JDA Shares Plans for E3 Fulfillment Products
July 21, 2009 Alex Woodie
The Merchandise Management System is the i OS application that gets the bulk of attention at JDA Software Group. But with 400 loyal customers and a 20-year development history, the E3 collection of inventory management products has become a reliable part of JDA’s business, too. And as a recent briefing by JDA for IT Jungle shows, JDA has plans for the continued development of these products.
JDA acquired E3 in September 2001 to further its expansion into the market for collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment (CPFR) tools. At the time of the acquisition, E3 had about 500 customers, including big iSeries customers such as Best Buy, Staples, Ace Hardware, and MGM. Today, the company counts about 400 E3 customers, showing a slow deterioration in the customer space.
There are three core products sold under the E3 banner. These include Advanced Warehouse Replenishment (AWR), Advanced Store Replenishment (ASR), and Vendor Managed Replenishment (VMR). JDA also sells a fourth E3 product called Network Optimization, but it’s primarily used for multi-site E3 implementations and does not provide much application content outside of AWR, ASR, and VMR.
Despite the slow decrease in number of customers over the years, many E3 customers remain committed to the platform, and are vocal participants in the special interest group, or SIG, says Patty McDonald, product director for the E3 products at JDA.
“We’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years focusing on what our user community has asked us for,” McDonald says. Some of these recently shipped features include support for “multi-echelon” replenishment activities (delivered in February 2009 with Advanced Warehouse Replenishment version 7.6), support for cross docking, constraint supply features, and a “slow mover” forecasting algorithm that delivered in February 2008 with version 7.5.
Later this year, JDA plans to ship the version 7.7 releases of the E3 products. One of the most exciting new features anticipated for these releases is a new reporting dashboard that’s delivered as a slick GUI. The new dashboard will give users visual representations of performance data contained by E3, such as actual versus budgeted cost of inventory by warehouse, or inventory sales by buyer class.
“It takes all the information that’s in E3 today, and provides the user with a graphical picture of how they’re doing,” says McDonald, who expects the new GUI to generate the same kind of upgrade activity as the slow mover forecasting algorithm did with version 7.5 a year ago. “We had tools in the green-screen interface that supported reporting–the executive scoreboard and performance tracking. This kind of blends those two features into one that we’re calling the dashboard.”
JDA is also working to “refactor” all of the E3 user interfaces. The company is using the same set of tools from Infinite Software that it’s using to re-do the MMS interfaces to resemble other JDA products. “You’re going to see our screens change over time, and eventually have the clean look that matches all the other JDA products,” McDonald says.
McDonald aims to have a refresh of the E3 products every nine months or so. Following the scheduled release of version 7.6 in fourth quarter of this year, the company is looking to deliver another release in the third quarter of 2010, and one more following that.
E3 vs. Manugistics
While JDA didn’t say it, the long term plan for E3 could end up resembling the plan for MMS. That is, it may contain heavy doses of Manugistics and the Java-based framework with Web services hooks that Manugistics developed, and which JDA adopted as a replacement for its .NET-based framework, which never saw much customer adoption.
McDonald acknowledges that she often gets questions from prospective customers about the two different products sets, E3 and the Manugustics products, and which set is right for them. Although there is some overlap between them, McDonald says there are differences, and they have different strengths.
At its core, the E3 product set is about replenishing inventory at the “SKU location” level. That means every product is tracked at every location that it lives, whether in a warehouse or at a store. For large tier-one retailers with hundreds of stores and dozens of warehouses or DCs, this can lead to very large number of SKU locations to manage. One customer had close to a billion SKU locations, but typically the number doesn’t exceed 300 million. With its integrated DB2/400 database, the System i (Power Systems) server is well adapted for such a workload.
While E3 functions as a tactical product to satisfy customers’ need to execute order fulfillment today, JDA Demand and Fulfillment, on the other hand, are more strategically oriented products that can also look to anticipate demand out into the future.
E3 features some forecasting capabilities, but not to the degree that JDA Demand does, McDonald says. “It’s not embedded in the screen where you can see [projected demand], like in our Demand product,” she says. “E3’s focus is on the need for every SKU location, whereas the demand and fulfill product allows you to see and manage your forecast at higher levels.”
JDA is making it easy to move forecasts from Manugsitics into E3 for order execution–and also to move entire E3 applications over to JDA Fulfill. Following the Manugustics acquisition in the summer of 2006, JDA sought to build points of integration between the E3 products and Manugistics’ fulfillment and demand forecasting products.
The integration between E3 and the Manugistics products could pave the way for full-blown migrations in the future. “After the acquisition, we jumped right into integrating these products because we wanted the E3 customer to have the opportunity to take advantage of, and maybe eventually move to, Demand and Fulfill, if they think that’s the right move for them to make,” McDonald says.