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Thu 19 Aug 2010 04:00 AM

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Digital delivery

A pioneer of technology advancements in the Middle East, Global Shipping & Logistics (GSL) details its success story with the Manhattan Associates warehouse management system.

Digital delivery
Digital delivery

A pioneer of technology advancements in the Middle East, Global Shipping & Logistics (GSL) details its success story with the Manhattan Associates warehouse management system.

Established in 2006, Global Shipping and Logistics (GSL) had a bold, almost grandiose vision for its future direction. Quite simply, admits the Dubai-based company's IT manager Arun Kumar, it wanted to become the leading player in controlled storage.

With the goal of becoming the number one warehousing operation in the United Arab Emirates - in terms of physical size and inventory handling services - GSL invested in a state-of-the-art warehousing complex within a massive one million square foot plot at Dubai Investment Park. At the same time, the company wanted to arm itself with the most advanced supply chain solutions available on the market, to help attract blue-chip clients from sectors as diverse as frozen food to furniture.

"For historical reasons, the number of supply chain solution vendors operating in the region has been very limited and so we saw an opportunity here to really differentiate ourselves," explains Kumar.

Believing that the partner companies within their supply chain should be able to exchange critical supply chain data at any time, GSL sought a series of integrated browser-based solutions that would capably and reliably facilitate the order fulfilment process through effective inter-enterprise communication across suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and end-users. Equally important was identifying a supply chain platform that was functionally rich and highly configurable, as well as easy to use and implement.

After a detailed evaluation of various solutions on the market, GSL decided to go with Manhattan Associate's Supply Chain Architected Logistics Execution (SCALE) system. In reviewing WMS providers, Kumar says budget wasn't so much the issue. He was looking more towards configurability, while not being heavily consultant dependent.

"We ended up choosing a product that was priced 20-25% higher than the market average. However, although it required more of an upfront cost, we received a superior product in the long run," continues Kumar. "We were impressed with the track record of Manhattan Associates in the region, with a number of industry market-leaders in their respective sectors already using Manhattan's solutions."

In examining the capability of the new facility, Kumar was pleased with the relatively efficient WMS implementation. "For a typical install, it can take a week or two to set up process flows and item masters, but we did it in a single day," he says. "One of the great benefits of SCALE was its configurability, which really comes into its own when you've just signed a new client. We are continually signing up clients of all sizes and demands. Yet we've never had an inventory control issue."
GSL also realised differentiation as a competitive advantage. "In addition to the core warehousing functionality, the dynamic market trend of the Middle East requires service providers to be flexible and provide complete visibility on not just warehousing but billing as well, which we have achieved. Furthermore, the billing management module is integrated to GSL's Oracle eBusiness Suite for accurate and timely billing information for our customers, completing the full integration from service to cash," he adds.

"With our Trading Partner Management module, clients can access detailed reports on stock levels, transaction status and item master information, amongst other things, via the web, which minimises the number of enquiries we receive from clients. Our clients can additionally place and then track orders through real-time system updates, which is another advantage."

Having used Manhattan Associates' software to manage both warehouses since they were commissioned in 2006, GSL recently made the decision to upgrade to a more recent version of Manhattan ILS, in order to take advantage of the provided features. According to Kumar, twenty of GSL's customers are already using Manhattan's Trading Partner Management module to track their orders, and GSL can accurately measure the use and cost of manpower through the integration of the solution's labour management and billing management capabilities. Furthermore, performance ‘dashboards' provide GSL's managers with a view of the entire operation in real time.

Kumar points out that SCALE remains extremely upgrade-friendly, and though the past two years have been sluggish for WMS providers, Manhattan Associates has continued to reinvest upwards 10% of net revenue into research and development. The provided benefits, he says, are then passed on to SCALE's end-users. "The decision to upgrade was a major step for us," explains Kumar, "We were running both distribution centres at full capacity, so we could not afford any downtime. At first there was some reluctance to take the risk of a software upgrade, but Manhattan Associates introduced us to other customers who convinced us that all would be well - and they were right. The entire upgrade was completed in less than two months, with support throughout from Manhattan's consultants. We now have a system that is faster, more efficient in operations, and allows us to offer an improved service to our customers."

In what could best be described as pow-wow sessions, Kumar has come to appreciate the open discourse offered to clients, as Manhattan Associates is keen on knowing what its customers are expecting in future upgrades. "Manhattan Associates hosts seminars called Product Councils in which clients fly out and talk to product managers, the guys actually creating the hardware, to give opinions of what the system needs or they would like to see. It allows for a very interactive platform with the supplier, as well as gives us an opportunity to meet other Manhattan clients."

From an IT perspective, Kumar states the decision to implement the warehouse management system has been pivotal in helping GSL establish its reputation as a quality logistics provider and represents a growing trend towards digital supply chains for the Middle East logistics industry.

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