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Industry Implementations

  Product News published in DM Direct Newsletter
September 2, 2005 Issue
  By DM Review Editorial Staff

The Sports Authority became the largest full-line sporting goods retailer in the United States in 2003. The company operates nearly 400 retail stores in 45 U.S. states, serviced by six distribution centers in Los Angeles, Houston, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, and Burlington, New Jersey. While these centers have always adequately served the stores in their regions, The Sports Authority determined that the paper-based method of hand-filling orders was inefficient and could be improved through the use of more advanced technology. The Sports Authority, has deployed Fiorano ESB to power its high-speed, fully automated picking and sortation system across its national network of warehouses and stores.

"We have a high volume of merchandise that flows through our distribution centers, on the order of 70,000 cartons each day," notes Rob Gleave, vice president of Architecture, Planning and Design for The Sports Authority. "This merchandise runs the gamut from small packaged goods to garments on hangers to large items like weightlifting equipment. We felt that with a high-speed, fully automated picking and sortation system we could achieve the efficiencies we were seeking."

In March 2004, work began on a pilot project built around three different, yet interrelated picking and sorting systems: Put To Light, or PTL, a light and scanner-based technology that supports high-speed carton packing; Goods On Hangers, or GOH, an automated garment management concept that rapidly scans, counts and sorts individual garments; and an automated conveyor system that sorts and delivers merchandise to various in-warehouse "shipping lanes" for loading to trucks bound for individual stores.

While each of the three systems was completely computerized, their hardware and software platforms were discrete and in many ways incompatible. Altogether nearly 80 different databases were involved; in order for the systems to work together, The Sports Authority needed a way to coordinate and enable data flows between the various platforms. To solve the problem, the retailer turned to Fiorano ESB, an enterprise service bus (ESB) solution from Fiorano Software.

Fiorano ESB is a Web-services capable middleware product that allows companies to link applications and processes throughout the extended enterprise. With Fiorano ESB, companies can integrate a long list of otherwise incompatible technologies - from Web services and .NET to enterprise resource planning (ERP), J2EE and legacy applications - using reliable, event-driven messaging based on a standards-based service-oriented architecture (SOA).

With Fiorano ESB, Gleave and his team felt they could achieve the reliable, loosely coupled communication design they wanted. "While we have an AS400 supporting our host applications at the corporate office, the three distribution center systems employ Linux and Windows 2000 servers using a combination of Oracle and SQL Server databases. With a message-based architecture we can easily upload data in a usable format. Even if a server is down at the far end, the data will be preserved until the system is back online."

Within several weeks, the messaging transport was in place. "Fiorano ESB enables pick messages to be issued in a single format that all three systems understand," said Gleave. "The technology enables the systems to operate at high speed, for example, processing up to 6,000 garments per hour in the garment processing area."

Since its initial rollout in July 2004, The Sports Authority has installed the ESB-enabled picking and sortation system in three of its six distribution centers, with the fourth scheduled to come online in the summer of 2005. In addition to the higher speeds made possible by the new automated solution, accuracy has also improved, creating a significant improvement in overall order fill performance. The smaller picking stations also allow for higher processing volumes per square foot of warehouse space.

Reliance Trust Company Selects Albridge Solutions Wealth Reporting for Consolidated Performance Measurement and Reporting

Reliance Trust Company (Reliance), one of the largest independent trust companies in the country, selected Albridge Solutions' Wealth Reporting to provide Reliance's trust advisors and outsourcing clients with advanced performance measurement reports through Albridge's comprehensive state-of-the-art data aggregation, consolidation and delivery technology.

Albridge's Wealth Reporting provides financial institutions, their advisors and their permissioned clients with immediate, on-demand access to the transaction-level data that's critical to successful wealth management. Albridge clients are provided with a hierarchical view which provides users at all levels the ability to securely view, analyze and report on their respective clients and/or account information. Advisors can create on-line portfolios, households of any combination of clients or accounts and can generate in-depth reports to use in their practices. Users are also empowered with the ability to automate the preparation of regularly reoccurring statements and reports as well as e-mailing them to clients - effectively streamlining business operations, enabling increased productivity and allowing more time to gather (and retain) assets.

By utilizing Albridge's automated account consolidation and performance reporting solution, Reliance will provide affiliated advisors with one of the most sophisticated suites of solutions available in the industry. This will increase competitiveness, streamline processes and enhance client service as well as assist in compliance and recruiting.

Redcats USA Selects SAS Enterprise BI Server

Redcats USA markets value-priced misses' fashions, women's and men's plus-size clothing and home lifestyles through its 10 catalogs and 10 e-commerce Web sites. In 2004, Redcats USA mailed over half a billion catalogs in the United States, including those for Chadwick's, Lerner Catalog, Lane Bryant Catalog, Roaman's and BrylaneHome.

With a multichannel distribution network combining catalogs and e-commerce Redcats USA has massive amounts of customer data to analyze. Redcats USA selected SAS Enterprise BI Server to provide fast, simple access to consistent data for quicker reporting and more accurate decision-making. Based on both a suite of business intelligence tools and a powerful, integrated business intelligence platform SAS Enterprise BI Server provides Redcats USA with powerful analytics and a suite of targeted user interfaces to empower users across the enterprise with self-service query and reporting capabilities.

"We needed to update our system to handle the increasing number of ad hoc analytical requests we were receiving," said Mark Friedman, chief marketing officer at Redcats USA. "The SAS Enterprise BI Server meets the needs of our growing organization. We can now get the right information to the right people in a timely manner that enables them to make more strategic decisions based on predictive intelligence rather than historical information."

Redcats USA's existing relationship with SAS was a factor in the selection of the SAS Enterprise BI Server. "The power of the SAS Enterprise BI server was more significant than that of other applications in the market," added Friedman. "We also knew from our prior relationship with SAS that they deliver quality applications. We felt that by selecting SAS for our business intelligence needs it would round out our relationship with them and lay a foundation for strategic projects in the future."

Helzberg Diamonds Shines with Hyperion Business Intelligence for Sophisticated Reporting and Analysis

Helzberg Diamonds, a leading United States jewelry retailer, will leverage the power of the most recent release of the Hyperion Business Intelligence Platform, including Hyperion Essbase 7X and Hyperion Performance Suite 8.3, to deliver data to its 265 stores in 37 states. The company currently uses products from Hyperion for budgeting and financial reporting as well as nationwide inventory and assortment planning. Helzberg's IT department also uses Hyperion Performance Suite to create reports and dashboards for its sales, finance and merchandising groups.

"Hyperion Business Intelligence Platform will be used throughout the company for budgeting and performance management," said Butch Jagoda, vice president and CIO at Helzberg Diamonds. "The fast calculation speeds of Hyperion Essbase 7X makes it possible to deliver meaningful data down to the store level. With that information, we can fine tune operations as necessary and improve overall performance."

The recent purchase is a migration to the latest versions of Hyperion Performance Suite and Hyperion Essbase, creating an integrated solution that will allow the company to add users and expand the system to replace existing relational data marts, so that dashboards can present data from both Hyperion Essbase and a DB2 data warehouse. The combined content from both OLAP and relational databases will make it possible for all users to gain added insight into business performance and to plan and budget appropriately.

"Hyperion Essbase is mission critical to Helzberg; it makes it easier for us to deploy Business Intelligence throughout our company and gives us the performance to quickly deliver results at the desktop level," Jagoda said. "On the enterprise reporting side, Hyperion Performance Suite has been carrying us, but no one can touch Hyperion as far as analytics go."

Hyperion partner ThinkFast Consulting played a key role in the purchase, delivering proof of concept on the latest version of Hyperion Essbase and providing additional Hyperion Performance Suite licenses.

Brazos Higher Education Service Corporation Selects Compliance 360 for Corporate Compliance and Contracts Management

Brazos Higher Education Service Corporation (BHESC) is one of the country's top ten holders of student loans. BHESC, a non-profit organization, administers the lending and the purchasing of student loans and services them until the borrowers have paid them in full. BHESC also has offices that function as a third-party servicing agent for several lenders. The Compliance and Legal departments within BHESC needed a way to organize and manage all of the regulatory rules and laws that the company must abide by as well as a system to organize and manage all of the company's contracts with external vendors. "The bottom-line was that after conducting a search for enterprise compliance management systems we found Compliance 360 had more of the components and functionality we needed," said Debbie Urias, vice president and national director of compliance, Brazos Higher Education Service Corporation.

"Compliance 360 is now installed and enabling us to manage our compliance and contract processes." The Compliance 360 solution gives Brazos a corporate-wide contracts repository and provides all the necessary alerts so that contract renewals are handled in a timely and efficient manner. The system automates processes so that BHESC has enough lead-time to review all contracts before they expire or before they renew by default. Brazos' contracts management system properly routes all documents through the Legal Department for review and approval. The solution also allows others within the organization to monitor contracts, ensuring that BHESC is continuously adhering to the tenets of the agreements and more effectively managing compliance.

In addition to contracts management, the system also serves as an electronic publishing platform and central repository for maintenance of regulations that the company has to adhere to within its industry. Rather than BHESC staffers having to go to multiple Web sites of the numerous regulatory bodies that deal with education, banking and privacy, among others, the organization now has one central repository for all these regulations.

Costs have been reduced and productivity has increased as a result of utilizing the Compliance 360 corporate compliance solutions. "By enabling us to meet our compliance management and contracts management needs, the Compliance and Legal departments have automated their processes. The value-add from this automation is that we have also reduced the costs associated with our processes, while doing a superior job in mitigating regulatory and compliance risk," concluded Urias.

Penn National Insurance Selects Exstream Software's Dialogue

Penn National Insurance, a leading regional insurer providing property-casualty insurance throughout nine Mid-Atlantic States selected Dialogue from Exstream Software to provide a single comprehensive infrastructure for its batch and real-time document applications.

Dialogue's robust capabilities are making it possible for Penn National Insurance to automate the management of policyholder and agent communications. With Dialogue, the company is able to produce critical, client-specific insurance documents in real time and deliver them to underwriters for approval and agents for review, significantly speeding time to market.

Additionally, Dialogue is facilitating archival needs with its ability to output documents into TIFF format for import into the company's imaging system. Penn National Insurance reports that eliminating the need to manually scan and index images for archival has resulted in substantial labor and paper savings.

Key drivers in the selection of Dialogue were its innovative design environment for speeding time to market; its ability to process an unlimited number of data input files simultaneously; output multiple file formats simultaneously (i.e., TIF, PDF and PostScript); generate documents in real time for online viewing; and its high performance engine. Penn National Insurance is using Dialogue's Real-time capabilities to send its underwriters in various states policy worksheets for review and approval online. The underwriter is then able to remotely drive the production process by authorizing the policy to be printed only after it has been approved. Dialogue's Real-time engine makes it possible to dynamically name the files with the individual policy number and time stamp, and run different files and several production engines at the same time - something not possible in a batch environment.

"We are extremely impressed with the speed in which we can design documents using Dialogue, and how fast the production engine creates the finished product," said Timothy Caskey, senior systems analyst for Penn National Insurance. "We are so enthused with the time savings and cost reduction that we are now looking at every department to study how they are creating documents to determine whether it makes sense to convert those documents to Dialogue. For example, plans are in the works to print our Explanation of Benefits (EOB) and vendor payment check in one print stream so they can be mailed in a single envelope. This will eliminate the need to manually match the EOB with the check and provides additional savings on postage. Because of opportunities like this, we want to use the software as much as we can."

Going forward, Penn National Insurance will take advantage of Dialogue's intuitive design environment to push the creation of static insurance documents out to its administrative staff for additional time savings. The company also plans to create an environment for its agents where, similar to its underwriters, they can view documents online and print them locally resulting in significant projected savings in warehousing, printing, paper and postage costs.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence, Compliance, Enterprise Achitecture and Query & Reporting.

This piece has been brought to you by the DM Review Editorial staff.

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