VAI Gets S2K 5.0 Out the Door
September 19, 2008 Alex Woodie
VAI yesterday announced the launch of S2K 5.0, a new version of its flagship i OS-based ERP system for manufacturers, distributors, and other companies. The release includes many new features, including a new Java client, an updated warehouse management system (WMS), new Web portal programs, and a new iPhone interface, among many other new features.
Version 5, which VAI originally planned to announce at last year’s conference, is the first major release of S2K since the launch of version 3.7.6 about a year ago. The company elected to skip version 4 to avoid confusing customers, who were promised several years ago a set of capabilities to be included in version 4, but which the company shipped in version 3.7.4.
One of the key new features in version 5.0 is the updated graphical user interface (GUI), which was developed with Seagull Software‘s JWalk screen modernization software. When customers elect to use the new Java-based Windows client with S2K 5.0 (they can also choose to a 5250 green screen), it will work like other Windows-based programs that they are familiar with, says Pete Zimmerman, the manufacturing segment manager with VAI.
“We really changed the look and feel of the GUI,” Zimmerman says. “We’ve make it much more Windows like. That’s what people know. That’s what people feel comfortable with.”
For example, VAI has enabled right clicking with the new Java client. Instead of knowing to press a certain key combination or function key, users can perform actions on fields or files by simply right clicking with their mouse, and choosing from the list of options. The search function is also prominently placed on the screen in 5.0, and there is generally less clutter, more accessibility, and greater security than previous versions, Zimmerman says.
Another major area of improvement in 5.0 is the Web portal, which is based on IBM WebSphere Portal (the company previously used LANSA for the Web). With 5.0, VAI has enhanced several portal applications, including supplier self service, customer self service, e-commerce, CRM, the executive information system (EIS), and user management tools.
That doesn’t mean VAI has ended its relationship with LANSA.”VAI continues it’s partnership with LANSA, values its partnership with LANSA, feels LANSA is a good product/company, has always been and continues to be one of VAI’s best business partners,” a VAI spokesperson says. “VAI has chosen to have an exciting new offering in Enterprise Portal for companies that want to purchase a full Portal, but continues to sell the LANSA-based Commerce Express. i.e. Enterprise Portal does not replace Commerce Express.”
The supplier and customer self service systems will free up employees’ time by enabling customers and partners to answer basic questions for themselves. Equipped with nothing more than a Web browser and valid credentials, a supplier will be able to log onto the system to the status of orders or payments. Similarly, customers will be able to use the CRM system to place orders or to check on the status of orders.
The S2K Web portal also houses the EIS for senior management. A series of dashboard interfaces will keep executives continuously updated on key metrics, such as sales or profit levels, while drill-down capabilities allow them to get additional detail on important activities.
Reliance on JSR-168 standards with WebSphere Portal makes it easier for S2K users to customize their environment. For example, users can add things like stock quotes or the weather to their portal home page. S2K’s WebSphere Portal-based shopping cart application makes it easier for customers to establish an e-commerce presence on the Web.
Finally, WebSphere Portal makes it possible for S2K to talk to Apple‘s incredibly popular iPhone. According to Zimmerman, the new iPhone interface will allow mobile salespeople limited functionality, including checking order status and placing orders. In the future, VAI may offer an interface for RIM‘s BlackBerry devices, which are also popular with business users.
The WMS gets lots of new stuff with 5.0, including better support for radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging. Thanks to an OEM partnership with i OS barcode and RFID specialists CYBRA, VAI offers built-in support for RFID with its WMS application.
Version 5 also offers voice directed picking, a new feature that allows warehouse workers to receive directions audibly, using recorded voices or even tones, thereby freeing up their hands for moving goods instead of interacting with the computer. This release of the S2K WMS also introduces support for multiple languages; version 5 supports Spanish, and French may be next.
The new version introduces several smaller, more general changes that will nevertheless be welcomed by some S2K customers. For example, customers can now run up to 999 different companies with one instance of S2K, a 10-fold increase over the previous limit of 99. This will be beneficial to conglomerates of companies that were approaching the previous limit.
Another small but significant change is the sales summary history. Previously, it only went back three years. Now managers can view an unlimited number of years in the sales summary history. Similarly, a new rules-based configurator in version 5 will allow make-to-order manufacturers to offer greater variability in the products they offer.
VAI will offer several sessions on S2K 5.0 at its annual user conference, which is being held next week in Las Vegas. IT Jungle will be in attendance, and hopes to bring you more news on the release and other VAI activities.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect VAI’s relationship with LANSA.