Supply chain management is one of the most important functions that a business can have today in today’s global environment. Supply chain management technology can be an effective method in optimizing business process capabilities and functionality.
In the 2020s, the world has changed quite a bit, and supply chain management has, more than ever, become a very important competency and capability. Companies that can successfully manage supply chains via suppliers, costs, and overall distribution have a significant competitive edge.
So, what are the top 10 systems in the marketplace? Here is everything you need to know. Before we dive in below is a brief overview of our rating process. I wanted to be clear that absolutely no vendors or third parties influenced this list in any way. Third Stage is a completely independent and technology agnostic community.
In determining our SCM top 10 lists, there are several capabilities and functions that we considered. There’s general supply chain management functionality that we evaluated for each of these technologies, things like supplier collaboration, quality management, procurement, transportation management, logistics, fleet management, all the things that go into an entire end-to-end supply chain, those are the things we evaluated.
10. Oracle NetSuite
Coming in at number 10 is Oracle NetSuite. NetSuite’s a very common ERP or enterprise technology that happens to contain some supply chain management functionality, and a lot of small and mid-size companies use the product.
It has pretty simple functionality, it’s easy to use. It doesn’t require a lot of complexity, so if you have a fairly standard supply chain, or if you’re a small or mid-size organization, Oracle NetSuite can be a great option for you.
Beyond supply chain management, it will offer more ERP types of functionalities, like warehouse management, financials, HCM, and other types of functions. This system is not just a supply chain solution, but it can also provide other additional technologies.
There are two considerations to be aware of regarding about Oracle NetSuite:
- It is a fully mature cloud solution
- The product is backed by Oracle, which is a huge company, lots of R&D dollars, a clear roadmap, and a good future for the product.
Now, the downside of Oracle NetSuite, is that if you have complex needs, or if you’re a larger organization, Oracle NetSuite is probably not going to be the best fit for you. However, if that isn’t the case, then it may be one you may want to consider.
9. Microsoft Dynamics 365
Coming in at number nine is Microsoft Dynamics 365. Like NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics is also a full-blown ERP, enterprise-wide type of solution, in addition to supply chain management.
Another thing that companies seem to like about Microsoft Dynamics is that it’s very flexible. It can provide a lot more flexibility and the ability to integrate with other systems, so those things combined make it a good candidate for companies looking for supply chain management solutions. Now, D365 tends to be better for mid-size organizations, so companies that aren’t super large or extremely complex can generally handle this type of software.
Companies on the small side of the scale may find that D365 is overkill or too much functionality, complexity for them, but if you’re in the mid-market and you have some standard supply chain needs, Microsoft D365 can be a great option.
One thing to keep in mind with D365 and probably its biggest shortcoming is that the partner ecosystem is very fragmented. There’s a lot of companies out there that sell and implement D365, and they’re not all that great. There are some good partners but also some honestly terrible partners, so the bottom line is that there is a lot of question marks surrounding this product when it comes to the supply chain.
If you do go with the product, you want to make sure you focus just as much time on finding the right implementation partner, because that can make or break your overall implementation.
8. Plex Systems
Coming in at number eight is a company called Plex Systems. You may or may not have heard of the solution, but it’s a company that’s been around for some time. It’s software that was built in the cloud, it was built as a SaaS type of solution that can support cloud implementations, and it’s a product that has historically been very common in the automotive industry, aerospace, and defense, food, and beverage, and pharmaceutical companies.
Plex Systems does more than just supply chain, it can also handle manufacturing and shop floor automation, basic financials, warehouse management, and some of the other capabilities that a broader ERP system would typically provide.
It’s also common in retail and distribution. This is a product that you’ll see more and more companies that are on the distribution side of things using to manage their supply chain facing the customer.
The biggest downside for Plex Systems is, there aren’t a lot of partners out there that are supporting the product. It’s harder to find resources that know the product well. Most companies end up using Plex and their consultants directly to handle the implementation. There are some partners that can support the implementation, but there are not as many of them as you might find with some of the others in the top 10.
7. SAP S/4HANA
Coming in number seven is SAP S/4HANA. This product is a very common solution if you’re a Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 organization, or if you’re a large public sector organization. S/4HANA tends to be on most shortlists if you’re a large organization with a complex, global supply chain.
S/4HANA is going to be a bit of overkill if you are not a vast and robust company. It’s going to be too expensive and exceedingly risky for your organization. However, if you don’t fall into that category, it may be something worth considering.
Not too long ago SAP recently acquired Ariba, which is a procurement technology that integrates now with S/4HANA, so companies that require more depth in the procurement functionality and processes have Ariba to draw from as well.
SAP is also built on the HANA platform, so when it comes to volumes of transactions and real-time access to data, the HANA platform provides insight and visibility into what’s happening in your supply chain.
The biggest downside is one I already mentioned, and that is the breadth and complexity of the software can lead to cost, risk, and potential failure. The other part of it is that S/4HANA is still not as mature as some of the other products. They’re one of those systems that are still making that transition from the on-premise legacy solutions to cloud solutions, so not all the functionality that SAP has built over the years in supply chain management is available in S/4HANA, at least not yet.
Coming in at number six on our list is a company called IFS. They’re a European-based organization. Though their concentration of installs is in Europe, so you may not have heard of the company. We’ve watched them expand their global footprint in recent years.
IFS provides enterprise-wide software capabilities, including supply chain. In fact, most of their companies are manufacturing and distribution types of organizations with complex supply chain-related needs.
The thing that makes IFS unique is, in addition to being able to handle normal supply chain types of processes, they specialize in supply chains that need to be managed in the field. IFS also has multiple deployment options. They can still support these options, which can be very appealing to a lot of organizations.
The biggest downsides of IFS are primarily that there isn’t a big ecosystem supporting the product yet. It’s mostly IFS direct resources, there aren’t a lot of partners and implementers out there, so it’s a bit more difficult to find qualified IFS partners to support implementation. The other thing to consider is that IFS does not have a large install base, so that may not be a deal-breaker for you, but it’s something to be aware of as well.
Coming in number five on our list is a company called HighJump. They’re a supply chain management system and product that offers not just a basic supply chain, but they’re very strong in warehouse management. Companies that have complex warehouse management needs, such as wave picking, advanced labor tracking, and things of that nature, will find that HighJump could be a good option.
The other interesting thing about HighJump is they were recently acquired by a company called Korber. Korber specializes in supply chain and distribution types of software, and they also provide some capabilities and functionality through that parent company around freight, logistics, and shipping.
We typically see HighJump being used by smaller to mid-size organizations. We don’t see a lot of big, global, complex supply chain types of organizations using this system.
A downside of HighJump is that we’ve had a lot of clients comment that the software seems expensive relative to its overall capabilities and certainly we’ve seen through our negotiation process that that can be true. However, having said that, every vendor can be negotiated with, and many of these costs can be brought down. With all these things in mind, that’s enough to land HighJump at number five on our list.
4. Blue Yonder
Coming in number four on our list is Blue Yonder which was previously known as JDA. This is a product that’s been around for a long time, a very specialized, niche-focused solution, but with a big install base. A lot of supply chains globally are using Blue Yonder.
Some of the things that make Blue Yonder unique are that in addition to having basic and kind of your normal supply chain type of functionality, it’s strong at sales and operation planning. Companies that are sales-driven and need that back office and supply chain visibility through their sales staff as part of the sales and operations planning process will find that Blue Yonder can be a great solution. You may actually want to bump up Blue Yonder on your shortlist because of how well it can fit in your supply chain management process.
Blue Yonder’s very common in retail. We tend to see companies that are in retail, or companies that are distributing to retail organizations, tend to find value in the product. It also handles workforce management well, which is something that not all the other products in the top 10 list do. If you have a large workforce and scheduling is a big challenge for you as far as either in the warehouse or other parts of your supply chain functions, workforce management can be an important value of what the product brings.
It also offers manufacturing and shop floor planning functions, so while it is specialized in supply chain management, there’s not that sort of disparate handoff to the shop floor like many of the other products in our top 10 may have.
Probably the biggest downside, for bigger companies at least that might be considering Blue Yonder is that, while it does a lot of things that the other supply chain management systems don’t do, it still isn’t a full ERP system. In terms of having financials, full-blown inventory management, CRM capabilities, etc. it still is focused on supply chain management, and manufacturing automation. Blue Yonder typically requires some sort of backend or back-office type of system to handle things like CRM and financials.
3. Oracle ERP Cloud
Coming in number three on our list is Oracle ERP Cloud, or Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud. Like some of the other products in the top 10 list, Oracle provides a full-blown ERP solution, but it tends to be very strong in the supply chain. The supply chain modules within the technology are robust and mature. Probably Oracle’s biggest advantage, especially if you’re a larger organization that values flexibility, is that Oracle tends to be a more flexible product.
Another strength of Oracle ERP Cloud is the analytical capability, so anything to do with business intelligence, reporting, and getting data out of the system. Even just having visibility into your supply chain, tends to be a big asset of Oracle products in general, and their supply chain management ERP solution is no different.
If you’re looking for a product that not only provides the flexibility to modify, pivot, or change your supply chain as you need to, but also addresses other needs within your business, Oracle ERP Cloud can be a great solution for you.
2. Infor CloudSuite
Coming in at number two on our list is Infor CloudSuite, along with Nexus. Two products from the same company and very tightly integrated. For all intents and purposes, we could call it the same software, but the reason I’m referencing them separately is that they provide a breadth of capabilities to support some more complex and broader supply chain needs.
Like others on this list, Infor provides a complete ERP solution that offers everything from financials, CRM, human capital management, and other types of functionalities in addition to supply chain support..
Most companies that we see implementing Infor CloudSuite happen to be manufacturing, distribution, and global supply chain types of organizations. It is a product that can scale up to the largest organizations, but it’s commonly used by mid-market companies as well. If you’re a smaller organization, it may be a bit complex and overkill for your needs, but if you’re the mid-market and a bigger organization, Infor CloudSuite along with Nexus can be a great option.
One of the really unique factors of the Infor offering in supply chain management is Nexus. They have this control center that uses predictive analytics and business intelligence. It can pick up on signals in your supply chain so you can address and pivot as a result of these data-driven findings; that’s something that’s pretty unique.
Another example of a difference with the Infor supply chain management solution is the ability to manage working capital. This capability allows for a financial perspective to analyze your supply chain and be able to maximize cash flow, optimize how you’re paying suppliers, and when you’re paying suppliers. It really gets back to not only providing a broader ERP system with financial competency, but Infor takes it up a notch and delivers financial-specific proficiencies to supply chain management.
1. Manhattan Associates
Coming in number one on our list is Manhattan Associates, a company that’s been around for a long-time providing supply chain management solutions to organizations.
They’re big in retail, grocery, and distribution. They are well known with large organizations with a lot of different locations, global supply chains, and suppliers spread out throughout the world. That’s the type of organization that tends to benefit from and values the software of Manhattan Associates.
Manhattan is also very strong in logistics and transportation. When you consider how your products are from point A to B, or from the port to your warehouse to the stores that you might be selling to, Manhattan Associates is very good at tracking the entire supply chain.
It’s also a company and a product that’s very well known for innovation and helping organizations optimize the entire supply chain. There’s a lot of groundbreaking things that they’re doing as a company and with the product as it relates to artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and overall machine learning.
Part of that is because they are such a specialized company and tend to deal with the most complex global supply chains. Those two considerations allow them to really focus their R&D efforts on those types of innovations that can help improve your supply chain in the longer term.
The other thing that our clients tend to like about the product is that it’s .NET based, which may not mean a lot if you’re not an I.T. stakeholder. In other words, it’s an open and flexible solution, so you can integrate it easier with other systems. It has a pre-defined integration with SAP and Microsoft Dynamics.
They also provide multiple deployment options, so they have a lot of companies, believe it or not, that is still on-premises, some of them are still using IBM iSeries, some of them are moving to the cloud. Deployment options and ways that you can consume their software depending on who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish is expansive.
Now, there are some weaknesses of the product that should be considered as a part of your software evaluation process.
First, it’s not a full-blown ERP system. If you’re a big company with an enormous global supply chain, it might be a great fit for you. But you’re also going to have to understand how back-office or ERP system integrates. That can add a layer of complexity to the implementation that you should be aware of.
The other to note is that implementations are handled directly through Manhattan Associates, so there’s not a lot of partners out there that are also supporting the product. It creates a single point of potential failure in that you have to use their resources and people for the implementation. Those are a couple of downside risks to be aware of. Having said all of that, that’s enough to land Manhattan Associates at number one on our list.
With that, those are the top 10 systems in our analysis. Here are a couple of takeaways to keep in mind:
One, when you’re evaluating this top 10 list, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses I’ve talked about here today, it’s important to think about, “am I looking for a pure supply chain management system, or am I looking for a broader ERP system?” Depending on your answer that could shuffle your top 10 list. Your needs are unique, and your software should be too.
Two, make sure to be aware of what the strengths and weaknesses are as relates to the type of business model you have. If you’re a retail-driven organization, your top 10 list is going to look a little bit different than if you’re a supplier-driven supply chain.
I hope you found this information useful. I encourage you to please download our 2021 Digital Transformation Report. I’d love to hear your feedback as well. If there’s anything that wasn’t in the top 10 that you feel like should be, I’d love to hear feedback on that as well so please reach out to me directly. I am happy to be an informal sounding board as you move through your digital transformation journey.