Provias Web Services Simplify Warehouse Management

The newest edition of Provia's WMS system, rolled out on Monday, saves corporate IT staffers from having to rely on sneakernet at far-flung warehouse locations.

Provia Software Inc. is targeting a new release of its warehouse management system software, launched on Monday, at business and IT managers alike.

The distributed nature of warehouse environments played a big role in the move to include the "operational side" in developing the Web services-based software, John Clark, manager of marketing, said in an interview.

The new Provia WMS 7.0 is the first edition of the companys product to be based an SOA (service-oriented architecture)—and, in fact, the first to run on the Web at all, according to Clark.

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Provias customers include 3PLs, along with high-tech manufacturers, industrial wholesalers, CPG (consumer products goods) distributors and retailers. Business users in remote warehouses can be located quite far away from centralized corporate IT departments, Clark said.

With Web-enabled WMS, IT staffers will no longer need to play "sneakernet" at multiple warehouse sites when software updates are needed, Clark said. Instead, business employees will be able to download the updates themselves.

Moreover, Provia has included over 170 Web-based transaction services in the new release, to give the WMS system the look and feel of thick-client software, while at the same time letting warehouse managers make quick changes to configuration settings.

WMS 7.0 comes to end users as a "full application," as opposed to a Web site, Clark said. "In contrast, some of our competitors who claim to be doing SOA are only really starting out with a few Web services," he said.

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Actually, Provias latest SCM (supply chain management) solution offers more Web transaction services than Microsoft Corps Dynamics GP 9.0, also announced this week, according to Clark. "And thats an ERP system, so youd kind of expect it to have more [services] than ours," he said.

Through the new Web services in Provias WMS 7.0, business managers can configure the language the WMS application is presented in, along with various aspects of its appearance.

One key feature lets managers set the number of database fields accessible to individual users. Although power users might want to see lots of database fields, Clark said, it generally makes sense to limit the number of fields available to warehouse workers outfitted with RF (radio frequency)-based PDAs, for instance.

In versions 5.0 and 6.0 of Provia WMS, the company adopted database- and OS-independence, adding Windows and Linux to its previous Unix platform.

In all recent software releases, the vendor has tried to widen its product base.

Three of Provias customers are already implementing WMS 7.0., but Clark said he doesnt expect to see really large-scale migration until some time next year.

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