Manufacturing and distribution companies face challenges throughout every area of their supply chain. Across all stages, visibility is recognised as a key objective. The issue has risen from the sixth most important strategic priority in 2015 to third in 2017, according to the GEODIS 2017 Supply Chain Worldwide survey. However, only 6% of firms said they had achieved it. The survey, which considered the views of 623 supply chain professionals across 17 countries, found 57% of respondents considered their supply chain to be a competitive advantage that would enable the development of their company.
Warehouse management is a key element of the supply chain and is primarily concerned with controlling the movement and storage of goods in and out. From the very first to the very last stage – visibility is imperative in the warehouse and should be a key priority. In order to fully optimise the receipt, storage, picking and outbound delivery of goods, real-time actionable data is required. Having a warehouse management solution in place, provides an important way to track goods across every stage, ensuring there is accurate, up to date information available at all times.
The evolution of ACQUIRE™
Cooper Software’s ACQUIRE™, is a robust data-capture, automation and barcoding solution, offering transactions that can support manufacturing companies across all areas of warehousing and inventory management. ACQUIRE™ seamlessly integrates with IFS, streamlining the logistical processes, providing traceability and visibility at all times throughout the supply chain. With transactions across procurement, inventory, warehousing, outbound logistics and supply chain integration, it offers automation and integration for both supplies, customers and freight forwarders, such as, send or receive advanced shipping notices, automated creation of consignments and shipping documentation, including labels.
ACQUIRE™ has steadily evolved over the last 10 years, from when the solution was originally designed for a single customer to improve their picking process and outbound logistics. This resulted in a partnership with IFS UK to replace their own RF barcoding solution and subsequently led to the development of an increased number of transactions. A huge growth in the customer base followed when the solution was adopted by clients including; Farrow & Ball, Butcher’s Pet Care and Eminox. As time passed, more transactions were included through the creation of an off the shelf library, with customisations also available for companies with complex needs. Today, ACQUIRE™ offers 50+ transactions, can be deployed on-premise and is supported through Windows Mobile, IOS and Android platforms.
The roadmap for ACQUIRE™ – Next Generation
To keep up with both the demands of our clients and the ever changing landscape within which we operate, we are continuing to improve and refine ACQUIRE™, with the latest version acquiring the ‘Next Generation’ tag. Containing all the functionality of previous versions, ACQUIRE™ ‘Next Generation’ has seen us extend the solution further through a greenfield design approach, taking advantage of the latest technologies – Ionic, Cordova and .Net Core – enabling the solution to run across mobile platforms and devices as well as via the cloud and potentially, multiple ERP solutions.
As we embarked on our journey of re-designing ACQUIRE™ from the ground up, we took a lot of time to engage with our customer base to understand their key business challenges and requirements from both a functional and ownership perspective. Blending this customer feedback with our vast experience of implementing enterprise-wise data capture solutions and deep knowledge of the IFS application landscape, we focused on architecting a product that had ease of deployment, ease of use (for end users and system administrators) and was built for the long term using a modern tech stack. Core themes for the ‘Next Generation’ ACQUIRE™ platform therefore were: mobility across multiple devices, re-configurability allowing customers to make changes and extensibility to ensure the solution would grow and adapt with the customer’s business.
With a significant R&D investment, the approach we agreed upon was to boil down the solution to the lowest constituent part of the solution and build up from there – we took a component-based approach. Components can be visual (provide UI), logical (perform a logical operation such as data retrieval) and transactional (execute a system transaction). The simplicity of this approach is in fact where it is most powerful – each transaction within ACQUIRE™ can be quickly built and configured to suit by making use of pre-built components. This gives full control to customers to easily adapt the transactions to fit their business but with the ability to make changes to the flow, data captured/displayed and the integration with IFS.
The future for ACQUIRE™
As part of our commitment to R&D we are constantly evolving our technology. A well as developing ACQUIRE™ in the ways outlined above, we are already looking further ahead to see how new technology can be incorporated in to the solution. Current trends including smart technologies, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning are all already in operation within warehouses with impressive results. These new solutions are part of the industry 4.0 concept and not only do they offer more efficient working practices, they present an opportunity to optimise processes, increase performance, ultimately resulting in competitive advantage.
One of those tools is smart glasses. Rather than using a hand-held device, as is the current method with ACQUIRE™, users could instead wear a pair of glasses containing a display which would present critical, timely information directly in the worker’s field of view. The glasses can be controlled with simple gestures or voice commands and would send and receive information directly from the ERP solution. Some global manufacturers who have already deployed smart glasses to workforce have experienced huge increases in productivity, accuracy and capacity utilisation.
Although it is early days in terms of development, this is something we very much see as being applicable to future versions of ACQUIRE™, helping to shape the solution for the future demands of manufacturing.