Supply chain software developer Manhattan Associates Inc. has launched a store inventory and fulfillment software product that brings internet of things (IoT) tools to bear on omnichannel fulfillment challenges, helping turn retail stores into mini-DCs, the firm said Tuesday.
The product enhances the store inventory tracking and order picking capabilities of Manhattan's existing Store Inventory and Fulfillment (SIF) product by adding support for radio frequency identification (RFID) tag networks that can improve store inventory accuracy and accelerate store order fulfillment, Atlanta-based Manhattan said.
Today we unveil the industry's first #IoT-enabled store inventory and #omnichannel fulfillment solution. Enhancements support native #RFID and will significantly improve store #inventory accuracy + order fulfillment speed. Learn more: https://t.co/bbEtVqTBCZ #PushPossible #ManhMo pic.twitter.com/uVkF7faDQX— Manhattan Associates (@ManhAssocNews) May 21, 2019
The product is hitting markets at a time when retailers are increasingly turning to their brick-and-mortar stores to fulfill online orders, John Konczal, a product management and marketing leader at Manhattan Associates, said in an interview. "We're seeing a dramatic increase in buy-online-ship-from-store (BOPIS) and ship-from-store that has to happen without degrading the other things a store has to do, like selling products and serving customers," Konczal said.
Although retail stores may be located closer to consumers' homes than remote DCs, the fulfillment process is usually more challenging to perform in a store than in a warehouse due to inaccurate inventory level counts caused by the dynamic nature of customers roaming store aisles and handling items. The average level of inventory accuracy in the retail store averages under 65 percent, compared to levels near 99 percent in the warehouse, Manhattan said, citing Auburn University's RFID Lab.
Manhattan says its new platform solves the problem by bringing store inventory accuracy up to warehouse levels through integration with hardware systems that track RFID-tagged items. The product can work with any RFID solution provider, with the first partner being Zebra Technologies' Smart Lens solution.
Using location data generated by those RFID tags, Manhattan's mobile Store Inventory and Fulfillment application builds dynamic visual maps of the location of every item in the store—as well as the most efficient route for picking order items—allowing retail store employees to reduce the time needed for locating and picking items by more than 60 percent.
"Store associates are not warehouse workers. Store associates are not DC professionals. Our goal is to turn them into pseudo-fulfillment professionals, and to do so without doing an immense amount of training," Konczal said. "That can help turn the store into something more valuable than it was a year ago or two years ago."