HighJump says: There’s an app for that
February 03, 2011 - MMH Editorial
Smart phone apps have been one of the big technology success stories of the last year. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, there’s an app for things I didn’t know I even needed or cared about. They have that cool factor that is the hallmark of the best of technology.
Apps are clearly coming to the materials handling and supply chain software space. I’m currently interviewing folks in our industry for a story on mobility for the March issue and am pleasantly surprised by just how much development is going on right now. And, it’s not just technology for technology’s sake: the apps solution providers are telling me about make sense.
Just this week, HighJump officially launched the HighJump App Station. It’s described as a new service for WMS customers that will change the way HighJump releases many new WMS updates to customers in the future. HighJump says the App Station will consist of a web-based library of small “workflow” applications that customers can browse and add to their HighJump WMS at any time, just like adding a new application to a smart phone. The app store will be available free to any customer on HighJump’s maintenance and support program. Five apps are available now, with seven more coming by March. The company expects to release between 75 and 100 apps a year.
Chad Collins, HighJump’s vice president of marketing and strategy, explains the company’s thinking this way. “This is a way to get new functionality in your system without waiting for a new release,” he says. “It’s also a way to get only the functionality you’re interested in.” It is also the direction that HighJump believes the enterprise software market is headed.
What can you expect? The example Collins uses is a lift truck inspection list. Many warehouses don’t go through any type of vehicle inspection before an operator climbs aboard. Others have to go through a check list for work rule, regulatory or safety requirements. “Since most users aren’t interested, it doesn’t make sense to put it on the standard product,” says Collins. “As an app, those who want it can add it and the others can ignore it.” In a demonstration for HighJump employees, the app was up and running in ten minutes.
Do apps represent a potential new source of revenue for supply chain software companies and developers, similar to iPhone app developers? Collins says maybe. “For us, it’s a way to enhance the customer experience, not a new source of revenue,” Collins says, which is the reason it is free to maintenance support customers. At the same time, down the road, HighJump may want to open up the app store to its community of partners and customers, who can make contributions to the library. “To make that community work, you may want revenue for the partners that make contributions,” he says.
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