Computer Solutions’ ORDER POWER!

More and more multi-channel businesses are looking for AS/400-based direct-to-customer management systems these days. Miami-based Computer Solutions Inc. (CSI) offers ORDER POWER! – and a full-featured system that supports mail order, direct response, e-commerce, and fulfillment companies, running solely on IBM’s AS/400 platform programmed in RPG/400.

Over 50 installations with maintenance agreements and 20 more on a time-and-materials basis give CSI one of the largest user bases for an AS/400 direct-to-customer vendor. Customers include REI, Price Costco, Bombay Company, USAA, Hamilton Beach, and the U.S. Navy.

CSI’s average client has approximately 40 users and processes more than 2,000 orders per day. Its largest users process over 20,000 orders per day during peak season.

Functions and features ORDER POWER! supports up to 999 companies and enables users to share customer, item, and vendor files between companies or keep them separate. At the time of this review, all CSI customers with maintenance agreements were using the current version 3.3 of ORDER POWER! with version 4.0 scheduled to ship to them in January 2001.

E-commerce: A new Web site creation function allows users to create Web sites without technical skills or Internet knowledge. There are no static pages, as all are built on demand. User sign-on via password is an option, as is reminding customers of items left in their shopping carts from previous visits. Customers can review orders and modify those that are unshipped, initiate returns, and print out return merchandise authorization forms.

Established Web sites can be interfaced to ORDER POWER! Users have the option to recalculate tax and freight or accept overrides from the site. ORDER POWER! uses the standard AS/400 e-mail server for routing and generating automatic e-mail responses.

New features include “wish lists,” order quotes, gift registries, and notifications of backorder arrivals. CSI plans to add affinity marketing options this year.

Order entry and customer service: ORDER POWER! offers Soundex name searching to assist in finding like-sounding names, and a “power search” made up of 10 three-character, user-defined fields from customer information, as well as other search options.

Ordering can be initiated directly either through inventory availability or through the traditional route of customer information followed by item selection. Customer service reps have a variety of options to choose from the order screens, from item availability look-up to accounts receivable information.

Backordered items appear in reverse image for ease of operator identification. Purchase order item quantities are reserved against in a FIFO sequence.

ORDER POWER! offers various coupon discount options and has seven ways of calculating shipping and handling charges. It is available with a graphical user interface (GUI) front end.

Credit authorization: Credit authorization is fully integrated with Paymentech, and other major credit processors can be interfaced with it on an individual basis.

Order processing: Pick ticket options can be created and saved as templates, and an order release preview can determine the number of orders to be processed. Replenishment reports must run prior to pick releases, as this is not a by-product of order release.

Balancing and controls: Comprehensive, documented procedures balance the system daily. All users contacted felt that the controls and balancing aspects of the system were accurate.

Purchasing and receiving:Purchase orders can be generated from the optional Forecasting Product Demand module, created manually, or copied from a previous order. Purchase orders can be sent via fax or EDI. The receiving report contains existing item locations for putaway; directed putaway capability is planned for later this year.

Warehousing: ORDER POWER! has multi-warehouse capability and determines where to ship from based on zip codes. The system generates an audit trail of all inventory transactions by item, associated cost changes, and movement within the warehouse. The software supports cycle counts and physical inventories. ORDER POWER! can interface to full-function warehouse management systems on a user-by-user, as-needed basis.

Bar coding: Product bar codes can be generated at receiving, and large-sized labels are available for case quantities; there is no license plate bar code generation or control. A new radio frequency (RF) module interfaces via a Telnet session. This, combined with planned new features, will allow RF-directed putaway and replenishment.

Shipping and manifesting: ORDER POWER! is integrated to Logistics Pro for rate shopping and manifesting carriers, including LTL freight carriers, and has an internal manifesting system. ORDER POWER! interfaces to Clippership, TanData, Pitney Bowes, Evcor, and Arista.

Returns: Returns and exchanges can be applied against original orders, or reps can issue a return-merchandise authorization (RMA). Credits can be applied either from the order or the RMA. Return reason reporting is available.

Marketing: ORDER POWER!’s basic marketing reports analyze results of promotions, including average order dollars, order conversion rates and the percent of advertising costs to net sales.

Accounting: ORDER POWER! has its own accounting modules. Generation of statements, dunning letters, and discounting profile options by customer are all standard. Accounts payable accommodates three-way matching of purchase order, receipt and invoice, and books the payable only after the receipt is costed. The general ledger allows for user-defined income statement and balance sheet reports. ORDER POWER! interfaces to J.D. Edwards and can interface to any general ledger system.

User comments Users interviewed gave Computer Solutions very high marks for support, but said documentation is weak.

Mary Beth Hervieux, of MacNeil Automotive, notes that “The system is very user-friendly. The staff goes out of their way to get to know you, your company and your needs.” Users contacted stated overwhelmingly that they would select ORDER POWER! again.

Note: F. Curtis Barry & Company does not endorse any software products. Readers should consider this review as a component of their pre-purchase research.