December 1999 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

Reaching the Pinnacle of SCM Success

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Leading supply chain software developers are taking a more creative and inventive view of intelligent practice in applying their solutions. The idea of one company doing it all is usually dismissed; many SCM providers are now carving out niches of specialization.

But one company is taking a different approach—many companies under one parent offering an integrated supply chain solution.

Pinnacle Automation, St. Louis, Mo., is that company. The five subsidiaries under the Pinnacle umbrella help companies manage their supply chains from inbound raw goods all the way to delivering a final product to the consumer. For Pinnacle, supply chain solutions mean not only managing the physical flow of materials, but the information flow as well.

The Pinnacle group of companies has the supply chain covered. The companies are:

Alvey Systems Inc. (www.alvey.com), which offers integrated materials and information flow for food, beverage, and other consumer goods manufacturing and distributing.

Alvey offers a wide range of material handling tools, such as pallet and unit handling conveyors, and gantry robots. Its integrated business solutions division works with other Pinnacle companies and third-party vendors on systems integration. For instance, Alvey Systems has recently formed an alliance with Intek, Bellevue, Wash., to co-develop and market supply chain solutions that integrate material flow systems and warehouse management systems.

The Buschman Co. (www.buschmanco.com), which specializes in warehousing and distribution systems for retail and wholesale companies. It offers technology such as cross-docking, order fulfillment, and sortation systems.

White Systems Inc. (www.whitesystems.com), which specializes in put systems, split case picking, and paperless processing systems.

Real Time Solutions Inc. (www.easypick.com), which offers a wide range of pick and put-to-light software systems, carousels and carts, and order processing systems.

"Each company acts as an individual unit, with its own president and a full staff," says Pinnacle President and CEO Stephen J. O'Neill. "They are subsidiaries. By structuring the company this way, we feel we are well positioned to provide full supply chain and e-commerce solutions. We can also provide warehousing and material handling support through our carousels and pick-to-light systems.

"We wanted to position the company in order to be able to track bar codes physically," he says. "We also need to track information from the time raw material arrives at a producer or a manufacturer until it reaches the ultimate consumer. We need to provide not only the software to do that at a warehouse management system (WMS) level, but also the physical systems to allow that to occur."

"Our Real Time Solutions (RTS) system provides pick-to-light, and has a software package that pulls together all types of picking," O'Neill says. "Our companies have developed interfaces with a broad array of WMS manufacturers. The WMS manufacturer can now lay off onto RTS the software picking interfaces to any kind of picking solution a customer requires.

"We are a best-of-breed set of companies that come together on integrated projects," he says.

It's not surprising that Pinnacle's corporate structure resembles the GE model; Stephen O'Neill worked at GE for more than 20 years.

"When we first started putting companies together, we decided that this was the right model," O'Neill says. "That is the reason we kept the brands that we did. The brands are what sell and what customers relate to in their choices. Pinnacle is the means by which we pull them all together.

"Pinnacle is not the normal business model in our industry," O'Neill admits. "Part of our vision is to be an indispensable provider for helping our customers go to market. We must change before or with our customers who are undergoing tremendous, dramatic change. We have adopted this vision across our companies. It is what drives our business, and what drives our choices in making future acquisitions."

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