The latest release of the JDA, now Blue Yonder, Category Management Suite became available August 3, 2016. This review summarizes the enhancements we found interesting based on a preview of JDA’s Release Notes. We will validate our review and update our recommendations as we test the new release. See below for details on all enhancements and resolved issues. Learn more about the Blue Yonder Category Management Suite here.

Short Read:

This release contains some features that would warrant an upgrade, particularly for Assortment OptimizationPlanogram Generator and Open Access users. As always, should you choose to upgrade one application and you have Category Knowledge Base (CKB), it must be upgraded as well.

Most importantly, if you work with planograms or floorplans across different languages, the new option to use Unicode in Space Planning and Floor Planning provides significant capabilities and is a reason to upgrade. Unicode allows these applications to open, display, and save data with characters from any language.

Warning: The Unicode option in Space Planning and Floor Planning results in backward compatibility issues for all affected file types – flat files saved by 2016.1 using the optional Unicode settings (Unicode UTF-8 or Unicode UTF-16LE) cannot be opened by previous versions of Space Planning or Floor Planning. Companies that implement the Unicode options and share Space Planning or Floor Planning files with other companies should discuss their Unicode requirements which may require upgrades to 2016.1 at the same time. 

Quick Note: Effective with 2016.1, USB hardware dongles are no longer supported for activating the JDA Category Management applications. If you use a USB dongle for activation, you should plan your upgrade at a time that allows you to coordinate with JDA Support Services to transition to Product Key activation (introduced in the 8.1.0 release of October 2013). Contact Cantactix if you’d like to discuss our experience with Product Key activation.

Click on the links below to read our summary for each application

Key Note on Unicode:  Regardless of whether Space Planning and Floor Planning are English or a translated version, their data and configuration files can now contain characters from any language, or multiple languages at the same time. Category Knowledge Base (CKB) and Assortment Optimization were designed as Unicode applications, so now all current JDA Category Management Suite applications can work efficiently with data from any language.

Assortment Optimization

The 2016.1 release of Assortment Optimization (AO) has new functionality and multiple issues have been resolved. New functionality includes:

  • Product Tree: the vertically oriented product tree is now a hierarchical list
  • Product Tree Editor: within a node, you can now group attributes and edit that group to add or remove values
  • Space Definition Enhancements: you can select multiple tree nodes to assign selected planograms to all assortments
  • Virtual Assortment Override: when you override an assortment recommendation, virtual assortments are now listed and are an option to be selected

Assortment Generator is now generally available with this release under a separate license from JDA.

Many customers reported issues have been addressed with this AO release and while some of them are minor, several are more significant and can benefit many users:

  • When current facings and current capacity data is available, AO now uses it to calculate required facings to meet capacity instead of estimating based on average shelf dimensions
  • A test has been put in place to stop duplicate products from being added to a list of products within a family
  • Performance data can now be copied to virtual assortments
  • When importing a planogram and using the “Set in Current Assortment” flag, the InCurrentAssortment flag is cleared for all performance records in the assigned assortment
  • A modification has been made so that projects that contain scorecards are no longer corrupted when you run Assortment Generator
  • Products removed by the Product Replacement tactic are now excluded from all further tactic processing
  • In the Assortment Tactics and All Tactics lists in the Calculation view, the tactic lists now display the value associated with the tactic (previously showed 100%, regardless of the value assigned)

If any of the above are issues that impede on your productivity, then an upgrade is the right choice. The above fixes work towards an increased functionality of AO and a greater ease of use for end users, and as a result, are a compelling reason to upgrade to 2016.1.

Space Planning

Due to the significant effort to redesign Space Planning to support Unicode, regular users of Space Planning will not see a great deal of enhancements in this release. Performance improvements have been applied to Peg ID lookup from a CKB database and recording scripts for Space Automation Professional no longer requires you to enter its activation within Space Planning.

Several issues have been resolved including some scenarios that could cause Space Planning to close unexpectedly.

There have been a number of stability improvements including when dragging objects between projects (where floating positions will now retain their relative coordinates from the original planogram) or adding items from a database product library.

One item of note is the fix for items filling backwards on a sloped shelf if a flat shelf is positioned above it.  This issue has been resolved and the sloped shelves will now fill correctly. We recommend this upgrade if multi-language Unicode support is important to you, or if the fixes resolve issues that are currently impacting your ability to fully utilize the software. Otherwise, you may want to wait for a future release to apply the upgrade (unless the other products provide a compelling reason to upgrade). 

​​​​Floor Planning

In addition to the new Unicode option, refinements have been applied to many existing functions to improve productivity and reliability.

A significant enhancement with this latest release is the introduction of a framework for the eventual two-way integration with Autodesk Revit. However, the full functionality required to automatically create a JDA floorplan from a Revit store floorplan and/or update a Revit floorplan based on changes exported from the JDA floorplan will not be available until the 2017.1 release.

Several workflow improvements apply to adding fixtures and planogram sections to a floorplan. These useful enhancements include:

  • Adding a fixture from a fixture library now places the origin point of the fixture at the center of the current view, instead of always defaulting to the bottom-left corner of the floorplan.
  • Creating a new planogram or adding a planogram section onto the floorplan from Floorplan Explorer, planogram library, or database planogram library will place the section based upon the currently selected object in the active floorplan.
  • Adding multiple planograms at the same time will now place the sections next to each other, making it easier to drag to their proper locations. Previously, the planograms were stacked on top of each other.

If you need to update fixtures in a fixture library based on the modified fixtures in a floorplan, you have more control using an improved fixture matching logic that evaluates fixtures by Type, Name and Assembly. Fixtures on the floorplan will match fixtures in the library only if all three attributes match each other. You can choose to Add New FixturesUpdate Matching Fixtures, or both Add and Update Fixtures into the library.

The release resolves several issues with the Sub-Planogram feature introduced in v9.0.Unless the features described are of significant importance to your organization, we recommend waiting for the 2017.1 release due out in early 2017.  

Space Automation Professional

The 2016.1 release of Space Automation Professional includes both new functionalities as well as bug fixes.  

Our initial thoughts based on the descriptions of the new features:

  • Support for Visual C# Templates – This is a “nice to have” feature, but it will have limited usefulness since commands added to the code window from the Command Explorer still use Visual Basic syntax.
  • There are a couple of new commands: PrintDatabaseReportChart and OpenFromDatabase.  
  • Code Snippets for GetAndSetFieldValuesForAllRecordsSetFieldValueForAllRecords, and ExecuteDatabaseQuery will be very helpful and will reduce the likelihood of errors versus having to manually code that functionality.

Of the issues resolved with this release, several are related to causing crashes and others are related to the SpaceAutomationPro.config file. These fixes improve the overall stability of Space Automation Professional and make it easier to deploy the scripts to the end users. This is certainly a step in the right direction and is a reason to upgrade to this release.

Space Automation
JDA posted an Information Alert on May 17 stating that as of the 2016.1 release, the legacy JDA Space Automation capabilities will be fully transitioned to JDA Space Automation Professional. Because of this development achievement, Category Management Suite 2016.1 will contain the final release of Space Automation. JDA will continue to address high severity issues for Space Automation on a case-by-case basis as customers continue to migrate from Space Automation to Space Automation Professional.​ This release does not contain any enhancements or fixes, only an update in version number. As a result, there is no reason to upgrade Space Automation unless you are upgrading other products in the suite.

​​​​Category Knowledge Base

Most of the Category Knowledge Base development work for 2016.1 was dedicated to Assortment Generator and Open Access. Assortment Generator is a new solution from JDA being introduced in the 2016.1 release and is integrated with CKB and Planogram Generator.

The enhancements applied to core CKB include consolidating all the separate screens for activating the CKB Console components and the CKB Data Manager components into a single screen for Console and one for Data Manager. While these interface changes don’t benefit the typical user, they simplify the activation process for administrators and IT staff responsible for activating the CKB components.

The JDA Category Batch Processing service has been enhanced to support running stored procedures in addition to the .NET assemblies previously supported, which will make it easier for custom processing to be scheduled and executed.

Although CKB already supports Unicode, as part of the introduction of Unicode support for Floor Planning and Space Planning in 2016.1, reports from Data Manager can now be exported in Unicode format.

This release resolves many issues in a CKB environment.  Although many of the fixes focus on Open Access and Assortment Optimization database functionality, the resolution of the following issues can benefit many users: 

  • The Global Changes utility could inadvertently add multiple planograms from the same version family to a floorplan or store, which could cause instability in Floor Planning. Now the Global Changes utility can no longer add a planogram to a floorplan or store if there is another planogram from the same version family already associated with the floorplan.
  • If you open a floorplan from the database into Floor Planning, attempting to open another floorplan would not let you append the floorplan in Read Only mode. You can now select to append read-only floorplans to a read-write project open in Floor Planning.
  • Importing product data from a specific source using Console could result in an overflow error. The error has been resolved.
  • Using batch mode to import POS data into an internal fact database for Category Advisor could result in a login error. This error is also resolved.
  • Web Framework Object Level Access Rules could be corrupted when upgrading from v8.2 to a later version. This issue has been resolved and the access rules are transferred properly during the application upgrade process.

Unless the enhancements summarized above and the resolved issues detailed in the CKB Release Notes improve your productivity, the CKB enhancements by themselves are not a compelling reason to upgrade. However, if you are upgrading any of the other applications, then you need to upgrade CKB also.

Open Access

The 2016.1 release of Open Access has new functionality and several reported issues have been resolved. New functionality includes:

  • A new Floorplan Viewer Control that retrieves data directly from the CKB tables.  You no longer have to publish Compact Documents to support the Floorplan Viewer.
  • A new control for hyperlinks has been added in Open Access and will allow you to link to other Open Access pages or external web pages through an HTTP link. 
  • Grid filters will now expand and collapse, providing a better user experience.
  • Configuration of the columns from which data is retrieved can be configured in the hierarchy controls.
  • Support for a new Object Level Access Rules (OLAR) system. With the new system, the rules are no longer tied to only one role or user and instead can be assigned to numerous roles or users.  Also you can now exclude hierarchy node(s) by coding an exclusionary rule. Note that the legacy OLAR system is still available for use.

The Open Access Web API Framework has been included as an initial release. This framework opens up additional services to retrieve information from CKB about objects, administer database settings, administer and retrieve hierarchy information and retrieve the x, y and z coordinates of products on floorplans.

Numerous fixes are available in this release that provide better support for the floorplan object including accessing data from CKB tables and highlight issues. Security enhancements are included that support lowercase letters in password and checking access for Category Knowledge Server (CKS) documents. Also, this release allows Apollo .apb files to be uploaded from CKS.​These enhancements continue JDA’s focus on Open Access, and are a compelling reason to upgrade CKB if you use Open Access.

Planogram Generator

In last few major releases, JDA has focused effort on enhancing the capabilities and functionality of Planogram Generator. The release of 2016.1 is no exception. This release sees the implementation of the top three enhancements by the PG SIG (Special Interest Group) voting members. JDA also continues to make improvements in the pegboard merchandising capabilities of PG, with this release introducing a few new features.

The top overall enhancement request for many years has been the ability to determine (formula driven) the location of product bands, rather than relying on the relative location of the positions within the Template planograms. This new feature should allow bands to be situated based on formula results, which means that they can potentially be placed in order of the space required for each band. This will allow for fewer required Templates, as the left-to-right flow of the product bands will no longer be dependent on the position placement in the Template. 

With the introduction of Multiple Action Lists in v7.8, different rules can be applied to different subsets of positions and the actions were limited to just those positions. In 2016.1, there is now an option to restore the positions merchandised in previous actions at the start of the next Action List. Positions in the new Action List will begin after the last positions from the previous action. There is also a new opportunity to perform additional merchandising actions on the restored positions.

Historically, PG may not have always been satisfactory with multiple positions of the same product being merchandised on the Target planograms. Initially, all positions were given the same number of facings and if there was space for extra facings on 1 position but not the other, it didn’t get the extra facings. Enhancements came along that saw the performance metrics split between the positions, which helped to better utilize the space. In 2016.1, there is now an option to process each position independently, for certain actions.

For Pegboard merchandising, Signs and Flex Space are now allowed to be assigned. Banding can now be set in the horizontal plane, expanding from the previous vertical banding.

Tagging now supports a manual clicking method to sequence positions. From the tagging window, the user can click on a series of positions, which will assign a sequential number to the tag field. This can be done manually or imported from an external source directly into the appropriate Performance Description field for that tag. Sorting or grouping of positions can now be based on this tag.

If your company uses Planogram Generator, this version has some of the features that users have been requesting. The Banding and processing of individual positions should be enough to warrant an upgrade to this release. If you are using pegboards in PG we recommend waiting for the 2016.1.1 Service Release, expected in August 2016, as there will be 2 bug fixes related to pegboards and flex space.

Our take on this release:

JDA continues to actively invest in the Category Management Suite, not only in adding enhancements based on SIG (Special Interest Group) priorities, but introducing new innovations such as Assortment Generator, Open Access Web API Framework, and the foundation for Autodesk Revit integration with Floor Planning. These are examples of the effort JDA applies to enhance productivity with automation capabilities, including Planogram Generator and Space Automation Professional.

Based on a preview of the suite’s set of Release Notes, there are many compelling reasons to upgrade. We will be testing the new release and evaluating the new features, so if you are interested in getting additional insight into the new features and how they can benefit you, please contact us.  

Interested in upgrading? Learn more here.

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