VAI Conference Focuses On Streamlined Distribution
VAI’s new S2K 3.7.6 offers an enhanced suggested purchasing application, which improves the consolidated purchasing capabilities of the software and streamlines distribution capabilities, according to Larry Murphy, vice president of research and development at VAI. Murphy spoke at one of the sessions of the User Conference, which was held in November at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn in Orlando, FL.
The upgrade also features improved manufacturing functions with new user screens designed to provide more information and ease of use. In addition, time allocation within shop floor data collection allows better tracking of employee production time for more accurate job costing. The software now includes a standard interface to VAI’s new SalesLinx POS software, which resides on a local Windows-based server at each retail location. Data automatically replicates from the main server to the local server on a scheduled basis. This allows stores to continue processing sales transactions in the event of communication failure or server downtime. These enhancements were made in response to customers’ suggestions, Murphy said.
“In addition to keeping current with industry trends and emerging technologies, our customers also drive the software development process,” he noted. “Many of S2K’s enhancements are based upon customer suggestions from the User Conference, Advisory Council meetings and general requests throughout the year.”
The conference also featured a Virtual Warehouse Tour and hands-on Warehouse Workshop that Murphy presented.
To create the Virtual Warehouse Tour, VAI visited six of its customers’ facilities throughout the country and compiled video highlights of different market niches and various processes that benefit from using the S2K Warehouse Management System (WMS). The combined footage resulted in a 45-minute video presentation.
VAI created a real warehouse atmosphere for the WMS hands-on workshop, Murphy said. “We wanted to present the latest Warehouse Pro enhancements utilizing actual WMS technology, including RF scanners, voice activation, RFID, barcode printers and scanners to demonstrate how easy and cost effective warehouse automation can be.”
VAI also announced that its S2K 5.0 Enterprise Portal and e-commerce applications would be available in 2008. VAI’s new portal technology is designed to provide Web-based features with user-specific content applications and tools. The Customer Self-Service portal provides a framework for collaboration, application and content delivery. Using the Web, customers can place orders and check account status and purchase history in real time. In addition, a requisition function is included where specific users are designated as “order approvers” and “order builders.”
On the supplier side, the Supplier Self-Service application lets users review receipt history, open orders, purchase analysis and payment status.
“The features and functions of the new 5.0 e-Business Solution are so easy to manage that users can easily handle Web content without technical expertise,” said Todd Endsley, director, e-business solutions.
IBM DevelopmentsAs an IBM Premier Business Partner and IBM System i software developer, VAI invited IBM to provide conference attendees with more in-depth information about the System i. Dr. Frank Soltis, IBM System i chief scientist, outlined the technology behind the IBM i5/OS operating system. It can run numerous operating systems and application environments on one system, he said. The result is a simple solution featuring the flexibility to start small and grow to meet new business demands.
“The i5/OS operating system will continue to be a dominant platform in the SMB space, with further inroads to the small business market,” said Kevin Beasley, VAI’s CIO. “The near future sees the System i going back to its small business roots, while continuing to serve the largest enterprises in the world. This allows VAI to handle both small and large companies, without sacrificing the ability to scale our capabilities for even larger opportunities.”
Workshops And ForumsThe annual User Conference offered three forums for the retail, manufacturing and distribution industries. This allowed for an open exchange among peers of ideas and issues affecting particular industries as well as suggestions to guide VAI’s future product development initiatives.
In addition, 26 workshops addressed topics ranging from financial management and sales forecasting to e-business solutions and warehouse management.
Prime Visibility, a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company, discussed Internet marketing and how a Web presence can help increase market share.
Speech Interface Design showed attendees how to implement voice picking technology in the warehouse by integrating Vocollect with S2K Warehouse Pro. Live demonstrations were conducted, with VAI personnel completing daily tasks by replacing lists and traditional data capture with hands-free personal voice dialogs.
The conference also featured a Customer Appreciation dinner where guests were treated to a Polynesian luau set on “Shipwreck Beach.” The event featured a buffet, Polynesian music and dance, as well as raffles, with one winner receiving a 50-inch plasma TV.