Loose Ends

Remember the days when fulfilling an order was a simple matter of throwing stuff into a box and taping it shut? Today’s complex fulfillment processes make those idyllic times seem even further in the past. According to a report called “Grading Order Fulfillment Solutions” that Forrester Research Inc. released in June 2003, order fulfillment programs are now grandiose enough to span the entire supply chain. Among other things, they must coordinate customer history across companies, keep inventory visible at multiple stages and locations, integrate a plethora of applications, provide real-time information, identify distribution trends, and align fulfillment with corporate performance goals.

Phew! There aren’t many vendors who can do all that. The report surveys 13 application providers and 102 executives with the authority to buy software. The vendors fall into four categories: pure plays, WMS, ERP, and supply chain planning. Pure plays comprise Escalate, Valdero, Viewlocity, Vizional Technologies, and WorldChain. The WMS group encompasses EXE Technologies, Manhattan Associates, Yantra, and Optum. ERP vendors include SAP and Oracle, while i2 Technologies and Manugistics form part of the supply chain planning group.

The Forrester researchers note that when choosing an order fulfillment solution, users look for long-term viability, the vendor’s industry expertise, economical total cost of ownership (TCO), and functions that integrate with existing programs. Measuring the 13 vendors, the researchers conclude that all have varying strengths and weaknesses — an order fulfillment app may offer excellent transportation management capabilities, for example, but score poorly on integration. For most of the vendors, Forrester recommends adding partners, developing flexible and dynamic components, upgrading professional services, and reducing TCO. All this to pursue that elusive goal: providing an end-to-end order fulfillment solution.

Happy Endings

Order fulfillment solutions must integrate multiple enabling functions.



Capture orders


Check inventory availability


Verify customer priority for allocation


Incorporate projected demand constraints


Check transportation availability



Source: Forrester Research Inc.