i2 Eyes Tools for Demand Planning, Inventory Mgmt.

By Jacqueline Emigh  |  Posted 2005-01-19

i2 Eyes Tools for Demand Planning, Inventory Mgmt.

NEW YORK—i2 Technologies Inc. is readying new tools for retailers in the areas of demand planning and inventory management, according to a company executive.

Meanwhile, customers such as Payless, Woolworth Australia and Best Buy are making use of some of the hundreds of new workflows already included in i2s Six Two supply chain software suite, Pallab Chatterjee, i2s president of Solutions Operations, said in a briefing for eWEEK.com at this weeks National Retail Federation Convention here.

Click here to read more about i2s Six Two supply chain software suite.

For instance, discount shoe chain Payless was the first to take advantage of an "Excel Gathering" workflow that lets retail personnel continue to use their customary Excel spreadsheets for gathering data. The information is then funneled into Six Two for use in SCM (supply chain management).

Like many other retailers, Payless has found its staffers resistant to giving up the traditional spreadsheets in favor of newer data entry tools. "The Excel Gathering workflow is helping to wean them from the spreadsheets," Chatterjee said.

Payless initially used i2s software only for setting pricing during product liquidations, according to Chatterjee. But now, the shoe discounter is starting to deploy Six Two for pricing management throughout the product lifecycle. With the spring fashion season coming up, Payless will use the suite for planning Easter promotions.

As Chatterjee sees it, i2 has no head-on competition in the enterprise software market. "There are competitors in certain areas," he admitted. Retek and JDA, for example, compete against i2 in inventory management. Others compete in pricing management. "But we have no competitors for our MDM [Master Data Management], and none for Excel Gathering."

i2s MDM, the architecture behind the Six Two suite, is aimed at letting businesses introduce supply chain innovations while retaining their existing hardware and software infrastructures. "Some [other] vendors arent doing so well because they want customers to rip and replace instead," Chatterjee said.

Born from Content and Data Services, i2s data transformation and normalization business, i2s flavor of MDM uses an EAI approach for connecting to outside applications, along with data synchronization.

In the past, i2 has also been known for its transportation, logistics and merchandising software. "But [our] MDM is brand-new, and its been attracting a lot of attention," he said.

Next Page: Easy installation.

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i2s breed of MDM is geared to easy installation, too. Some customers, including Payless, have been able to roll out Six Two without outside consulting help, except initial design planning from i2, said Gurdip Singh, i2s client manager of Consumer Goods & Retail, in another interview at the NRF show.

But i2 does provide assistance as needed, according to Singh. The vendor also works closely with some outside systems integrators, particularly India-based Tata Consultancy and longtime partner IBM.

Other customers, including Best Buy, are using new workflows in MDM for supply chain visibility.

"Companies have a lot of applications … for merchandising, order replenishment, inventory, etc.," Chatterjee said. "We can sit on top of multiple applications. In some industries, such as fashion and consumer goods, product lifecycles are very short. You can lose a lot of sales if you dont have the ability to look at [all the information you need] in one place.

"We can show you exactly where your inventory is at any time. If a truck doesnt arrive on time, you will know, because we do alerting. If your plan was to sell 500 [units] of an SKU and you only sold 300, you can find out why. Were the stores closed [too early]? Was the price too high? We can also do some context analysis. For example, if a truck being late doesnt actually impact [sales], then its probably not worth [setting it as] an alert," he said.

For the future, i2 is looking at solving some other customer problems with its software, according to Chatterjee.

"People are having trouble forecasting on the demand side. They need to look at their plans to see what might be going wrong, on a daily basis, not just weekly or monthly," he said.

"Another problem is how to make the inventory turn. Most retailers live and die by how fast they can turn inventory," he said. "But if you know whats selling and what isnt selling, you can adjust what you buy. Wed like to be able to take POS [point of sale] data from multiple retailers to help people decide what to buy—how the preferences of a particular demographic should be accommodated, for example."

i2 is planning offerings for both faster inventory turns and more accurate demand management, according to Chatterjee. These will become part of the companys overall product framework, he told eWEEK.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news and analysis of enterprise supply chains.

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