CooperVision Inc., one of the worlds leading contact lens makers, is now eyeing a December implementation of Kewill Systems plcs Javalin Enterprise Ship, the last piece in the current phase of a new supply chain system for its U.S. market.
Lake Forest, Calif.-based CooperVision now ranks third in the soft contact lens market internationally, behind Johnson & Johnson and CibaVision Corp., and fourth in the United States, after Johnson & Johnson, Bausch & Lomb Inc., and CibaVision. Joe Stannard, CooperVisions vice president of logistics, views Kewill Systems Javalin shipping distribution software as a product that will "position CooperVision for the continued international growth were expecting in 2005."
Most of CooperVisions recent growth has come on the international side. In early 2002, CooperVision acquired Biocompatibles Eyecare Inc., the contact lens business of Biocompatibles International plc. The $97.9 million buyout instantly added another 10,000 SKUs to CooperVisions existing total of about 640,000 SKUs.
Even more significantly, however, Biocompatibles Eyecare had been the worlds No. 6 contact lens maker. The acquired companys strength in international markets prompted CooperVision to seek new ways of managing shipping, manifesting, and warehouse operations.
Revolving around Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server and SSA Global Technologies Inc.s Baan ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, CooperVisions new enterprise supply chain replaces a series of station-based systems that have connected directly to such shippers as FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc.
Stannard is convinced that Javalin ES (Enterprise Ship) will help his company make the best decisions about which shippers to use in fulfilling specific product orders.
If Javalin and other elements of the new supply chain work out as planned, CooperVision might eventually roll them over from its U.S. operations to manufacturing and distribution sites in Europe and Australia.
"But integration is a challenge every day. Were concentrating first on building a solid platform," Stannard said. "In this business, if an order is placed by 3 p.m., itd better be out the door that day. We run a very customer-focused operation. Itd be impossible for us to go down for even a day or two. The orders would be backlogged for a week."
As analysts see it, though, integration issues are more the rule than the exception in multivendor supply chain deployments.
"Interfacing an ERP to a multivendor system is always somewhat tricky business. The integration never happens seamlessly, but it isnt a nightmare either," said Jeff Woods, principal analyst for the Gartner Group.
The Baan ERP was the first link in CooperVisions emerging supply chain. The ERP system is now handling transactions at Coopers manufacturing and distribution facilities in Rochester, N.Y.; Norfolk, Va.; Huntingdon Beach, Calif.; and Hamble, England.
Elements subsequently entering the U.S. mix included a voice picking system from Voxware Inc. and a package sorter from Quantum Corp. CooperVision plans to add an item sorter from GBI Data & Sorting Systems in two months.
By December, the contact lens maker expects to be fully up and running with Javalin ES at its Rochester facility.
Kewill is the dominant player in its niche of the supply chain, said Gartners Woods. "Kewill offers a wide range of products, all the way from single-station to highly scalable enterprise systems. There have been some architectural issues about where .NET will apply, and where more sophisticated systems will be required. These havent been that major, though," he added.
Traditionally, Kewills software has been aimed at helping customers find the lowest-cost shipper for small parcels, said Beth Enslow, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group. "Kewills products are also very good at making sure that things like shipment documentation are in place."
According to Brian Hodgson, Kewills vice president of marketing, Javalin ES adds considerable scalability to Kewills product lineup, along with new business rules. The new business rules let customers make tradeoffs between "cost and customer satisfaction," he said. Hodgson credited technology recently acquired from ShipNow Global Holdings Ltd. for these improvements. Javalin ES, he noted, works not just with SQL Server, but with all major databases, including Oracle.
Why did CooperVision choose Javalin ES over competing systems? Stannard cited a combination of domain expertise, technical support, and product features.
"In particular, Kewill has a track record of working with customers who are previewing (new supply chain technology) domestically, prior to international rollouts," he said. "The Javalin ES product supports LTL [less than truckload] and other international shippers, and it can be implemented in a number of different languages. It does a lot of the back-end delivery confirmation for you. Also, Kewill offers a 24-hour support structure around the world."
CooperVisions international supply chain growth is already in its initial phases. In September, for instance, the Baan ERP system will be moved into CooperVisions Italian operations.
Also, Stannard ponders the possibility of adding robotics to CooperVisions warehouse-picking operations in the future. "Already, were using the voice-picking system to advise us on the most efficient pick paths," Stannard said.
Stannard emphasizes, though, that the success of CooperVisions current and future supply chain initiatives depends on solid planning.
"The little gotchas are always hiding out there, somewhere," he said. Integration between SQL Server, the ERP system and other supply chain elements is a matter of thorough and ongoing testing.
"The devil is in the details. Our philosophy is to test, test, and test again," said Stannard.
"I am not a homerun hitter. Instead, I go in for solidly placed singles and doubles, day in and day out."