April 1999 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

The Summit Group: Logistics Pros

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Functions that used to operate in silos, such as warehousing and transportation, must now answer to the greater demands of the supply chain. In turn, the supply chain must answer to its primary driver—the customer.

Providing satisfaction to the customer has become the means by which an enterprise achieves its own business goals. Providing exceptional customer satisfaction means digging down deep in the details and strategies of manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution. There are no simple answers to meeting complex customer demands.

One company offers software solutions within the context of managing the supply chain to meet customer demands. The Summit Group, headquartered in Mishawaka, Ind., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ciber Inc. It has offered Logistics PRO software since 1993, but has broadened its product offerings in recent years to include Logistics PRO for Warehousing and Logistics PRO for Traffic.

"We provide a mid-range, AS/400 based-package," says Dave Linnen, Logistics PRO director of product strategies. "We are moving our application to a Windows NT platform."

Logistics PRO basically covers the inbound side of the supply chain, including warehouse management system functions, the receiving of product from suppliers and manufacturers—the handling of all activities within the four walls of the warehouse. It also manages the outbound side, specifically the information shared with trading partners.

"From a supply chain point of view, Logistics PRO feeds systems on the outbound side with information necessary for the customer on the inbound side," Linnen says.

A major part of the Logistics PRO application addresses the transportation arena. This functionality determines, for instance, best-way routing along with routing guides; retail compliance; and closing the loop on the supply chain through auditing freight bills and sending invoices.

The transportation functionality also supports concepts such as proof of delivery information, and customer service information as it relates to shipping information, for example EDI, Advance Ship Notices, or compliance labeling.

There are two strategic enhancements to the latest release of Logistics PRO, in the receiving and Advanced Shipment Notification functionality. A new "sort position" process creates pallets for optimum putaway. The product is sorted according to specified staging areas. These are assigned to putaway zones in the warehouse. This method makes it unnecessary to take multiple trips into the same warehouse area. The products for each specified zone are moved to the proper location in one trip.

Has the impact of consumer demand had an effect on warehousing's role in getting goods to consumers as quickly as they want them?

"The technology of the Internet has created a shift in terms of the end consumer," Linnen notes. "Consumers expect to have their product shipped directly to them. Online shopping has had a very definite impact on our business."

Another change is warehousing's shift from a facility to a node of information. The architecture of information now dominates the architecture of buildings. "Today's warehouse is about information," Linnen says. "It is about the use of that information throughout the supply chain. The information is clearly the driver for our functionality and for our business."

The Summit Group uses a unique marketing strategy, according to Linnen. "We come at our markets by focusing on a single industry," he says. "We allow our efforts to expand to other companies within that niche. Then we move on to another industry.

"We are strong in food, consumer goods, retail stores, mail order catalogs, and health care—applications that require high volume and constant demand of products. That's our niche," he says.

The Summit Group plans to expand its business through integrating seamlessly into ERP functions such as forecasting, purchasing, cost accounting and activity based costing.

"We want to give our customers the opportunity to know their costs within the entire supply chain; to understand their cost by product category, all the way down to a specific product, customer or vendor," says Linnen. "This is a major driver for us."

To achieve its expansion goals, The Summit Group is working with Lawson Software and PeopleSoft for customers that want human resources or accounting programs. The Summit Group also helps customers implement ERP systems such as those offered by J.D. Edwards, SAP, and Baan.

"We bring to the table in-depth knowledge of ERP companies," Linnen says. "We are the only vendor of warehouse and transportation application software for the supply chain who has that level of expertise in-house with our ERP consulting services group. Logistics PRO and the consulting group are now under the arm of The Summit Group."

The Summit Group can be reached at www.summitgroup.com

SUMMIT GROUP CUSTOMERS

Logistics PRO users include:

  • The First Years
  • Nissan Motors
  • General Cable
  • Southern Wine and Spirits
  • Von Holtzbrinck Publishing Service
  • Gerber Products Co.
  • Maui Jim Inc.
  • Kent Sporting Goods
  • Salton Maxim Housewares.

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