated duration for task completion is also presented to the user. Lastly, the new interface allows for printing of all required shipping documentation, including packing lists and labels, facilitating order completion and shipping.
A new order streaming capability was released to address the needs of direct-to-consumer fulfillment. Manhattan decomposed and reconstructed much of the standard waving logic to create this flexible and responsive alternative to traditional waving, providing optimization of individual order fulfillment, in contrast to historical batch processes. Pace of order selection, prioritization, and release can be adjusted to address order profiles, meet the unique demands of e-commerce fulfillment, and provide more constant labor utilization.
Extended Parcel Integration
Extended parcel integration capabilities were created for customer requirements beyond the UPS, FedEx, and USPS integrations available in the native parcel feature set. This provides productized integration to the 3rd party parcel systems with access to regional parcel carriers that have become more widespread in today’s direct-to-consumer commercial environment.
Distribution Management (DM) Mobile
DM Mobile is an application separate from WMS that is designed to run on a tablet and focused on the needs of warehouse supervisors and managers. Last year I noted that DM Mobile 2015 incorporated workload monitoring, by area of DC, and how are associates performing in that area. Version 2016 now extends the2015 version workload and labor management functionality with inventory management capabilities. It provides information of inventory levels, allows supervisors to lock and unlock inventory, request a cycle count, and submit items and locations for re-slotting while walking the warehouse floor.
Slotting optimization was also updated in 2016. Version 2016 is now on Manhattan’s supply chain process platform utilizing a common data model with WMS. They also rebuilt the slotting optimization engine from the bottom-up. The new release provides a number of adjustable controls to meet performance requirements such as sequencing and number of moves and offers overall performance improvement.
There were numerous interesting and informative customer cases presented at the conference. However, the two that made the greatest impression on me were those by Target (on Target.com fulfillment) and Ascena Retail Group (brands including Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Loft). Target’s case is a great example of rapid evolution and growth of ecommerce and how to adapt to these rapidly changing requirements through DC fulfillment network redesign, process changes, and technology upgrades. Meanwhile, Ascena Retail Group’s case is a great example of efficiencies that can be obtained through process redesign, technology deployment, and scalability through automation. I will work to develop detailed overviews of these cases for inclusion in future LogisticsViewpoints blog posts.