An Independent Supply Chain Software Review
On August 28, 2010, IBM purchased Sterling Commerce for $1.4 billion from AT&T. Sterling Commerce has since been integrated with IBM’s WebSphere organization within the IBM Software Group. Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, Sterling Commerce has offices throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Prior to being acquired by IBM, Sterling Commerce had 2,500 employees.
Sterling Software (not Sterling Commerce) started as an electronic data exchange (EDI) line-of-business, and then spun off the line-of-business to form Sterling Commerce in 1996. Sterling Software was later acquired by Computer Associates in 2000; also in 2000, SBC Communications Inc. purchased Sterling Commerce. With the merger of AT&T Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. in 2005, Sterling Commerce then became an AT&T company.
Today IBM Sterling Commerce competes in two spaces: business integration (BI) and supply chain execution (SCE). Sterling’s Business Integration Suite integrates business processes providing Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) solutions and Business to Business (B2B) collaboration solutions for trading partners. The Business Integration Suite adds to IBM’s portfolio of middleware integration products that include WebSphere and Lotus.
Sterling acquired a suite of supply chain execution solutions with the acquisition of Yantra Corporation, Nistevo and Comergent Technologies during the period between 2005 and 2007. The supply chain execution software suite includes a selling solution that helps companies configure, price, quote and order products in multi-channel sales organizations. The supply chain execution suite also has logistic offerings that cover Transportation Management Software, Warehouse Management Software and Supply Chain Management visibility, and an order management solution that coordinates the fulfillment of orders. Clients include companies and organizations in retail, healthcare, banking, distribution, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, local and federal governments, and communications sectors.
Sterling’s Supply Chain Execution Offerings
In addition to being part of the WebSphere organization, IBM has incorporated Sterling Commerce in their “Smart Commerce” initiative; which also includes WebSphere and Lotus products. “Smart Commerce” is positioned as a line of solutions that enhance basic ERP commerce functionality to a best practice across the buying, marketing, selling and servicing commerce lifecycle. Sterling addresses complex multi-channel selling, complex order management and the logistics of order fulfillment.
Overall, Sterling’s logistic offerings get high marks. But, the Warehouse Management System and Transportation Management System solutions have not kept pace with Sterling’s other offerings. Prior to IBM’s acquisition, selling logistic solutions to new clients was a low priority for Sterling. IBM continues to change this priority to actively expand the customer base by incorporating Sterling’s WMS and TMS offerings into IBM’s Smart Commerce initiative.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
Sterling Commerce entered the Warehouse Management Software market with the acquisition of Yantra. Sterling’s Warehouse Management System can be deployed on premise, hosted or as a SaaS subscription model. Also, it can be deployed as a single warehouse operation, or as a central point across multiple facilities and types of functionality. With the built in service oriented architecture (SOA), Sterling’s WMS can be integrated with broad WMS technologies (such as Voice Directed, auto-identification, and Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems), host systems, and MHE equipment systems. IBM promotes their Warehouse Management Software has being scalable with planning, execution and monitoring layers that meet the requirements for flow through, central storage and fulfillment operations.
Sterling covers Warehouse Management Software best practices functionality for inventory management and storage, inbound and outbound, task management and vendor compliance processes that include the following:
- Inbound visibility, scheduling, and pre-receiving
- Outbound scheduling, order release, wave planning, picking strategies and shipment routing
- Slotting options, system direct and manual put-a-way
- User defined inventory attributes used for lot numbers, serial numbers, unit of measures and other customer specific identifiers
- Value added kitting, assembly, and customer specific labeling and assemble to order
- Reverse logistics for returns, exchanges and repairs
- Activity reporting and task history
IBM Sterling Commerce also addresses productivity using engineering standards or performance data derived from task history. Resource workloads are based on actual and forecasted demand, enabling redeployment of resources based on current needs.
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