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Orion Web Technologies is a leading developer of web-based logistics IT solutions which deliver supply chain efficiency gains and reduce the carbon footprint by achieving sustainable logistics. Its innovative approach is based on thorough knowledge of the logistics industry, supported by vision and creative thinking

In today’s tough environment, organisations burdened with outdated IT systems and processes cannot address the competitive challenges, and the inevitable results are lost revenues, higher than necessary costs and loss of competitive advantage. Orion Web Technologies’ Orion Star range of systems supports a wide range of customers, from blue chip organisations to smaller companies.
Orion is genuinely innovative and its solutions are flexible and scalable, a modular set of web-based logistics IT solutions that form an enterprise-wide solution or individual modules that seamlessly support existing systems.

The Orion Star range’s latest addition is Orion StarPlan, an easy to use web-based tool offering affordable high-end functionality, targeting both SME’s and divisions or departments of large organisations. Orion StarPlan has no hardware requirement and is based on the principle of ‘SaaS,’ software as a service. A hosted web-based logistics planning tool with a high end spec, it offers an exciting new approach to the provision of powerful planning solutions. Bob Copeland, a Director of Orion Web Technologies, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.

Warehouse & Logistics News – First, Bob, what does your role at Orion cover? What were you doing before this?

I’m responsible for development, and was previously IT Director with an express carrier, developing leading edge tracking technology that made a real difference to the service quality offered by a rapidly growing business.

WLN – Where and when was Orion Web Technologies set up? Who were the founders?

I founded Orion eight years ago with four colleagues. We had previously worked together for many years within logistics, developing and delivering innovative solutions, and are all actively involved in the company’s management.

WLN – Which countries are your solutions used in?

Orion solutions are used by leading organisations throughout Europe. We also have customers in the USA and recently China. Our StarPlan system grew out of some requirements a consultancy had in advising a Chinese client on the impact of changes on their logistics operation.

WLN – Can you name any of your major customers?

Siemens, Xerox, HP and many other multinational organisations are direct customers and/or large-scale users of Orion solutions, through our work with 3PLs and 4PLs.

WLN – How do you sum up the Orion Web Technologies proposition?

Orion has earned a reputation for rigorous analytical skills with a focus on operational processes, delivering robust solutions that can be easily deployed coupled with expertly managed integration and implementation. We enable users to enjoy real-time access to business critical information and work collaboratively with partners, both vital to success in the competitive world of logistics. From the exact status of a single transaction to a complete overview of the logistics process, accurate data must be instantly available to all who need it. Our systems are engineered to achieve this through one integrated resource reporting real-time information to inform their decision making.

WLN – In a marketplace packed with logistics IT providers, what’s different about Orion Web Technologies?

Because we help clients grow their business, often our solutions are a business enabler, helping businesses change direction, supporting new products and services, and do something smarter.

We know every business faces unique challenges, and that different sectors require specialised solutions and often their existing technology is a barrier we can help overcome. We nurture long-term relationships with customers and support their continual improvement programme by providing innovative software and intelligent technology.

WLN – Which parts of the market do you offer products for?

We specialise in providing tracking solutions for logistics operators or users, transport networks, warehousing and distribution, field service management, courier services and supply chain process management.

WLN – What are the current products in the Orion Star range?

Orion StarPick is a Warehouse Management System enabling warehouse operators to offer online WMS services to multiple clients at multiple locations. Orion StarDrive efficiently manages order/collection and delivery/service fulfilment. It links with existing systems and partners to consolidate the various views and status reports and generate a single view of all orders. Orion StarHub is a solution specifically designed for mail, packages and Pallet operators with a focus on practical features – labelling, sorting and delivering large volumes within critical time constraints. Orion StarField is a service logistics solution managing jobs, staff and parts storage and distribution. StarBill features a complete administration and invoicing facility capable of managing complex customer and partner pricing models. Orion StarGate integration suite seamlessly manages high volume electronic data exchange, translation and interaction with multiple internal systems and external partners. Orion StarPlan is our latest solution and is a logistics planning tool.

WLN – Can you talk us through Orion StarPlan?

Several of our clients encountered difficulty with high end specialised planning systems, frustrated that answers to easy to ask questions were difficult to get, even after weeks of training and usage. An example is location analysis where a client had say 40,000 calls a month. They wanted a simple tool to check the distance between end points and calculate the overall mileage, then analyse what happened if start points such as service centres were added or removed. StarPlan is easy and quick to set up, and  affordable. Orion StarPlan provides a powerful set of capabilities for analysing existing network operations and the likely consequences of change. With Orion StarPlan you can review and optimise your network and determine the most effective number of facilities, their locations, their size, number of staff and the vehicles by type and quantity and much more!

WLN – Who is StarPlan aimed at?

StarPlan is aimed at SME users. It offers affordable high-end functionality through a easy to use web based analysis tool, enabling access to the essential and critical world of planning. Planning and modelling tools in general are currently expensive, cumbersome and difficult to use. In many cases users simply want to visualise lists of jobs/locations/deliveries, and calculate distances, carbon emissions, fulfilment times, costs and if necessary drill down for further analysis

WLN – Can you be more specific about the areas StarPlan can help with?

Yes, I can! Some businesses will have a constant need for a solution such as this, others an occasional one. StarPlan gives you executable results and also the profitability/loss outcomes to those difficult “What IF?” and/or “Which is” questions, such as what if we win this new business? What if we add, expand or close a facility? In each case you can use the logistics modelling options to model the existing network and operation based on current volumes versus the envisaged new situation, and see the likely impact on depots, trunks and vehicles.

You can also use the location analysis tool to forecast the impact of a relocation scenario on staff travel, delivery runs and service levels; predict the impact of new driver regulations on the network by using logistics modelling to identify drive times and routes which cannot be served by single manned vehicles; examine the options for multimodal solutions by using logistics modelling to define trunk routes as air/road/rail/sea: and see the impact on service levels by calculating expected transit times in the network.

You can predict the profitability/loss outcome by adding cost / revenue information into the logistics model, and seeing the financial results of changes with different options. You can also predict the environmental impact of these changes: add the vehicle details and their CO2 emission reports will be added into the logistics model, and see the likely results of changes with different options. You can evaluate the ideal distribution strategy, model the results of using different carriers, monitor distribution costs, assess different possible field support strategies – and finally, when you’ve done all that, you can plan deliveries using StarPlan to automatically schedule and route, based on your manifest.

WLN – In passing, what do you mean by the term ‘SaaS,’ software as a service? How does that work?

SaaS is the new way of delivering software solutions. It is a web-based service with no installation or hardware costs, resulting in quicker ROI. SaaS enables flexible charging options such as monthly or on-demand/pay-as-you-go, typically resulting in total cost of ownership savings of up to 35% over on-premises solutions.

WLN – How easy is StarPlan to use? Do you offer user training?

StarPlan is a user-centred designed tool: ease of use is key to its success. StarPlan resolves complex and difficult issues but is also simple and logical to use. We provide initial and ongoing support for all our products.

WLN – Is StarPlan available now?

Yes, we have launched StarPlan and it is available from us directly.

WLN – Which sectors do you see benefiting from StarPlan?

One sector we expect will definitely benefit is the courier, express and parcels (CEP) market. The latest study by AT Kearney shows significant migration of traffic from express services to cheaper standard parcel services, Kearney highlights the recession’s impact on the European courier, express and parcels industry, which fell significantly in both volumes and revenues. Not surprisingly, they identified an increase of competitive intensity: on the one hand high asset players were strongly focusing on using their fleets; on the other, locally focused providers also decreased their prices. The prospects for the unprepared in a rapidly changing and difficult market are bleak, without planning and modelling tools like StarPlan.

WLN – How are you marketing StarPlan – are you positioning it as an entry-level tool, to introduce people to the Star portfolio?

In some instances yes, just using StarPlan to produce a model will throw up issues that hadn’t been recognised and help identify new ways of working. Then other products in our range can be used to introduce tracking systems to support the change. Say for example a logistics operator sees that instead of transporting everything to one large national hub, using regional centres offers a significant reduction in overall miles travelled. To implement this, a tracking solution is needed to make any required pre-sorting happen reliably, and of course we would be happy to supply one.

WLN – How easy is it for companies to migrate from StarPlan as they become smarter at using planning technology, and their needs change?

Our systems are never the only system used, so all our applications allow data to be easily imported or exported. We do however take note of where an organisation’s needs change and strive to support them.

WLN – Looking at your overall solutions, do you offer a consultancy service, to help people get the best from your solutions, and choose the right one?

Yes we do, the Orion Star range is a large modular suite of integrated logistics solutions and our clients can select from a range of features that can then be further customised to satisfy particular needs. We understand that ideal solutions can only be achieved by first taking meticulous care to fully comprehend each individual client’s business processes and needs.

WLN – What are the benefits of your solutions overall?

Orion solutions deliver lower operational costs by applying consistent processes that scale across multiple sites and operations. We help achieve Improved service levels through real time visibility of all relevant data right across the business; we enable much closer working with partners through seamless data interchange: we help facilitate rapid deployment of new products and services; and support managed reduction of the company’s carbon footprint. Ultimately, we help clients achieve better decisions, translating into better profits.

WLN – How scalable are your solutions?

The solutions are all implemented with Open Source technology, based on hosted servers. So there are no hidden database licenses as user numbers grow, and almost unlimited options for hosting the system.

WLN – How do your solutions help companies manage reduction of their Carbon emissions?

Orion helps businesses model their existing distribution or logistics operation, and see the impact of change, such as fewer movements, less kilograms carried a shorter distance. An example might be a service organisation opting to have parts delivered to engineers via manned Pickup and Drop off Points (PUDOs) or Drop boxes rather than delivered direct to the client site. Companies can often identify unnecessary processes within their logistics but can’t see how to implement the solutions that will deliver real improvements and cost savings. We design these solutions which, when deployed, invariably results in greater productivity, lower energy usage and so reduced carbon emissions.

WLN – What differences in productivity, energy usage and carbon emissions can your solutions achieve?

The main gain StarPlan offers is the ability to strategically model costs and assess the impact of change. What can be achieved depends on the scale of the change users want to make having reviewed the model and the options.

WLN – Can you talk about your work for these customers?

We are currently working with a large distribution company in China, reviewing their present operations and enabling them to plan for significant expansion, the launch of new products and collaborative ventures. It quickly became apparent through the use of StarPlan that there are inefficiencies in their present operation and asset utilisation can be much improved. StarPlan enables them to better understand the dynamics of their existing operation and identify and implement the necessary changes prior to adding additional volume. StarPlan is demonstrating that it is an essential aid to delivering two key elements of continued successful logistics – optimisation and outcome predictions

WLN – How do you go about devising a solution for an individual client?

We start by taking meticulous care to fully understand the client’s business processes and needs, and from there offer solutions specifically designed for their purpose, with the flexibility to accommodate the dynamics of change. To us, each client is unique, rightly deserving individual attention, a close affinity with their business objectives and an uncompromising commitment to the provision of excellence. We hold an unwavering belief based on our experience that depth of knowledge and extraordinary effort generates exemplary results.

WLN – To what extent are people in the warehousing and logistics sector using planning and modelling technology effectively and getting the optimum benefits?

Adoption is quite extensive at the top end, but to my mind, there is still a lot more they could do to get the best from their investment. Planning is vital for every organisation, and even more so during periods of difficult and challenging economic conditions. It is essential that assets are productively utilised and organisations are adaptive and able to respond quickly to change. However, change must be managed and it is necessary that the financial and operational outcomes are known and fully understood prior to implementation. Quite simply, planning and modelling provides users with the assurance that the true and full consequences are identified, and therefore the rewards can be reaped!

WLN – What will you be exhibiting on your stand at IMHX?

We are featuring StarPlan because it is our latest product but also because it is possibly the most important tool for SMEs, particularly in difficult trading conditions.

WLN – Where do you see Orion Web Technologies going from here?

I am convinced that our low cost SaaS offering for StarPlan is absolutely the right approach. SMEs now have the opportunity to better understand the cost and operational drivers of their business. StarPlan enables them to plan and effectively manage change and so ensure the desired outcomes. We have removed the cost and complexity barriers that have previously prevented them benefiting from planning solutions. In times of difficult trading, planning is a must.

Orion Web Technologies

Tel: 0844 804 0909

www.orionwt.co.uk

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