Determining the best integration strategy with a business process review

Watson's: an IBM i business process review success story

IBM i 
Zethcon Synapse
RF Smart

About Watson's

Watson’s is a full line retailer of home furnishings including outdoor, indoor, home recreation, pools, and spas, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. For almost 50 years, they have been the leading supplier of home and recreational products to the Midwest. As a trusted name and iconic brand in their business, the Watson’s showrooms attract a large volume of customers. In addition to their Cincinnati location, Watson’s has showroom locations in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, and elsewhere in Ohio.


Increased business process efficiencies

Improved customer

Simplified fulfillment process

Improved Inventory management

The Problem

Due to their rapidly growing business, Watson’s was beginning to overwhelm their warehouse. Not only was the existing warehouse space no longer sufficient, but the lack of organization was hindering shipping and delivery. These issues are common products of company growth; as the business grows, so do their inventory and organizational needs.

Another goal of Watson's was to implement Magento Commerce, requiring a skilled team to prepare their existing IBM i for integration. 

To meet their growing inventory demands and requirements, Watson's turned to our team to integrate Synapse, a new Warehouse Management System (WMS) into their legacy IBM i/AS400 ERP system.

The Goals

  • Streamline warehouse processes
  • Improve inventory management and accuracy
  • Increase internal control over accounts payable
  • Simplify the order fulfillment process 
  • Improve the efficiency of the picking process with organization
  • Reduce on-hand inventory amount
  • Prepare IBM i environment for integration with Magento Commerce

The Result

The key to this project's success was the seamless and tight integration between the IBM i and Synapse warehouse management system. As a result, Watson's has experienced improved business efficiencies. With the integration of Synapse and IBM i, the inventory processes are much more structured and organized. Watson's is also prepared to integrate their IBM i ERP with Magento Commerce to further grow their business. 

Each integration point also resulted in added benefit:

  • Item Master: This integration point eliminates the need to maintain item masters on both the IBM i and Synapse programs
  • Purchase Order: Watson’s no longer needs to enter POs in two systems
  • PO Receipt Confirmation: Receipt confirmations give visibility to in-transit inventory as well as control of Accounts Payable processes
  • Sales Order: This integration point prevents the Watson’s team from needing to enter orders in two places
  • Ship Confirmation: This integration gives the Watson’s customer service team visibility into the statuses of orders that have been shipped
  • Advanced Ship Notice: The ASN integration point notifies customers when their order has been shipped, keeping them informed
  • Item Availability/QOH: The ERP is now updated with the correct quantities on hand through cycle counts and adjustments performed in Synapse, then pushed through to the ERP

Key Project Benefits:

  • Synapse WMS and IBM i integration
  • Introduction of RF devices in the warehouse to track inventory
  • More accurate inventory and transaction information
  • Streamlined warehouse and ordering processes
  • IBM i is prepped for Magento Commerce integration 

Identifying Watson's weaknesses and opportunities for growth with a Business Process Review was critical to the success of the integration project.

The Solution

  • Undergo a business process review to identify a clear strategy for the integration project
  • Discuss the original functionalities of the integration points and how they were configured, as well as what we thought they would look like with the new WMS and the potential technical implications of data flowing between the two systems
  • Flushing out those touch points to gain a better idea of inventory movements and the overall business processes, which would allow for a better architecture for the integration
  • The integration points identified for the solution were Item Master, Purchase Order, PO receipt confirmation, Sales Order, Ship Confirmation, Advanced Ship Notice, and Item Availability / Quantity on Hand
  • Document an integration strategy specific to those identified integration points to suggest specific timing and movement of everything
  • Integrate Synapse and IBM i to create streamlined internal processes
  • Implement the use of RF guns to track inventory movement on the floor, providing more accurate inventory and transaction information
"A business process review is a great opportunity to get reacquainted with your operations. Challenges can be identified and resolved, often without needing additional technology or resources."
Bill Onion
Managing Partner, Briteskies

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