At last week's Manhattan Momentum user conference, the company showed it has a clear vision to help its customers realize their supply chain and omnichannel strategies.
As Manhattan Associates comes close to celebrating its 30th birthday, it has built its reputation and driven its success by creating the de facto warehouse management system (WMS) in the retail industry. Largely viewed as a conservative player in an industry of high flying risk-takers, I learned last week at their 25th annual user conference that conservative doesn't mean lack of innovation and it certainly doesn't mean they are resting on the laurels of their once core solution.
Innovation drives ‘the possible’
With their ‘push possible’ tagline leading the brand, CEO Eddie Capel kicked off the event by detailing that the core to Manhattan’s continued success is their willingness to invest in their solutions. He highlighted that the company has invested $200M in R&D in the last three years and as new capabilities around AI/ML become available that the investment will continue. One comment he ended with I believe sums up well how they think about innovation and how it can help their customer base:
"We believe that by investing in new thinking around efficiency, throughput, and engagement, we can help create radical improvements in the supply chain that unlock our customers’ resources and expand their influence."
Innovation is a nebulous term and as we know, retailers and manufacturers have a really tough time with it. In fact, according to supply chain research Incisiv recently conducted, the ‘ability to innovate' was ranked near the very top of areas that retailers and manufacturers admit they aren't good at. Knowing that is the case means they will be looking at their technology partners to lead the charge to innovate in ways that help their businesses. To kick off the conference focused on how and where Manhattan is innovating was a smart move.
Leading with the first mile, ending with the last
As if the supply chain wasn’t already important, the very nature of our macro environment, (which includes the way consumers now shop, the changing labor market, advances in automation, tariffs, etc.,) has elevated it to be the very center of a retailer’s universe.
It was clear that Manhattan is aware of this and they are doing everything in their power to take full advantage of it. Last year's upgrade of their Order Streaming capabilities to better manage new demands on fulfillment was piggybacked last week with the announcement of the Manhattan Automation Network, a certified group of automation vendors that they've partnered with to ensure high-level execution of their Order Streaming capabilities. Robotics in the supply chain are enabling new levels of productivity and Manhattan is taking a leadership position to ensure those vendors are fully integrated into their suite of WMS solutions.
The enterprise order management system (EOM) is the hub of a retailer’s omnichannel operations and as Incisiv sees is, it is the most important system in enabling a retailer’s competitiveness. It has become clear that legacy systems can no longer handle the complexities of today’s environment, including some of Manhattan’s original systems. However, they along with IBM, consistently rate at the top of industry waves and quadrants because they continue to roll out updates and enhance functionality to enable their customers to stay relevant. Last week, they detailed their Adaptive Network Fulfillment (ANF) capabilities which dynamically looks at multiple parameters such as service levels, shipping costs, product type, and customer type and then optimizes fulfillment out of both DCs and stores to ensure maximum profitability for orders.
Practice what you preach
There is a lot of good technology in the market and there are myriad choices for most of what Manhattan offers. What really stood out at Momentum what not the sophistication of the technology (although it is) nor the breadth of the offerings (it’s broad) - it was the loyalty of the customer base and the stories they told about Manhattan’s support during their transformation journeys.
Chicos, like so many other retailers, realized that the functionality they needed was not achievable in their current system. So the 1400 unit women's chain commenced on an EOM and Store Inventory Fulfillment (SIF) project in late 2017 that is designed to enable the company to catch up to the expectations of their customer base. The retailer is now able to place online orders through any store, access a single view of inventory across the online and store network, manage customers in a single platform, and ship from store. By the end of Q2 ‘19, they will also have activated BOPIS across both the Chicos and the White House|Black Market brands. With this rollout, they've been able to achieve a 15% increase in inventory accuracy as well as blow past their initial goal of 1M units fulfilled from stores (2.2M).
It can be argued that these capabilities are table stakes in this environment but a legacy retailer like Chicos should be lauded for embarking on the journey and getting it done in rapid succession for such a sophisticated rollout. This is where the love fest was made clear. The manager of their omni-channel strategy, Marcela Quintana, attributed much of the success of the rollout to the ‘incredible amount of support provided every step of the way' by the Manhattan team. It was clear that the Chicos and Manhattan teams worked incredibly closely to address the testing, change management, and the speed of release challenges in the rollout.
As the Manhattan portfolio has expanded, their goals to more deeply penetrate their current customer based has expanded along with it. In the software game, Manhattan is a relative newbie to point of sale (POS). In fact, several analysts posited that while the solution was robust, they are so late to the game that it’s going to be tough to make a dent in the market. Well, don’t tell that to Manhattan.
The loyalty of their customer base was again highlighted in a session from west coast home furnishings retailer, LampsPlus. As the first customer of the ActiveOmni POS platform, LampsPlus took a big leap of faith in selecting Manhattan. However, the retailer's long-standing relationship with Manhattan across WMS, labor management, slotting, supply chain, and EOM, provided a level of confidence in their ability to roll out POS.
As they pointed out in the session, the cloud-native platform’s ability to ‘continually update’ and eliminate the need for version upgrades was a major factor in CFO Clark Linstone’s decision. In addition, as Daniel Nelson pointed out, an updated UX for their associates to see full purchase history, inventory across the chain and to simplify the transaction flow was also critical. Like Chicos, the LampsPlus team pointed to the deep integration of the Manhattan team throughout every step of the process as major factors in a near seamless rollout of the platform so far.
The big learning
As Mr. Capel pointed out in the context of their employee engagement solutions: “We invested in behavioral sciences, to better understand how to personalize engagement, to determine what motivates us as individuals, and what compels us to go beyond expectations”. Judging by the feedback shared throughout the Momentum conference, the Manhattan team knows what it takes to go beyond expectations with their own customers.