Supply Chain Analytics: You’re Doing It Wrong -Part 1

If you keep up with the latest supply chain trends, I’m sure you know the importance of Supply Chain Analytics.  What you don’t know is, you’re doing it wrong.

Supply Chain Analytics Strategies

When I talk to companies about the performance of their current Supply Chain Analytics strategy, I often hear one of two scenarios:  They are either starving for information and insights or have bitten off more than they can chew and don’t know how, or where, to start.  Which category do you fall in?

Scenario 1: Lack of Visibility into Your Supply Chain

You would be amazed (or maybe not) how many companies I speak with who are still generating daily metrics manually!  These days business moves too fast to look at what you could have improved yesterday, last week, or last month. There is little time to take a step back to track and evaluate how you are doing and determine where you can improve.  But with the constant pressure to do more with less, being able to track how you are doing and correct inefficiencies quickly has some serious power.

Here are two examples of how having real-time insight into your procedures and outcomes can help relieve pressure and stress:

  • How can you drive when you’re looking out the rear view mirror? How do you know if you have a problem in your operation at the beginning of the day? If you have an annual review or are asked to provide an update on how things are going, how can you show that you are excelling versus just getting things done, or even worse, what if you’re doing a poor job and don’t even know it? Analytics can help show concrete data that measures apples to apples every time providing valuable proof points for all kinds of scenarios.
  • We need “clean data” before we can turn on analytics. These are called unknown unknowns, and they can be a thorn in your side. You don’t know what you know. Without any visibility, how are you identifying the inefficiencies and gaps that may currently exist?  Each little inefficiency that is hiding can make a big difference to the bottom line when compounded over a length of time.  Analytics can help you immediately identify when things are not performing efficiently so you can correct them sooner rather than later saving you both time and money.

Now let’s take a look at the flip-side: Scenario 2.

Scenario 2: Your Data is Too Big

If you are currently tracking data and using an analytics solution, pat yourself on the back.  You are so far ahead of those in Scenario 1. Or are you?

All too often we see companies dive head first into an analytics strategy.  This often includes a Big Data solution to start collecting data from across the organization and building Business Intelligence analytics, but is it the road to Supply Chain Analytics success?

Eventually you may be able to track your most pressing KPIs and identify some actions to take to improve your operation, but you’re probably going to be lost in Big Data for a while.  Let me explain.

Big Data and the Supply Chain

“Big Data” is one of those terms that is thrown around a lot.  In fact, if you Google Big Data you come up with 275 million results in one second, that even beats out searching for cat videos (252 million).  I guess you could say it’s kind of a big deal.

According to Gartner, Big Data is high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.  In other words, Big Data incudes all the data being created every second of every minute of every day, far too much and too frequent for a person to handle effectively.  Congratulations on using a Big Data solution to tame the wild beast!

Tracking data across your entire organization, from finance and marketing through to sales and distribution, is a great start.  But how does all that data in your Big Data solution apply to you and your supply chain?  Chances are, it doesn’t.  But don’t worry – there is a better way.

Finding a Working Supply Chain Analytics Strategy

No matter which scenario you fall into, don’t give up hope.  I’ve been working in the supply chain industry for years to solve problems such as these for people like you.  All you need is a solid foundation to start building your strategy from.  Demand more from your data!

Stay tuned for Supply Chain Analytics: You’re Doing It Wrong – Part 2 coming soon to see how you can kickstart your supply chain analytics strategy and start pulling out actionable insights that drive data-based decisions.

By: Alex Wakefield

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To Host or Not to Host

As Shakespeare famously never said, “To host or not to host, that is the question.”  In today’s evolving IT landscape, many companies are faced with this query when discussing IT strategy.  New JDA projects, upgrade paths, and yearly budget reviews are just a few scenarios where hosting strategy finds a soapbox within IT departments around the world.

Operational leadership often asks IT to remain cost effective, reliable, and sustainable while also requiring a certain degree of agility and cutting edge technology.  Sounds like a simple request right?  And did I mention cost effective?

When IT hosting strategy is discussed it is easy for many of us in the IT world to recite the mantra “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and to think that it is easier to apply band-aids to existing solutions. The reality is that outsourced hosting is becoming a strategy that is increasingly viable for companies of all sizes. Let’s take a moment to list a few key advantages:

  • Business Focus – Shifting the responsibility to a dedicated hosting house allows companies to place more focus on core competencies that drive revenue.  I suspect that most data closets, while essential to keeping a business running, make little contribution to the top line.  So why not divert the responsibility of hosting to an outsourced partner in order to better focus on work streams that generate revenue?  After all, the point of outsourcing is to let the experts complement your business so that you can focus on your own strengths.
  • Improved Service Level Agreements – Can you guarantee 99% or better uptime today?  This is something that many outsourced hosting solution providers can offer.  Common practices such as server redundancy and failover plans provide SLAs that build confidence in customers.  Seeing how supply chains run 24/7, why should a solution offering differ?
  • Improved Total cost of ownership – Who doesn’t love depreciation costs and obsolete hardware?  How about when an application upgrade path requires an entirely new platform resulting in additional hardware?  With an outsourced hosting solution these obstacles become a thing of the past.  You pay a rate for a service and assume none of the assets.  Instead, you rely on the hosting provider to offer the required hardware and operating systems to meet your application needs.
  • Agility – Customer loss/gain is a reality in the supply chain world.  Short lead times and eleventh hour contracts can be a challenge when trying to bring up or tear down a solution.  Improved hosting scalability allows for the business to react quicker to changing requirements.  Hosting providers typically have the latest technology offering in terms of VMware and can apply resource changes in a manner of minutes as opposed to hours, days, or worse.

At the end of the day, outsourced hosting might not make sense for everyone depending on how deep the hosting roots have grown within a company.  However, I suspect as many companies further investigate the benefits of an outsourced hosting solution, the time honored Shakespeare quote that he famously never said might read, “To host or not to host, what a silly question.”

By: Kevin Light

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Time Saving for BlueYonder WMS System

Published: April 17, 2013 – Updated: June 2020

Picture This

An organization brings in a trainer to walk their IT and Super Users through configuration screens in setup workshop training. They are delighted and happy because, for the first time outside of sales pitches, they have hands-on demos in setting up samples of areas, locations, footprints, etc. They now realize how robust and east it can be to configure JDA’s (now BlueYonder) WMS solution.

However, that happiness is short-lived as soon as the IT and Super Users transition into the construction phase of a project. Their faces become pale and severely long. They soon realize they have to deal with hundreds of configurations. The exercise of setting up areas policies for replenishment, which they well recall took ten minutes in the workshop, is now taking days to complete due to the scale of the entries.

Supply Chain Consultants Stepping In

I’m sure this scenario sounds all too familiar. In my experience, this is when experienced consultants with tens of implementations under their belts come into play. They bring in tools, processes, and tips that can significantly increase an organization’s setup productivity and reduce their costs. I’ll share with you a straightforward method that we have seen work time and time again.

Suppose you’re working on the task of configuring the Replenishments “Release Rules” of your areas, which involves going through the Area Maintenance, clicking on Modify Policies, and going through the wizard. For organizations with a large facility, this can be a cumbersome task as there can be hundreds of combinations involving Source Area, Destination Area, Work Type, and picking the unit of measure.


I’ll demonstrate how Excel can help you. At a high level, we’ll be entering the data in a spreadsheet that will automatically provide us with commands we can later copy, paste and execute in one shot inside JDA (now BlueYonder), and that will complete our task.

  1. In RedPrairie DLlx client, enable tracing and follow the standard procedure of setting Release Rule for a single area. Limit this to one entry. For example, define a directed work for Emergency Replenishment going from a Source Area called BULK to a destination pickface area called SCPM to move Pallets.
  2. Disable and view the trace file.
  3. Look for the high level command. If you’re not a trace reader, don’t sweat it. Look for “[0] Server got” and keep going through the matches until you find your command (it will be obvious). In our case, it is “create area release rule policy ….”
  4. You’ll need to copy the entire command with its arguments. Congratulations! You just completed the hardest part. The rest will be in Excel.
    (Download the excel template h
  5. Fire up Excel and create columns for your dynamic data that will change from one entry to another. You can cheat by looking at the command you just got from the trace. In our scenario, this will be Source Area, Destination Area, and Load Level. The rest of arguments such action, priority code, offset, etc. are the same from one area to another in our facility.
  6. Add another column for your script. This will hold the command in which its dynamic parameters will be fed from the other columns. This is an example of what you type in:  =”create area release rule policy where wh_id = ‘WMD1’ and wrktyp = ‘E’ and srcare = ‘”&A66&”‘ and dstare = ‘”&B66&”‘ and lodlvl = ‘”&C66&”‘and action = ‘CREATE WORK’ and arguments = ‘dstloc_wrkzon,srcloc_stoloc’ and oprcod = ‘EMRPL’ and baspri = ’10’ and offset = ’10’;”
  7. Notice the ampersand referencing the excel cell position that holds the data (ex., srcare = ‘”&A66&”‘). This essentially means the srcare will be whatever is stored in column A, row 66. Also notice the semicolon at the end (I’ll explain it later).
  8. You may copy the Excel formula above to all subsequent rows by dragging the selection.
  9. Work with your Operations team to fill in the spreadsheet.
  10. That’s it! When it’s done, you basically have all the commands you need generated dynamically based on filling in the source, destination and load level. You’ll select ALL the rows under the Script column, copy it, paste it into Server Command Operations in Dlx (or use LextEdit or winmsql) and execute it. The semicolon between each row enables executing all these commands in one shot.  

The screenshots below illustrate what my spreadsheet looked like at the end and how I loaded it into the system.


In conclusion, the cost of initial setup time, which involves tracing and setting up the Excel sheet, is independent of the data scale. It enables your operation teams to fill in the spreadsheet without any technical assistance in a swift and efficient manner. Your technical resource can then load it into the system in a single shot, also independent of the data scale.

This method can be used in any application where mass data needs to be loaded into the system. For those familiar with Mload utility, this is based on the same principle. It provides an alternative quick and dirty method and an extra level of flexibility, such as having full control of the selection of which data (rows) are to be loaded or loaded first.

By: Abdullah Alkeilani

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Managing Implementation Changeover Properly 

- Updated : June 2020

Undergoing Positive Change

“Change is Good Donkey” The Dreamworks movie Shrek is the perfect example of just how much things can change in a short amount of time. Shrek went from being a lonely, mean ogre to being the hero that married the princess and had to embrace new attitudes and dynamics along the way. Being the leader, he prepared his trustworthy sidekick, Donkey, for what’s ahead “Change is Good, Donkey,” Shrek says. However, change is not easy for everyone. It often means letting go of something that you are very comfortable with and learning how to adapt to something new and different. People often say they are willing and open to change, and the real contradiction is that people also want comfort, predictability, and stability.

Change Management in Supply Chain

Preparing for Change Management to enable a successful WMS Implementation is a crucial step that many organizations fail to embrace.

A WMS implementation will impact many system users in some form. Typically, the decision-making process of implementing or upgrading your system comes from the top down. The top-down process means an organization is leaving itself exposed to transformation risk because its largest user base is usually not involved. Yes, they are the ones expected to make the change. Ultimately, those at the top are creating a situation where those users at the bottom are not prepared to let go of the old and accept the new as a good change.

There are many implementation experiences where users create unnecessary roadblocks during a Go-Live support simply because they have not been prepared for change. As a result, this creates confusion, frustration, and at times negativity towards the changes. These are all obvious signs that change management execution has not received the importance it deserves. We often experience floor level feedback along the lines of “How can this WMS be better than our legacy system?” Employee comments often paint the picture very clearly:

  • “It takes me twice as long to do my job, how can this be better?”
  • “How can an RF be better than my paper pick document?”
  • “Why is the system asking me to put the pallet in that location? It should go over there.”
  • “I cannot believe they think this system is better.”
  • “My job has changed completely; why?”

Many companies often struggle in one form or another when they fail to apply good change management practices or adapt change.We all know that there are many change models available to help your organization. Unfortunately, there is no perfect change management approach, but the following 7 strategies are something to consider:

  1. Seek change management training for your team.
  2. Make your leaders accountable for the change transformation.
  3. Engage all levels of the organization.
  4. Identify how this change will impact and benefit the company.
  5. How will people jobs change and what new skills will they require.
  6. How will you support them while they build comfort and confidence with this change?
  7. Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate!

Understand the Hesitation

In summary, leaders need to be motivating influences during times of change. Understand the process of change, employee hesitation, and support them through it. By doing so, you will surely help the success of your WMS implementation and make people feel good about the process they are going through. Watch your business grow by embracing the changes necessary for growth.

Learn more about implementation success by reading our whitepaper:

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Should You Use a BlueYonder WMS Implementation Service Partner?

- Updated : June 2020

Looking to Improve your BlueYonder WMS?

Are you planning a BlueYonder (formally JDA) WMS implementation? What about an upgrade? Or are you simply looking to enhance the capability of your existing supply chain software? If your answer is yes to one or all, you need knowledgeable and experienced resources to aid a successful project. The success of a project can be answered with one simple question, “Can we do it ourselves?” Before you answer, you need to think about if your organizations has the resources, experience, skills, and availability of time to support your initiative.

Here is a short checklist of questions to help assess whether it is possible to utilize your internal resources:

  • Have we developed a detailed project plan to fully understand the effort and time required to support this initiative?
  • Have we accomplished an initiative like this before on our own?
  • Do we have the internal functional and technical expertise required?
  • Are the required resources available to support this initiative?
  • Will our assigned project team be potentially distracted by running the day-to-day business?
  • Have we assessed the risks of doing this on your own?

Did you Answer No?

Answering ‘No’ to any of the above questions may be a clear indication that your organization needs some level of external consulting help with your initiative. If using an external supply chain software service provider is new to your organization, you can be assured that you have many options to consider. Typically, most organizations call their software provider looking for experienced resources to augment or lead their implementation.

I’m here to tell you, you have many other service options that can ultimately provide equal too or better implementation results for your organization. Our, Longbow Advantage’s, experience has shown you can benefit from lower implementation service costs, improved availability of resources, and improved implementation timelines by using an independent implementation partner.

Independent Implemenentation Partner

Selecting an independent implementation service partner means firstly, and most obviously, the provider must actually be able to do the work. Secondly, the provider must be able to fit in with the people in your organization and particularly those who will be working on your project. Finally, if the provider is good, you should always improve your own knowledge as a result of the project.

As a result of selecting an implementation service provider, you will experience the following benefits:

  1. Experience in delivering implementation. Therefore, you will get to the solution, and you will see the business benefits much quicker
  2. Well developed and proven approaches, methods, and tools that will assist in the implementation process
  3. Objectivity in undertaking the tasks at hand
  4. A dedicated team to tackle the specific tasks at hand. A team that will not be distracted by also trying to run your day-to-day business
  5. A team of subject matter experts who can provide a sounding board for new ideas

If you have made the formal decision to engage a BlueYonder (JDA) WMS implementation partner, your first accomplishment is having recognized that need.

If you have enjoyed this post, you might be interested in learning more about the services we offer, or reading our whitepaper:

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Why I Chose RedPrairie (Now BlueYonder)

Published: April 17, 2013 – Updated: June 2020

Gerry’s Background

In 2002 I was married (still am!), with three children. I quit my job as Vice President of Information Technology of a major 3PL in Canada.

Before I get going here, you should understand that I am, first and foremost, a techie! Not a business owner, not a financial expert, and certainly not a people (?) guy. I like technology, especially technology, which makes our lives easier.

Before I had kids, I was a small business owner, and the itch to own again was always in the back of my mind.

A Start to a New Beginning

So, in 2002, I resigned with nothing in my pocket—no opportunity and not a heck of a lot of savings. Luckily for me, the company I was working for had just bought McHugh WMS (soon to be RedPrairie WMS), and they asked me to stay on to help implement the system. It was not exactly what I had in mind, but it was a start, and it gave me nine months of income.

At first, my now new customer gave me the task of creating some Crystal Reports (this is funny…trust me). Crystal was the RedPrairie (now BlueYonder) report writer tool of the day. Furthermore, for them because of the RedPrairie design, they had a cost-effective alternative to meet some of their development tasks.

Once I had gotten through most of the reports, the company decided it wanted me to work on some more complex issues in RedPrairie (now BlueYonder). Budget and time were running short and using me was less expensive.

So, they assigned me tasks of creating what we now call DDAs as well as doing some integration. Now I was really getting into the nitty-gritty of RedPrairie (now BlueYonder) WMS. I met a couple of really good guys at RedPrairie (BlueYonder) who taught me in a few hours how integration worked, and they showed me MOCA (McHugh Open Component Architecture, back in the day).


MOCA, if you are not familiar, is the engine, the architecture, the underlying infrastructure, the big kahuna of RedPrairie (BlueYonder) systems. When you know MOCA well enough, you are king. Every single system is built on MOCA, from WMS to TMS to the Integrator and so on.

Without getting technical, MOCA really opens up the world to the customer. I discovered, for the first time, a system that actually put as much control in the hands of the customer as they needed and wanted.

Not only could you write your own reports, and create your own labels, but you could also now develop your own integrations from scratch. You were able to hook into any other system. Talk to automation equipment. You could put together your own screens. You could write small pieces of code that could add that little extra thing you needed that may not have come with the system. You could even write a whole new component and put a button on a screen to run your new functionality. All of a sudden, you could add an entirely new piece of functionality that is embedded into your system without going back to the vendor for help.

Learning from MOCA

I came from supporting a WMS that had nowhere near this capability. There was no exposure to their system, and any change, no matter how small, took weeks at a minimum.

So, I went from years of utter frustration to feeling completely liberated. I knew that this was a technology that I could believe in, one that I would enjoy working with, and I could use it to deliver real results to customers.

I could build a business around it. That is why I chose RedPrairie (now BlueYonder).

Today, Longbow Advantage has grown tremendously since our start in 2002. Our employees help customers do just what I talked about here, and it is all because of the vision of the people who build MOCA and systems bases on MOCA some 20 years ago.

Here’s to 20 more years of customer control!

By: Gerry Brady

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