Short Read:

The latest release of the Blue Yonder Category Management Suite became available January 10th, 2022. The news for the 2021.1.2 release can be summarized under three categories:
  • Continued focus on development of the new SaaS solution
  • Considerable improvements to Planogram and Floorplan Generator
  • Minimal new features and technical enhancements in the rest of the suite

Blue Yonder’s continued commitment to the new SaaS platform offering can be clearly seen in the expansion of the Category Management Services APIs. Several new API endpoints have been added. Important strides in user experience and data manipulation have been made in Space Planning Web. Settings and functionality for CKB, which were formerly only available through CKB Console, are being transitioned to Open Access. Most of the changes in 2021.1.2 focus on supporting the move to SaaS.

Blue Yonder has made exciting enhancements to Planogram Generator. Chief among these is the ability to call a Space Automation Pro script as part of the PG process. This is a powerful feature that enables possibilities for pre and post processing of data. Other features provide new merchandising options, a better user experience, and features frequently requested by you the user. As well, a great deal of work has gone into Floorplan Generator. This is important to note as Blue Yonder has dropped support for Floorplan Space Allocation. Floorplan Generator is now the supported solution.

The remaining desktop applications do not contain as many new features, though important strides were made. Accessibility options to assist vision impaired users have been added to Space and Floor Planning. Important security changes were made to Category Knowledge Base and Category Management Services. Key technical updates have been made to CKB including the requirement of a new SQL driver. Space Planning can now adjust for shelf brackets and has been given a technical update of the image rendering components.

Our summary of the changes to the suite is below. Please feel free to review our thoughts on the suite and reach out to us if you have any questions. We are happy to assist in any way we can.  

Alerts:

  • Activation codes have been updated for this release. You will need to contact Blue Yonder Customer Support to obtain new codes.
  • Windows 11 was released in October 2021. Testing has not yet been completed to ensure compatibility with the 2021.1.2 release.
  • CKB connectivity to SQL Server now requires the Microsoft OLE DB Driver for SQL Server Provider (MSOLEDBSQL).
  • The ability to download images and data from third party providers has been removed from CKB.
  • Floorplan Space Allocation is no longer supported. Floorplan Generator is the solution moving forward.

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

Space Planning

Blue Yonder continues to deliver quality in their flagship application while adding enhancements, addressing issues, and delivering a quality user experience. Space Planning 2021.1.2 features enhancements to both Space Planning and Space Planning Web.

Space Planning 2021.1.2 introduces a new feature to account for the space consumed by shelf brackets. You now have the option to have Space Planning automatically adjust the capacity of impacted positions, reflecting true available capacity on the shelf. Blue Yonder has also updated the Lead Tools image rendering components. While this provides no new functionality, the updated components provide improvements to overall stability. Accessibility features have been added throughout the application that work with Windows Narrator and support visually impaired users.  

With the release of 2021.1.2, Blue Yonder takes another step into its cloud offering and shows its continued commitment towards offering best-in-breed category management software. You may now modify data through tables, add objects from a fixture library, and drag objects to the planogram from the Planogram Explorer. While Space Planning Web cannot fully replace the functionality featured in the desktop version, it continues to mature.

​​​​Floor Planning

Blue Yonder has also made a variety of enhancements to Floor Planning for 2021.1.2. These include technical, accessibility, and functionality changes. As with Space Planning, accessibility changes were made throughout Floor Planning that work with Windows Narrator and support visually impaired users.

From a technical standpoint, Floor Planning has been certified to support Revit 2020, 2021, and 2022. A performance enhancement has been added that allows you to configure whether adjacencies are updated continuously or only on save to the database. If you do not need adjacency data updated constantly, you can use this option to free up system resources and only calculate them on save. Also, Image Upscaling is now allowed. This enables Floor Planning to upscale low-resolution images and increase their quality.

​​​​Category Knowledge Base

The functionality of the Category Knowledge base continues to increase with expanded API (Application Programming Interface) capabilities and an eye on security. While few new features were added, the functionality of Open Access continues to grow as it takes on more functionality from CKB Console.

There are some notable changes in this release. The ability to download images and data from third-party providers has been removed from CKB Console. Users may still import images and data locally but may no longer connect directly to the provider. Also, the CKB connectivity using SQL Server has been updated and requires the Microsoft OLE DB Driver for SQL Server Provider (MSOLEDBSQL). Additionally, the installation of Console Applications and Category Batch processing has been split into separate installations. 

APIs

Additional endpoints have been added to the Category Management Services API offering. They include new endpoints for:

  • Automation Process
  • Data Transfer
  • Floorplans
  • Planograms
  • Stores 
Open Access

Changes to Open Access were minimal. Some technology updates and enhancements were made which broaden your ability to manage CKB. 

The functional changes include:

  • System settings previously configured in Console may now be set in Open Access
  • Floorplan Generator settings may now be set in Open Access

The security and technical changes include:

  • The HTTPS secure protocol must be used when implementing Open Access
  • The HTTPS secure protocol must be used for Category Management Services Connections.
Space Automation Professional

For the 2021.1.2 release, Blue Yonder made few changes to Space Automation Pro. The changes are limited to the addition and update of a few commands. The SpaceFixtureFields command was updated to support the bracket height, width, and depth fields which were added to support the new shelf bracket feature in Space Planning.

New commands include:

  • CreateResetFinancialInventoryParameters – This allows you to set a list of parameters that correspond to the settings in the Reset Financial Inventory Data dialog in Space Planning when you are resetting Product or Performance financial or inventory data.
  • ResetFinancialInventoryFields – This works in conjunction with the parameter list and allows you to reset financial, inventory, description, value, and flag fields on the Product or Performance level.
  • ViewMessageList – This allows you to view the contents of a message and identify planograms or floorplans which have failed a condition of a validation script.
Planogram Generator

Several enhancements were made to Planogram Generator for the 2021.1.2 release which focus on enhancing usability while extending functionality. The Run Script Action is an exciting new feature that opens up a lot of possibilities for pre and post processing of data for PG. While these scripts are limited to when they can be called in the action list, they give you flexibility in evaluating data for conditional actions before PG runs and can be used to fix or adjust the output affected by PG’s limitations.

You could run complex calculations not easily done with basic formulas, set fixture fields making it easier to place You could run complex calculations not easily done with basic formulas, set fixture fields making it easier to place certain fixtures exactly where you want them, add floating shelves, or transfer data from one target to another. These are but a few examples of what you could do with this new option. However, be advised that PG will not validate a script prior to running it – be careful!  The release notes include a list of SAPro actions that could produce negative results to your generation run, so be sure to use caution and follow Blue Yonder’s guidance in this area. The responsibility is on the user to thoroughly test and validate a script before including it in an automated process.

The new release also features an exciting update to the snaking logic. This new linkage feature brings the snaking logic from just entire doors to individual fixtures. Before, snaking only went from one door to the next (down door 1, up door 2, down door 3). You can now snake within a door, from shelf to shelf. For cooler or freezer door categories, this feature greatly improves vertical adjacencies. If you have a brand that needs to shift some items to the next shelf below, this feature will allow brands to stay better in an over/under fashion vs breaking the brands and sliding the remaining items of a brand to the far end of the next shelf below.

Other new features and enhancements include:

  • New Informational Text – Informational text has been added to preview frames. This allows for easier troubleshooting when reviewing PG generation in the preview window. For templates with multiple action lists, it allows users to know exactly where they are without having to scroll to the top of the preview window or action list.
  • Two Bands on Matching Fixtures – You may now apply two bands to matching fixtures.  This will equally split the space between each product group on the fixture giving you more control over custom banding or how bands share space.
  • Fixture Filter for Orientation Action – This feature has been a frequent request from those who have forced orientation tied to fixture locations. You may now set a specific orientation for products added to specific fixtures.
  • Sequence Options for Relax/Boost Actions – You may now set priorities on relax or boost actions. This could mean you do not have to use several actions to achieve a stepped increase/decrease.
  • Anchor Source for Extra Target Products – You no longer need to define an anchor position to add a new item. This is a big win. You may now place new items using a formula which will place the new product in a general area, determined as either a best match or an exact match. 
Floorplan Generator

For this release, Blue Yonder is dropping support for Floorplan Space Allocation. Floorplan Generator will be the go forward solution. Several improvements were made to the new release of Floorplan Generator. These include but are not limited to:

User Experience:

  • Results Text is now cleared from the Generate tab in certain circumstances to ensure the text is relevant and helpful.
  • The General tab has been reorganized. Controls have been renamed, reorganized, and reformatted to add clarity.
  • The Group and Sequence tab has been updated to better mirror functionality of similar settings in Floorplan Space Allocation for familiarity.

Functionality:

  • The Maximum Split Difference, formerly the Maximum Linear Gap, now applies to all types of section splits making the setting more universal.
  • Four options are now available which will dictate the sequence that sections are placed on the floorplan giving you better control. 
  • Generation time has been improved by discarding sections that would not fit the available space improving overall performance. 

The list of changes and improvements made to Floorplan Generator includes far more than what we can summarize here. What we can take from this is Blue Yonder is committed to the future of this solution by providing more new features to Floorplan Generator than we find in most of the rest of the suite.

Assortment Optimization

For the 2021.1.2 release, Blue Yonder Assortment Optimization has focused on issue resolution, demonstrating their commitment to delivering a quality user experience. The 2021.1.2 Release Notes document for Assortment Optimization notes approximately 75 issues resolved. There are no new features in this release.

Our Take

Blue Yonder is looking to the future and investing development resources in the new SaaS offerings. A result of this appears to be a less aggressive development plan for the current suite. 2021.1.2 is less feature-rich than previous releases. This should not be interpreted as a miss on the part of Blue Yonder. Rather, it should be seen as an expected and necessary effect of their shift in focus to the future of BY SaaS. 

Users interested in the new suite should consider where they will see the most impact. To upgrade will provide you with considerable new functionality in Planogram and Floorplan Generator. You would also benefit from the additional management options in Open Access and the new ability to account for Shelf Brackets in Space Planning. That said, if you are not a user of Planogram or Floorplan Generator, you should consider that the rest of the suite has not changed drastically since the last commercial release. 

It is important to note that many of the features added and the issues addressed were driven directly by you, the users. If you are not already a member of the Special Interest Group (SIG) for the products you use, we encourage you to get involved. This direct line between Blue Yonder Product Management and their user base will continue to drive development in the future. You can sign up at success.blueyonder.com

We at Cantactix stand ready to assist you should you need any assistance as you determine whether to move forward with the 2021 release. Please reach out to us if we can be of help to you in any way.

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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