Enterprises and exchanges
Planning processes are the heartbeat of manufacturing. The enterprise suite familiar to business users today was built up around a core of material requirements planning and master scheduling. Advanced planning, which speeds and optimizes resource management, is a significant addition to enterprise suites.
Planning processes are the heartbeat of manufacturing. The enterprise suite familiar to business users today was built up around a core of material requirements planning and master scheduling. Advanced planning, which speeds and optimizes resource management, is a significant addition to enterprise suites. At the same time, planning vendors are assembling their own suites, coupling advanced planning with a portfolio of e-Business applications.
SAP Portals, B4B concept follow open approach
The past year has been a period of transition for SAP. While it remains one of the world's leading enterprise software suppliers, the Walldorf, Germany-based vendor has significantly altered its business model.
No longer does SAP market itself as the provider of a monolithic software package that manages every aspect of a business. Instead, SAP now speaks of having an open infrastructure that accommodates the assembling of various software components—including applications from other vendors—to solve specific business problems.
The change is a response to shifts in the overall business software market, which is now dominated by solutions that support e-Business. "Ten years ago, companies were clamoring for systems that would allow them to integrate various functional areas," says Kyle Bowker, an SAP vice president and general manager, manufacturing. That was when SAP's R/3 enterprise resources planning (ERP) package—the big monolithic system—began gaining a dominant position in the business software market.
Now, Bowker says, "companies are interested primarily in collaborative business processes that, in effect, break down the walls between enterprises. To support this collaboration, you almost have to look at a best-of-breed approach, because you need to provide connections for the various solutions that are used within different enterprises."
Bowker says SAP started down this open-platform road roughly two years ago, when it launched its mySAP Workplace enterprise portal solution. But few people believed SAP was serious about open systems until it began working openly with other vendors on joint solutions.
That began last spring, when SAP opened its annual North America user conference with the announcement of a joint venture with Commerce One, Pleasanton, Calif., to build solutions for Internet-based trading exchanges. The market for trading exchanges— particularly large public exchanges—has softened considerably since that announcement, but Bowker says SAP and Commerce One still are working on joint solutions. Their latest collaboration is an e-procurement application called Enterprise Buyer Professional.
Bowker calls this a business-for-business (B4B) solution that combines Commerce One's Internet-based marketplace and e-procurement functionality with SAP's back-end ERP and supply chain management capabilities. "This system supports both direct and indirect procurement in a collaborative environment," Bowker says.
SAP's other major defining moment came in April of this year, when it announced the formation of a new subsidiary that will concentrate on building enterprise portals.
The SAP Portals' products will be built on technology that SAP acquired when it purchased San Jose, Calif.-based Top Tier earlier this year. In conjunction with the SAP Portals announcement, SAP also said it will work with Yahoo!, Santa Clara, Calif., to incorporate Web-based content such as news feeds to SAP's portal platform.
2 Oracle Corp.
Focus on powering private e-Business hubs
This time last year, Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., was touting its position as a supplier of technology to major Internet-based trading platforms like Covisint and the Worldwide Retail Exchange. Now, Oracle—along with most of its direct competitors—is more focused on providing e-Business solutions for single enterprises.
"Over the past year, many brick-and-mortar companies showed interest in building dot-com subsidiaries, forming consortiums to build industry-wide collaboration hubs," says Don Klaiss, an Oracle senior vice president. "Most of those are disappearing, and the interest has shifted to building private exchanges sponsored by a channel master. That is where we are focused."
The good news, both for Oracle and its potential customers, is that a lot of the functionality that was built for public exchanges works quite nicely for private exchanges, as well as for companies that wish to conduct e-Business with individual trading partners. In Oracle's case, that functionality includes an e-procurement application and a set of Web-based portals tailored to the individual user's role within the enterprise.
Oracle developed these applications to extend its long-standing desire to be the only software supplier its customers will ever need in the exchange marketplace. "Our strategy has been to provide a fully integrated suite of business applications under one umbrella," Klaiss says. "That includes enterprise resources planning [ERP] and manufacturing, customer relationship management [CRM], advanced planning and scheduling [APS], supply chain management [SCM], and tools for collaborating with customers and suppliers across an extended supply chain.
"With our e-procurement application, we compete with Ariba [Mountain View, Calif.] and Commerce One [Pleasanton, Calif.]," Klaiss adds, "but our solution is more complete. It provides full purchase order management, along with payment and analytical capabilities, in addition to requisitioning functionality."
In most cases, Oracle has chosen to build applications itself, rather than partner with or purchase technology from other software suppliers. Klaiss says Oracle's customers benefit most from that strategy, particularly in this era of e-Business.
"We have purchased some applications in the past," Klaiss admits. "But every time you do that, you end up with two pieces of software that weren't designed to work together. In the end, you can only loosely integrate these products."
Solid growth and profits buck market trend
PeopleSoft is one of a handful of enterprise software vendors that prospered in the first half of 2001. And company officials attribute PeopleSoft's recent good fortune to the corporate makeover that began soon after Craig Conway was named CEO in September 1999.
"We took a hard look at where the market was going, and we didn't think it was going to stay with client/server systems," says Mike Fransden, PeopleSoft's vice president and general manager of supply chain operations. It appeared, Fransden says, that browser-based interfaces offering access to data that is transmitted in eXtensible markup language format represented the future of enterprise computing. "So we decided to rebuild our applications—in what was a sort of bet-the-company strategy—in that fashion," he says.
To accomplish that, PeopleSoft went into what Fransden now refers to as "a dark period," stopping all ongoing product development and shifting all available resources to creating a next-generation ERP system. The result was PeopleSoft 8, a platform that revolves around a set of role-based portals that make the process of accessing the underlying applications much like surfing the Web.
PeopleSoft 8, released in September 2000, contains applications for virtually every business function, from managing customer relationships and corporate finances to production planning and administering human resources programs. It also has a set of analytic programs that allow a company to constantly monitor its overall performance.
Users access these applications through Web-based portals that reflect their specific roles as an employee, customer, or supplier of the enterprise that is deploying the PeopleSoft 8 package. "In designing the portals, we took our cue from consumer-oriented portals like Yahoo!," Fransden says. "That is the way business software always has evolved. The move to client/server was a means of getting PCs with Windows desktops into the business world."
Portals aside, Fransden contends that PeopleSoft 8's breadth of functionality, along with its Internet-based architecture, is what has allowed PeopleSoft to post growth in both revenues and profits in a soft market.
"A lot of things that have happened in the marketplace over the past year really play to our strengths," he says. "Companies want applications that allow for quickly implementing business processes that will either increase revenue or lower costs."
6 i2 Technologies
Creating value for customers drives its business
Dallas-based i2 Technologies is recognized as a leading supplier of business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce solutions. But company officials say i2's move into the e-Business software market is merely a byproduct of its initial corporate vision—which was to create applications that provide value to manufacturing enterprises.
"Our current goal is to provide $75 billion in value to our customers by 2005," says Hiten Varia, an i2 executive vice president. "That drives everything we do—from product development and support to our strategies for product sales and delivery."
Varia says i2 has hired an independent firm to poll each company that installs an i2 product in order to gauge the value that the company received from the product. Once a year, at its annual user conference, i2 announces the total cumulative value. The number released at the 2000 conference was $16.4 billion.
The strategy for boosting that number to $75 billion by 2005, according to Varia, is to provide tools that will improve corporate decision-making across the supply chain. To that end, i2 has developed applications that address every business process from gauging demand for new products to managing the production, delivery, and service activities associated with those products.
When it was formed in early 1990s, i2 was a pioneer in the supply chain planning space. It's first applications synchronized production lines so that goods could be manufactured in the least amount of time and at the lowest-possible cost while still meeting customers' expected delivery dates. "We started with supply chain planning because it was the hardest problem to solve," Varia says.
Of course, i2 also planned to develop applications that address other processes. While it was executing that plan, the Internet emerged as viable platform for conducting business, and i2 responded to that development. "The Internet simply accelerated our entry into the area of collaborative applications," Varia says. "It allows manufacturers to build connections to customers and suppliers."
That last factor actually created a whole new business for i2, providing solutions for building Internet-based trading exchanges. TradeMatrix has become a foundation for companies that wish to build private trading networks for conducting business with strategic partners.
As this shift has taken place, i2 also has expanded its own set of business applications. Recent product introductions include customer relationship management and supplier relationship management applications.
7 J.D. Edwards
Integration technology underpins ERP II strategy
How does a software company stay on top of a market in which traditional applications are converging with extended enterprise solutions and e-Business capabilities? Although best known for its enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems, J.D. Edwards has compiled 15 offerings ranging from customer relationship management (CRM) and e-procurement, to its latest ventures in business-to-business integration and collaboration technologies.
Even with this broad product footprint, the Denver-based company contends it's after something bigger: linking planning and execution functionality. "It takes a different mindset to merge planning and execution," says Glenn Tubb, a J.D. Edwards senior vice president. "Our strategy for the mid-market is much different than for the top tier. In large organizations, planning and execution usually are thought of as separate entities, whereas smaller companies consider planning and execution as one process."
The company's latest release of OneWorld, its flagship ERP system, includes integration with its advanced planning system. "We've learned that integration is hard work," says Tubb. "Implementing planning systems is quite different than installing ERP."
To aid integration efforts, J.D. Edwards has introduced eXtended Process Integration (XPI), an eXtensible markup language-based interoperability engine and architecture that handles data, process, and workflow integration between enterprises. XPI manages the publish-and-subscribe process used in sending and receiving transactions, and includes a message broker to format messages using multiple formats. "The system looks at who is going to subscribe and where the data is sent," says Tubb. "We purchased the technology, then embedded it in our source code and enhanced it."
Tubb believes XPI will be the linchpin in the evolution of the company's applications toward improved collaboration and integration. It will be especially important, Tubb adds, since J.D. Edwards maintains a number of reselling and integration alliances with major enterprise applications vendors, including Siebel Systems, a San Mateo, Calif.-based CRM system vendor; and Ariba, a Mountain View, Calif.-based e-procurement software vendor.
The company also is banking on a growing demand for extended enterprise, or what analyst firm Gartner calls ERP II applications. These solutions represent an evolution of ERP systems from having a primarily internal focus to a new era of systems that reach out to suppliers, customers, and a wider range of employees. Incorporating solutions for CRM, supply chain planning, and e-Business are typical ways an ERP supplier adds the necessary functionality.
10 The Sage Group
Interact acquisition furthers broad enterprise footprint
Maverick entrepreneur Victor Kiam was so famously pleased with his Remington electric shaver that he bought the company. Echoing those sentiments, David Butler, president and chief operating officer of Sage Software, Irvine, Calif., relates that Sage Software's parent company was so impressed with the customer relationship management (CRM) software offered by Interact Commerce Corp. that it bought the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company.
Sage Software is one of the sister companies that form the U.S. operations of The Sage Group, a U.K.-based business management software vendor that generated approximately $600 million in revenue its last fiscal year. The addition of Interact's SalesLogix CRM package and its popular ACT! contact manager application to the Sage lineup makes Sage an enterprise application vendor with a broad footprint covering enterprise resources planning (ERP), CRM, and accounting software packages.
Over the years, the Sage Group has racked up a pile of software acquisitions, each with a common thread: companies with strong brands and a hefty market presence in the small- to medium-sized enterprise market in which Sage specializes.
"We're targeting discrete or made-to-order manufacturing companies in the $20-million to $250-million range," says Butler. "In this range, no other vendor offers this much functionality—it's our 'suite spot'," he jokes.
Sage Software offers multiple enterprise systems. These include MAS 90, which is targeted at medium-sized companies with 10 to 500 employees, and features accounting, manufacturing, distribution, and e-commerce functions. MAS 200 offers the same features as MAS 90, but handles higher transaction volumes, and supports multiple databases, including Microsoft SQL Server.
Sage Software also offers the Sage Enterprise Suite, targeted at companies with $25 million to $250 million in annual revenue. The package combines e-commerce, distribution, manufacturing, and accounting functions; and integrates with SalesLogix CRM. Smaller companies are covered by Sage BusinessWorks, which bridges the gap between entry-level products and MAS 90.
11 Geac Computer Corp.
System 21 ERP suite embraces e-Business path
Back from the brink and on a comeback under new ownership: that describes how executives at Geac Computer Corp., the Toronto-based enterprise applications giant, see the last 18 months of life for System 21, Geac's flagship enterprise resources planning (ERP) solution for manufacturers.
Geac acquired System 21 in October 1999 when it purchased U.K.-based JBA International. At the time, the IBM AS/400-based solution enjoyed a reputation for strong vertical market functionality and a proven track record of successful implementations around the world. The only thing lacking was the robust sales that marked the System 21 product as one of the industry's heavy hitters throughout the late 1990s. In the post-Y2K ERP slowdown, System 21 sales dropped precipitously.
Geac management and money stemmed the freefall and began to put the product back on firm footing. "We did well in the Americas last year, but it's been difficult," says Peter Quinn, general manager of the GEAC System 21 Division. "In addition to the general malaise in the ERP market, we have a product that had seemingly disappeared off the map."
Geac developers have been busy re-architecting the product for an e-Business future. "What we're doing is continuing to deliver the business functionality our customers require," Quinn says. "At the same time, we're opening up our product to allow customers and suppliers access to the data being created by System 21.
"The objective of this exercise is to use the Web to allow our customers to tightly integrate their underlying transaction processing 'backbone' into their supply chain," Quinn concludes.
Process-industry focused and e-Business ready
"SCT was vertical before being vertical was cool," says Jim Brown, a vice president with SCT, in summing up the Malvern, Pa.-based enterprise applications vendor's focus. While SCT targets non-manufacturing sectors such as education and government with different solution sets, and draws substantial revenues from these sectors, in manufacturing, it is known for its focus on process industries such as food & beverage, chemicals, consumer packaged goods, and pharmaceuticals.
"A vertical focus works well," says Brown, "because business problems are unique to various industries, and enterprise and e-Business applications need to support those differences."
SCT has renamed and enhanced its enterprise, e-Business, and supply chain management applications under the umbrella name of iProcess.sct. Adage, the company's enterprise resources planning (ERP) suite, serves as the transactional backbone for iProcess.sct. The SCT Internet Business Suite within iProcess.sct includes solutions such as iOrder.sct, a sell-side e-commerce application. The lineup also includes the SCT Fygir Supply Chain Planning Suite, an advanced planning & scheduling application.
According to Brown, iProcess.sct also delivers Web-based customer relationship management capabilities "that put the personalization into automation by providing real-time customer interaction while a customer is on a Web site." The new interactive customer assistance components of iProcess.sct will enable real-time customer interaction through SCT's sell-side e-commerce solution, making it possible for companies to extend Internet commerce applications by providing live, on-line communication and call-center capabilities.
Also new is the iProcess.sct wireless solution, which allows members of a trading network remote access to SCT's e-commerce capabilities.
Vertical focus, alliances, drive growth
Intentia has been a growing presence in the U.S. for some time. The Swedish provider of enterprise resources planning (ERP), supply chain management, and e-Business software believes its open platform approach, e-Business capabilities, vertical focus, and partnerships will drive further growth.
"We are looking for a quantum leap in the U.S. and we are confident about the future when we look at the organizations we're working with now," says Mike Nutter, president and CEO of Intentia Americas, Schaumburg, Ill.
Intentia's ERP and e-Business solution, called Movex, fits many types of manufacturers, but key verticals include food & beverage, industrial goods, electronics, automotive, and steel. Perhaps foremost, Intentia is a fashionable choice for apparel manufacturers. According to Nutter, word has spread within the apparel industry, and companies such as Gucci, Nordstrom, and St. John Knits have deployed Movex. "We're getting an excellent reputation in the fashion industry," says Nutter.
According to Nutter, Movex e-collaborator, announced this year, "extends a manufacturer's ability to interact outside the four walls of the enterprise," and offers important e-Business functionality. Also relatively new is Movex Supply Chain Planner, a solution that also features forecasting and supply chain execution capabilities, and is integrated with Movex.
The company recently crafted an alliance with Atlanta-based Manhattan Associates, a supply chain execution and warehouse management system (WMS) provider, to offer a jointly developed interface between PkMS, Manhattan's WMS, and Movex.
Intentia also struck an alliance with Sun Microsystems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor of servers and server platform technology, to offer Movex on Sun's Solaris platform—a flavor of UNIX—using Sun's Solaris hardware. Intentia also supports IBM's AIX UNIX platform and UNIX servers, in addition to IBM's iServer platform, formerly called AS/400.
The multi-platform capabilities have been around since 1999, when Intentia introduced a Java-based version of Movex. Prior to 1999, Movex was AS/400-based. Java makes it possible to run Movex on multiple platforms, but Intentia has been fairly selective in its server alliances in an effort to ensure solid server options. "The Sun alliance is not a transition away from IBM, but rather, another platform that we offer," says Nutter.
21 Aspen Technology
Showing process manufacturers the real value of e-Business
Cambridge, Mass.-based Aspen Technology—more typically called AspenTech—has been on a mission to spread the virtues of practicing e-Business to companies within the process industries. "The emergence of e-Business is forcing a change in thinking within our market," says David McQuillin, co-chief operating officer of AspenTech. "Companies realize that the true point of competition no longer is one company against another; it's one value chain against another. We are the software vendor best positioned to help process manufacturers plan, manage, and optimize their complete value chains."
AspenTech was formed in 1981 to market solutions that enabled engineers to build software models that simulated complex chemical manufacturing processes. These models enabled engineers to continuously improve—or optimize, as Aspen likes to say—manufacturing processes, even before new plants were opened.
Its customers make old-fashioned "bulk" products like oil & gas, pulp & paper, and industrial chemicals. AspenTech has established itself as a leading supplier of e-Business solutions for these manufacturers. It accomplished that through deft execution of a two-part strategy.
First, it expanded its product line to include applications for optimizing the three major functional areas within any manufacturing enterprise—engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain management. It then built a separate software platform that enables companies to easily share information from those back-end applications with their trading partners—and also conduct transactions—over the Internet.
To combat any remaining skepticism about the value of e-Business, AspenTech recently launched an initiative called ProfitAdvantage. AspenTech says it will help companies:
Boost revenues by as much as 3 percent to 5 percent
Increase profit margins by 1 percent to 5 percent
Reduce working capital by 10 percent to 30 percent
Lower capital expenditures by up to 15 percent.
McQuillin says this kind of program is needed to satisfy what AspenTech sees as the primary reason for purchasing e-Business applications. That is, having the ability to "make decisions more quickly, and then manage the execution of those decisions."
Putting profit optimization into B2B
Manugistics, Rockville, Md., was among the first software companies to market the concept of using advanced mathematical algorithms to manage supply chain processes. The idea, introduced a decade ago, was that optimization engines could help companies find the most cost-effective methods of fulfilling orders, and that would in turn boost their profit margins.
Today, Manugistics advocates applying these same techniques directly to the profit side of the equation. That is the logic behind the enterprise profit optimization (EPO) program that Manugistics launched at the beginning of this year.
EPO helps companies make decisions that will ensure that each order a company fills returns the highest-possible profit. The core piece of technology needed to implement EPO is the same type of optimization engine that drives Manugistics' supply chain management applications.
"Our primary strategy is to be the premier provider of optimization services," says Greg Cudahy, a Manugistics executive vice president. "That includes services for manufacturing and distribution, as well as pricing and revenue optimization."
With Manugistics' solutions, Cudahy says, companies can blend advanced scientific techniques such as supply chain and pricing optimization strategies to make decisions that clearly yield the highest-possible profit margins. "We are offering optimization across the value chain," Cudahy says. "We will be offering capabilities such as profitable-to-promise, which will allow companies to determine their profit spread before committing to delivering an order to a specific customer. With our tools, everything a company does will be profitable."
Manugistics is relying on the EPO program to help sustain its recent strong sales growth. For its 2001 fiscal year, Manugistics reported a 76-percent increase in revenue over the previous year. CEO Greg Owens attributed those numbers to a desire within the manufacturing and distribution space for applications that provide direct impact on a company's profit picture.
Betting on BizWorks as foundation offering
Steady growth and an expanding customer base are watchwords for the software offerings from interBiz, the e-Business applications division of Islandia, N.Y.-based Computer Associates (CA), according to Gary Layton, a vice president for interBiz. Much of that expansion comes from BizWorks, what the division calls its e-Business Process Management Suite.
Announced in April 1999, the BizWorks suite includes enterprise integration, business intelligence, event management, visualization, wireless support, and e-commerce software extensions, as well as Neugents, a neural network-based pattern recognition technology that CA says can spot business problems before they happen. "Neugents looks for patterns or anomalies and has an appetite for significant historical information," says Layton.
BizWorks runs on CA's Jasmine database platform and leverages the company's other technologies, including Unicenter TNG's event management backbone. This year, interBiz also announced an OEM agreement with AnswerChase—an Annapolis, Md.-based developer of intelligent search and advisory systems—to develop and integrate new BizWorks components. This year, the company released BizWorks version 1.1, which includes a "Web bot" called Business Intelligence Agents, a metasearch engine using a natural language processor that scours the Web and populates a system with information from outside the enterprise.
"BizWorks has been influential as a foundation for what manufacturers want to do in e-Business and provides a unified view across disparate business applications," says Layton. "It is supporting various e-commerce initiatives, but the common element each business leverages is BizWork's integration capabilities."
Layton believes BizWorks "has struck a responsive chord in the marketplace by supporting the most significant strategic initiatives of our clients. Not surprisingly, as a result, BizWorks has been one of the most successful product introductions in CA's history."
BizWorks can layer over non-CA applications, but interBiz also has an array of enterprise applications of its own, including enterprise resources planning, supply chain management, and warehouse management systems.
Component-based apps fuel continued growth
IFS isn't a company that shrinks from superlatives. Last year, the self-described fastest-growing provider of large-scale business applications reported global license sales grew 74 percent. This year, first-quarter license sales grew at a very healthy 46-percent clip.
One key to that sales success is a component-based architecture that IFS says means the death of cumbersome Big Bang implementation projects. Now, IFS says, manufacturers can roll out an enterprise implementation in manageable chunks.
"Nobody is doing Big Bangs anymore," observes Bruce Kirschenbaum, director of business solution consulting at the Chicago-based provider of business applications. "We provide a suite of products and services, so you don't have to jump into the bath with both feet. Manufacturers can basically evolve the functionality they need from a strong ERP [enterprise resources planning] backbone. We can select from among 70 components and architect a solution that goes directly to the source of the customer's pain.
"In the mid-market space, we're seeing a new pragmatism," Kirschenbaum continues. "Now, manufacturers are taking a hard look to ensure that applications demonstrate tangible returns."
The company's flagship product, IFS Applications, boasts all the expected ERP functionality and much more. Last fall, when the company launched its latest version, the big news was new e-procurement, customer relationship management (CRM), flow manufacturing, portal, and wireless capabilities.
But the development didn't stop there. Early this year, the company announced an enhanced advanced planning & scheduling (APS) system featuring new Web-based "portlets" to provide improved demand forecasting visibility across the supply chain. In March, IFS rolled out its new eMarkets solution—said to be the only complete marketplace solution for manufacturers—with support for both private and public marketplaces.
Then, in April, the company announced IFS Engage, a portal-based packaged solution for medium-size manufacturers. Engage helps manufacturers quickly extend their enterprise into e-Business, e-CRM, and extended supply chain management in an affordable, step-by-step fashion.
25 Microsoft Great Plains
Powerful parent, alliances fuel bid for mid-market leadership
The biggest news coming out of Microsoft Great Plains, the Fargo, N.D.-based enterprise applications vendor, is its conspicuous new name. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. completed its acquisition of Great Plains this past April.
Microsoft Great Plains offers enterprise resources planning (ERP), e-Business, and financial accounting software. The company says its systems automate business processes across financials, distribution, project accounting, e-commerce, human resources and payroll, manufacturing, and customer relationship management (CRM) functions. The Microsoft Great Plains products are sold and implemented by a network of independent partner organizations.
Under Microsoft's ownership, the 19-year-old Great Plains is a division operating within Microsoft's Productivity and Business Services Group. The company will continue to be based in Fargo and led by Doug Burgum, senior vice president of Microsoft and president of the Great Plains Division, and his current leadership team. Microsoft Great Plains will continue to develop, market, sell, and support the Great Plains branded business applications under the new Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions brand.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft will integrate technologies from both companies and build them out on the .NET platform, which is Microsoft's wide-ranging framework of technologies for Internet-based applications that can be accessed via PCs and wireless devices. The software can be deployed either as Web-based hosted applications or as on-premise, locally managed applications.
The new Microsoft company will continue to target mid-market companies with annual revenues ranging from $1 million to $500 million as well as e-Business. For customer relationship management, CRM, the company partners with Siebel Systems, San Mateo, Calif.
27 SAS Institute
Alliance signals enterprise manufacturing intelligence direction
In a typical manufacturing environment, there is an abundance of data collected. But in many manufacturing companies, much of that data is lying dormant within systems and databases. SAS Institute's mission, according to Donna Fulenwider, director of worldwide strategy, manufacturing and quality sectors, is to access this data and make sense of it.
"There is much emphasis these days on delivering key performance indicators and process metrics up to key management. They need to know when changes and trends occur. This requires information data access and analysis across the manufacturing environment—not just at certain stations or operational levels," says Fulenwider. She indicates that manufacturers need specific mathematical methods to determine where they're headed. "If you don't know where you've been, you're not going to know where you're going," Fulenwider says.
SAS offers what it calls "e-intelligence" to analyze data and make sense of it, across functional areas that include financial management, human resources, quality improvement, customer relationship management, and supplier relationship management.
With more data-generating software systems being installed, like supply chain management, there are myriad systems communicating with each other, often residing on disparate sources and geographically separated. This data needs to be collected, analyzed, and reported. One of the problems, states Fulenwider, is "there's a misconception among some manufacturers that operational systems can somehow give you a lot of that upstream and downstream information. This just isn't true."
Single-source approach for mid-market
Epicor, an Irvine, Calif.-based enterprise and e-Business applications provider for mid-market companies, believes it has the right mix of back-office, front-office, and e-Business functions, delivered under a single-point accountability approach. "Epicor offers a complete range of solutions—e-procurement, portals, B2B [business-to-business], B2C [business-to-consumer] e-commerce storefront functions, and business intelligence capabilities," says John Hiraoka, an Epicor senior vice president.
Epicor sees the mid-market as companies with annual revenues of $10 million to $500 million. Hiraoka characterizes this market as consisting of "agile companies that must move quickly to expand their businesses, that want to minimize risk, and—even more than large companies—want to gain market share rapidly and become industry leaders."
These mid-sized enterprises, he adds, are looking for solutions that are rapid to deploy, and that offer single-point accountability.
"The evolution of e-Business, taken to the next step, is tying in suppliers and customers," says Hiraoka. "We are integrating our solutions, and extending them to enable collaboration. Our solutions encompass new ways of exchanging information among suppliers, customers, and employees—and tying them together into a value chain."
Hiraoka adds that Epicor has "for the past three years tailored our software to meet the needs of specific vertical industries in terms of features, functions, and best practices. We focus on the capital equipment, metal fabrication, and electronics sectors."
Epicor, which was formed via the 1998 merger of Dataworks and Platinum Software, has worked to pare down, integrate, and simplify its product lineup since that deal. For instance, the company's flagship ERP system for manufacturers—known as eManufacturing, powered by Vantage—is part of Epicor's eBackOffice family of solutions. This solutions set also includes warehouse and distribution management systems. Similarly, Epicor offers a broad range of CRM functions under its eFrontOffice branding.
Events, vertical and otherwise
Discussions at Carpinteria, Calif.-based QAD's recent Explore user conference were dominated by two themes running on parallel tracks. On one side were discussions of software functionality specific to the vertical industries where QAD has made its name. These include automotive, consumer packaged goods, medical devices, industrial, electronics, and food & beverage. At the same time, eyes were cast forward to a future of event-driven manufacturing.
President and founder Pam Lopker says that users today have a right to applications that are tailored to their particular needs. "QAD was committed to a vertical market approach long before most of our competitors. It's been a successful strategy for us, and if anything, it's more apropos now than ever," says Lopker.
Technology is now powerful enough, reliable enough, and cheap enough to support one-to-one relationships with customers and trading partners. If that's the case, argues Lopker, why should anyone be satisfied with applications that aren't specifically tailored for the way they do business?
"That's why we've put so much emphasis on the relationship modeling functions in QAD eQ, for example," says Lopker.
Which brings us to our second theme, i.e., how medium-sized manufacturers will prosper in the on-line world. QAD is betting that manufacturers will use Internet technologies not for on-line auctions, but to forge systems and business processes that are responsive to events—whether they be demand events such as a customer order, supply events such as a supply disruption, process events, product events, or others.
Rather than a medium for buying and selling, QAD sees public trade exchanges as vehicles for collaboration with key suppliers or with distribution channels.
The company made several exchange-related announcements at Explore. These included the availability of Supply Visualization (SV) as the first service to be offered by MFGx.net, its public trading exchange. It also explicated its strategy to help manufacturers quickly set up private trade exchanges, centered around QAD eQ.
Lopker believes that private exchanges will be the mechanism by which multi-site enterprises will link together their own operations, as well as to suppliers and customers.
QAD eQ includes commerce relationship management, sell-side, buy-side, and replenishment applications.
By centralizing their e-Business efforts, companies will gain the ability to accept orders from their own private networks as well as from public exchanges, and automate production, outsourcing, and distribution decisions.
Fourth Shift acquisition creates formidable player
Can one-plus-one equal three? Enterprise resources planning (ERP) and e-Business software vendor AremisSoft, Westmont, N.J., believes its recent acquisition of Minneapolis-based Fourth Shift will prove this math, and establish it as a dominant enterprise applications vendor for small- to medium-sized manufacturers.
Fourth Shift brings AremisSoft an installed base of approximately 1,600 manufacturing customers worldwide. "AremisSoft had an ERP solution for manufacturers, but primarily, it was used in the U.K. and Europe. It's only been in the last couple of years that it has gained traction in the U.S.," says Randy Tofteland, president of AremisSoft Manufacturing, the company division targeting manufacturers. "The company was looking to make a much bigger push in the U.S., and acquiring Fourth Shift provides the basis for that. And given the size of Fourth Shift, it had considerable international sales, so that infrastructure is worldwide."
Tofteland knows a thing or two about Fourth Shift, having been its chief operating officer up until the deal closed in early May. The vast majority of Fourth Shift employees remain intact, Tofteland says, and are enthusiastic about being part of a larger vendor.
The division's core product development teams will be working to enhance both Fourth Shift 7.1, the ERP solution from the former Fourth Shift, as well as aremis enterprise, AremisSoft's ERP solution for manufacturers. Two versions of aremis enterprise are offered: aremis ease, geared for rapid implementation by smaller and emerging companies; and aremis evolution, geared toward larger mid-sized companies. "Some functions, such as enterprise portal technology, will be made common, but the products will continue," says Tofteland.
Tofteland notes that Fourth Shift 7.2, due for release later this summer, will feature a Web-based user interface for all application functions. He adds that managers at AremisSoft and the former Fourth Shift believe Web-centric, extended enterprise systems are the future.
"The top managers at both companies share many of the same philosophies about enterprise solutions," he says. "We believe that the key is to continually strengthen back-office functionality, while extending enterprise information out to the Internet."
31 Macola Software
Backed by Exact, Macola sees bright future
Life is good in Marion, Ohio—home to Macola Software. While many enterprise system providers report declining revenues and scaled-back development efforts, Macola is going aggressively in the opposite direction. No wonder Bruce Hollinger, the company's long-time president, is smiling.
Behind the surprisingly sunny news is the acquisition of Macola by Exact Holding, a Dutch provider of e-Business and enterprise software. Hollinger believes the deal, announced in February, gives Macola a big edge over its traditional competitors in the small- to mid-sized enterprise resources planning (ERP) system market in three key areas.
First, there's the matter of company size. With the tough economic climate, Hollinger believes many manufacturers will seek the security of a larger technology partner. "Macola now is part of a nearly $200-million public company with almost 2,000 people worldwide," Hollinger says. "We've already closed a number of deals because we're a bigger organization now."
Second, the combined organizations offer an expanded solution footprint. The Exact contribution to the partnership is called e-Synergy, a suite of Web-based customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.
"Our next step is to integrate e-Synergy with our back-office Progression Series ERP solution. With e-Synergy, we have a 100-percent Web-based CRM solution," Hollinger says.
Third, the newly expanded Macola now enjoys broader geographic coverage for both sales and support. "We're typically dealing with small- to mid-size customers who need information technology assistance," Hollinger says. "The real attraction of dealing with Macola is that wherever you're buying our product, there likely are local resources."
While the acquisition news took center stage this year, Macola wasn't just sitting around waiting to be purchased. In July 2000, the company introduced Web.Orders, which provides on-line product configuration capabilities, as well as the ability to accept and process orders. Last fall, Macola rolled out its new, higher-performance Microsoft SQL Server-based product.
32 SSA Global Technologies
International sales, renewed strategy underpin comeback bid
SSA Global Technologies, Chicago, Illinois, underwent some difficult times over the past few years. The company had been offering an enterprise resources planning (ERP) system on the AS/400 platform for more than a decade, when in 1996 it ported its software to a UNIX platform. Soon after this transition—which Michael Greenough, the company's newly appointed CEO, describes as having been "excruciating and expensive"—the company, then called System Software Associates, watched its annual sales plummet from about $400 million in 1998 to $179 million in 2000.
The drop in revenue, coupled with the debt incurred from the platform transition, forced SSA to file Chapter 11 in July 2000. Subsequently, a private investor group that includes Cerberus Capitol and Gores Technologies Group purchased most of the company's assets, and it was renamed SSA Global Technologies, or SSA GT for short. Despite the turmoil, Greenough says he expects SSA GT to make a comeback as a "lean and profitable" software vendor.
With 6,500-plus installations worldwide and operations in more than 70 countries, as well as support for 20 languages, SSA GT has a big installed base to work from. BPCS, the company's core product, is an ERP suite that encompasses multi-mode processes, discrete and lean manufacturing, and assemble-to-order and make-to-order operations.
The vendor also offers SSA GT Process Manager, which Greenough describes as "a comprehensive system for automating change in an organization."
While Greenough says the company is "currently profitable" due to strong sales in the Asia-Pacific and European markets, he hopes to grow the company using a two-part business strategy, stating, "I'm working toward a new business strategy that will focus on developing more customer share within our existing customer base, and creating one comprehensive system that will focus on our core markets in the automotive, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage industries."
35 Cincom Systems
Supports collaboration for complex product manufacturers
For years, Cincinnati-based enterprise applications vendor Cincom Systems has focused on meeting the needs of manufacturers of complex products, according to Jerry Miller, managing director, strategic business solutions for Cincom. With the introduction of CONTROL:2001, the company's Web-based enterprise resources planning (ERP) foundation for e-Business, says Miller, Cincom is "providing a solid base for [complex manufacturers] to use the Internet as they move forward in e-Business and collaboration."
Cincom plans to release a Microsoft Windows 2000-compatible version of CONTROL:2001 this summer. Previously running under Windows NT and UNIX operating systems, the software now will be able to take advantage of the Windows 2000 platform. Cincom also has built in support for BizTalk, Microsoft's eXtensible markup language-based integration software product.
Business processes used by manufacturers of complex products—which can range from engineer-to-order to repetitive modes of operation—are different than those of other discrete manufacturers, according to Dan Nichols, Cincom's director of product planning, strategic business solutions.
"When people think of collaboration, they jump to the buy side," Nichols says. While complex manufacturers also relate to buy-side issues like other manufacturers, he believes, "Complex manufacturers are doing a tremendous amount of collaboration in the design phase, including configuration management, program management, and engineering change management. He adds that he believes a system such as CONTROL:2001, which allows manufacturers to publish events internally and externally to other systems and other users, supports this broader range of collaborative commerce functions.
"Cincom's focus in 2001 has been to deliver to a specific market segment," says Miller. "We emphasize the value of verticalization, and the success of our customers in overcoming their unique challenges."
Merger complete, major ERP release coming
Phase one of the Navision launch in the U.S. is complete, and now the company is gearing up for bigger things. The Danish provider of enterprise resources planning (ERP) solutions has enjoyed a long and substantial presence among small- to medium-size organizations in Europe. However, until recently, the company operated relatively quietly in the U.S., laying a foundation for future growth.
The story began approximately seven years ago, when Navision established a U.S. subsidiary with offices in an Atlanta suburb. During the early years, the company focused on signing up a few key resellers, selling the Navision Financials product, and establishing a notable customer base.
The story didn't change much until last year. That's when Navision merged with Damgaard (another Danish-based ERP provider); established co-CEOs; combined product lines; signed up additional key resellers; and began aggressively establishing the Navision brand.
The job of guiding Navision through this transition falls to John Frederiksen, a seven-year veteran with Navision, and newly named CEO of the U.S. organization. He's coming to the job at the same time demand for ERP appears to be evaporating at a rate on par with the economic decline.
Even so, Frederiksen remains confident. "We have to do a better job of telling customers what's in it for them, but we're still seeing solid demand for our products," he says. "That's because we have a high-quality solution that can be implemented quickly. And, we have brought on more resellers to sell and implement the product."
Thanks to the merger with Damgaard last year, Navision now has two product lines—Navision Financials, and what used to be known as Damgaard Axapta (now Navision Axapta). Between the two lines, the company now offers a product for manufacturers across a broad spectrum of sizes—from $5 million to $250 million.
"Practical innovation" extends ERP value
Call it old-fashioned...call it corny. But the people at MAPICS, the Atlanta-based enterprise solutions vendor, truly believe in traditional values like partnership, satisfaction, stability, and dependability. If that seems out-of-place in the go-go software industry, so be it.
Last year, this basic approach helped offset a dip in sales for the company's flagship enterprise resources planning (ERP) solution—the IBM iSeries-based MAPICS XA product. Another key to the company's performance was a strategic acquisition that positioned the company to compete for business in the open systems market.
"We put in a pretty solid performance last year," says Dick Cook, president and CEO. "I think that's because we understand manufacturing very well. Our approach is to deliver what manufacturers need to compete effectively—from the applications out. Instead of changing to MAPICS.com, we are focused on opening and extending our applications so that all their data and business processes remain in place as they enter the world of e-Business."
MAPICS calls this approach practical innovation. "We've got stuff that's every bit as state-of-the-art as anything in the marketplace," Cook says. "But what mid-size manufacturers are looking for goes beyond that. They have relatively small IT [information technology] shops, so they would rather have a turnkey solution that solves a business problem.
If practical innovation describes MAPICS' philosophy, practical integration might well describe its acquisitions. When the company acquired PivotPoint in January 2000, the industry took note of the many similarities between the two organizations—similarities that would lead to an easy integration of the companies and the product lines.
"Both companies focused on the mid-market in manufacturing," says Cook, "and on providing practical, innovative solutions to real challenges. But where MAPICS used to sell only to manufacturers with a preference for the IBM AS/400 platform, we can now sell to manufacturers with a preference for the AS/400, or NT, or UNIX, or LINUX platform."
Extending through the front office
The name change says it all. During the past year, Symix became Frontstep, a moniker that captures the company's emphasis on front-office applications that help companies connect more effectively with their customers. Once primarily an enterprise resources planning (ERP) vendor, the Columbus, Ohio-based company has moved into the hot territories of customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management.
"The game has switched from ERP to collaborative commerce, so we have expanded our offering over the past 24 months to include front-office and sales force operations," says Stephen Sasser, president and CEO of Frontstep. "We help a company find an order and fill that order. We've integrated the front office with the back office and the supply chain."
Frontstep's shift to sales, marketing, and service automation matches the change in e-commerce from indirect materials procurement to areas such as strategic sourcing, channel management, and supplier enablement. Saving a nickel on copy paper is simply not as meaningful to most companies as is the ability to serve their customers more effectively.
Frontstep concentrates on mid-size distributors and manufacturers. The company was one of the first mid-market-focused enterprise system vendors to acquire an advanced planning & scheduling vendor, and for years, has supported CRM functions including product configuration. "We definitely cover discrete sectors, with a strength in make-to-order manufacturing," says Sasser.
Frontstep's essential aim is to help its customers buy and sell goods over the Internet, which includes on-line collaboration with customers, suppliers, distributors, and employees. Frontstep also works with customers to make internal operations more efficient and to manage the overall operations more effectively.
"We want to help our customers understand how to get the ROI [return-on-investment] from their IT investment," says Sasser. "Our solutions are very pragmatic."
45 BRAIN International
Automotive-only ERP, plus B2B communications
Offering automotive sector-focused enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems has allowed BRAIN International to build up Web-based software capabilities and supply chain domain expertise communication, say company managers. Now BRAIN, a German software vendor with North American headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., is offering a suite of automotive-focused supply chain applications that integrate with multiple ERP systems.
The change, says David Van Noord, a BRAIN North America vice president, was partly a way of expanding the company's market opportunity, and partly a response to customer requests. "We have customers with numerous sites, and while in many of them they run one of our ERP solutions, in others, they have legacy systems or systems from another vendor that they aren't planning to replace," Van Noord says.
The result is BRAIN's e-Automotive Suite of B2B communication and collaboration applications, which includes SupplyWEB Enterprise, a Web-based system for communicating procurement, shipment, payment, supplier performance, and other types of information. "SupplyWEB handles nearly every type of communication a company has with its suppliers," says Van Noord.
SupplyWEB also eliminates the need for all of company's suppliers to install and maintain expensive electronic data interchange (EDI) connectivity, says Van Noord. "Sophisticated suppliers may still use EDI, but for smaller suppliers, communication can be handled via SupplyWEB."
Just-in-Sequence (JIS), another component of the suite, supports the requirements placed on automotive suppliers of "sequenced" products. With such products, the way that parts orders and deliveries are planned, managed, and communicated need to be matched up precisely with customers' assembly schedules and processes.
BRAIN continues to enhance and win business with its two automotive-focused ERP packages, says Van Noord. The two suites are Xpert Manufacturing System, which runs on IBM's iServer platform; and TRANS4M, which runs on UNIX and Windows NT server platforms. BRAIN gained the TRANS4M solution when it acquired CMI-Competitive Solutions in September 1999.
48 Kewill Systems
Small- to medium-size market-focused ERP suites support e-manufacturing
While U.K.-based Kewill Systems is well known for its e-commerce and shipping management solutions, Kewill, the company's division that offers enterprise resources planning (ERP) software packages, is a major force in the Tier 3 and Tier 2 manufacturing markets. The Minneapolis-based division offers two flagship ERP solutions aimed at small- to medium-sized manufacturers: MAX and JobBOSS.
Additionally, Kewill recently furthered its lineup via its May acquisition of Alliance Manufacturing Software, a provider of ERP solutions to emerging manufacturers with annual revenues of $1 million to $15 million. "The acquisition of Alliance demonstrates our commitment to broadening our reach in the Tier 3 marketplace, and gives us one of the largest installed bases in the world," says Allen Peterson, president of Kewill.
The division's products have different strengths. JobBOSS, for instance, is aimed at job shops and make-to-order manufacturers that place high priority on being able to track actual cost and labor. MAX has a broader-based appeal, aiming at discrete and mixed-mode manufacturers in make-to-stock, make-to-order, and repetitive environments. MAX offers integrated applications that include material requirements planning, advanced planning & scheduling, product configuration, and customer relationship management.
Kewill's small- to medium-sized enterprise focus, along with cost-efficient operations, have led to solid profitably, even with the sour U.S. economy. "We've seen a slowdown in demand for both our products, sure, but we've remained profitable—earning around 13 percent on revenue, which is a lot more than some of our competitors have achieved," Peterson says.
In part, this is due to Kewill's approach to sales, he adds. "We do a lot of business over the phone and over the Internet—it gives us a better cost model than our competitors," says Peterson. "Overall, Kewill is around 40 percent of Kewill Systems' North American revenues, and a lot more of the profit."
An inside job with a building-block approach
If a certain computer-chip manufacturer hadn't already trademarked a similar line, ILOG could use the tagline, "ILOG inside."
That's because ILOG, based in Paris and with North American headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., makes software components that other companies use to create business applications. "We provide building blocks for application developers," is how Bill Scull, an ILOG vice president, puts it. "These building blocks help you get applications to market quicker and cheaper, and with our components, you also get functionality that you otherwise would not be able to get into your applications."
Most of ILOG's components are used in applications that optimize business processes, such as supply chain planning packages. Recently, ILOG also has branched out to create components that drive visualization applications, as well as components that can be used to map business rules.
Currently, more than 260 independent software vendors (ISV) deploy ILOG components in their applications. Scull says that list includes seven of the top 11 supply chain management vendors. ILOG also sells its components to individual businesses that wish to create their own custom applications.
Scull says ILOG's growth is the result of several factors, starting with the maturation of contracts with its ISV customers. Those agreements typically call for ILOG to receive royalty payments after the ISV begins to realize revenue from a product based on ILOG technology. "We are in the payoff stage with a lot of these customers, particularly in the supply chain management space," Scull says, adding, "and many of their products are starting to hit their stride."
55 Scala Business Solutions
Rethinks iScala unit in favor of an ERP II approach
For proof that the present economic turbulence has been felt internationally, look no further than enterprise resources planning (ERP) and e-Business software vendor Scala Business Solutions, headquartered in Amsterdam. "The last 12 months represents a period of consolidation," admits Erik Haas, a Scala vice president.
Employee headcount has fallen from 1,200 to around 600, and groups such as customer support and R&D have been reorganized. "We've worked hard on the cost base," says Haas. "It was way too high."
The contrast is stark. Last year, the company was caught up in the frenzy of the dot-com boom, and busily promoting the prospects of its e-commerce application division, called iScala. This year, iScala—at least as a separate entity—is no more. "iScala was a reflection of the hype around e-Business, and our attempt to differentiate our offerings in the e-Business sector from those in the traditional ERP market," says Haas. "Now, with the dot-com bubble collapsing, things look different."
The iScala functionality still remains, Haas stresses, but iScala itself is simply an extension of the company's back-office capability.
The change in emphasis can be seen in the company's product lineup. Scala release 5.1 contains traditional logistics, manufacturing, financials, and project management and service management offerings. iScala offerings are represented by products such as the iScala Global Commerce Server, which allows customers to interface with Scala's back-office capability to buy products and services over the Web; the iScala Data Exchange Server, which automates transactions with trading partners; and a thin-client Web Deployment package for using Scala products over the Internet.
The consolidation process also has extended to Scala's marketing and distribution process. As part of the streamlining, the company has pruned its organization, which had more than 50 wholly owned sales offices around the world. Now there are just 26, with local distributors handling the rest.
56 Lilly Software Associates
Transitioning to expand market reach
Still profitable. Still delivering new solutions. Still independent. That's the report card on Lilly Software Associates, the Hampton, N.H.-based provider of enterprise resources planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) solutions.
Staying at about the same revenue figure as the prior year—as Lilly Software did in 2000—may not sound like a real exciting story. Yet compared with the closings and cutbacks that dot the software industry landscape, even flat revenues qualify as a good story. "Last year was a transition year in the wake of Y2K," notes Scott Rich, a Lilly Software vice president. "We are now ahead of goal and definitely on an upswing. One thing that's different now is that most of the prospects don't seem quite so caught up in the bells and whistles. What they really want is a strong, long-term technology partner."
They also tend to want competitive pricing, solutions that deliver results, and rapid implementation times. After approximately 10 years serving the $10- to-$200 million end of the manufacturing market, Lilly believes it has a pretty good handle on what companies are looking for.
"Our model is to provide a fully integrated, best-of-breed solution," Rich says. "Our new CRM [customer relationship management] package is integrated. Our quality management, distribution, manufacturing, and e-Business solutions are all integrated into one suite of applications. You don't have to work with an army of consultants to figure out how to integrate all the pieces. Plus, we offer low total cost-of-ownership."
The big hit of the year was VISUAL CRM, part of the VISUAL Manufacturing suite. Just four months after announcing the new product, Lilly reported 65 sales. "CRM and e-Business solutions have been the real drivers in the sales cycle this year," Rich notes.
The new product automates marketing campaigns, provides sales force automation tools, and configures quotes and proposals. "For many manufacturers, our field service functionality is big," Rich says. "Because the CRM is fully integrated, we're able to show availability of field service resources and repair parts, and we can integrate scheduling from within the core system."
Another relatively new offering is VISUAL TMS, for transportation management. "Our supply chain solution suite doesn't end at the shipping dock," Rich says. "TMS facilitates the shipping process, and by shopping rates from multiple carriers, helps cut the cost of freight. Now, customers can track progress of orders from order management, through the factory, and out through the transportation system."
ERP and e-Business vendor targets mid-market
Emile Hamou, CEO of Adonix, is smiling broadly. Privately held Adonix—based in Paris and with U.S. headquarters in Sewickley, Pa.—is in a Emile Hamou, CEO of Adonix, is smiling broadly. Privately held Adonix—based in Paris and with U.S. headquarters in Sewickley, Pa.—is in a sweet spot, he reckons. After taking the plunge two years ago and making a substantial investment in largely rewriting the company's Adonix X3 enterprise resources planning (ERP) offering to make it Web-based, Adonix is weathering the present troubled economy in good shape.
"As far as Europe goes, it's too early for us to be experiencing a downturn," Hamou says. "In the U.S., we're too far from market saturation, and have too few competitors to really suffer any pain. For the time being, our problem remains deployment, not sales."
One doesn't have to delve too deeply into Adonix's strategies to see that Hamou's attitude appears well founded. The 20-year old company seems to have the good fortune to turn natural constraints to its own advantage—especially in today's straitened economic circumstances.
Early on in the company's growth, for example, Adonix made a conscious decision to avoid having a direct presence in most foreign markets, and to go for distribution through partners. This has the advantage of keeping a lid on costs, of course, but Hamou points to another benefit. "Selling through partners calls for a higher level of quality, product support, and documentation," he says. "The initial investment is higher in the short-term, but the benefit is felt long-term."
Similarly, Hamou adds, the focus on mid-sized customers once again forces a higher level of quality and support. "Our strategy is to cover many different markets with one tight product suite, and not as a series of inter-connected applications. At this size of company, the customer is less skilled, and has fewer staff. The product has to work in native mode, without fixes."
Adonix has deliberately eschewed the expansionist policies that have bogged down so many smaller software companies, and has concentrated on a handful of core markets, including southern Europe and the U.S. It's this kind of focus, Hamou believes, that will keep Adonix successful.
Advocates enterprise-strength B2B
Nearly every enterprise system vendor talks about business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce capabilities, but to Glovia, a Los Angeles, Calif.-based enterprise resources planning (ERP) and e-Business software company, the world is divided into providers of "B2B lite," versus "B2B heavy" functionality.
"B2B lite has been around for a long time in the form of Web storefront technology that supports customers placing orders on a Web site," says James Gore, a Glovia vice president. "We're focused on B2B heavy—which comes down to support for true enterprise business transactions."
Glovia, which always was partly owned by Fujitsu, the Japanese computer giant, became wholly owned by the company in the spring of 2000. But Glovia began its move to Web-based solutions even before this shift took place, and now believes it has in place a heavy-duty B2B solution.
According to Gore, rather than just order-taking, B2B heavy involves Web-based capabilities across functions such as contractual price negotiations, performance statistics, quality issues, complex ordering algorithms, complex product configuration, scheduling, resource allocation, and supplier/customer collaboration. Glovia also believes these capabilities need to be rapidly deployable. "We need to show a return-on-investment in months, not years," Gore says.
Gore contends that an important driver in enterprise systems choice is that the underlying technology be as "future-proof" as possible. "Nobody can guarantee the future, but at least the technology should allow you to morph and adapt to changes as painlessly as possible," says Gore.
Another emphasis for Glovia is providing the capabilities in its Glovia.com ERP solution that allow manufacturers to present one face to the customer. "Very few companies can truly say they have that," says Gore. "We call it the global order management scenario."
While Glovia serves customers in several verticals, the focus is on the engineer-to-order capital equipment markets, automotive, and electronics. Glovia's targets within electronics include precision, industrial, high-tech, and consumer electronics. "Any electronics marketplace where you need revision control and 30-digit part numbers, that's where we are," says Gore.
66 Syspro Group
Delivers on strategic e-fulfillment vision
Syspro Impact Software, the U.S. unit of Syspro Group, is known for IMPACT Encore, its enterprise resources planning (ERP) solution for small- to mid-sized enterprises, but it also wants to be known as a vendor that enables suppliers to excel via the use of supply chain management applications. To this end, Syspro has expanded its solutions footprint with applications such as customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce, and supply chain planning and execution software.
This expanded footprint helps manufacturers pursue a concept Syspro calls Strategic (e)Fulfillment, says Joey Benadretti, a Syspro vice president. "Today, we are focusing on streamlining technology for small- to mid-size manufacturers, giving them a fully integrated, interactive supply chain solution," he says.
Syspro's integrated CRM, ERP, and e-Business functionality allows suppliers to better service customers, contends Benadretti. "Salespeople using our products can check with their factories via the Internet, see what is on the shop floor, and tell customers exactly when their orders will be filled," he says
Benadretti cites Web enablement as a key accomplishment for Syspro. "From a product standpoint, our expansion into this area creates a stronger interaction between single and multi-site establishments, their customers, and their supply chains," he says. Web-enablement supports functions such as Internet-based order management and status checking.
A new offering from Syspro is e.net solutions, which works in conjunction with IMPACT Encore. In essence, e.net solutions provides a standard way of directly accessing the functionality within the ERP system, and in such a way that does not compromise its business rules and security. The solution—which delivers the system's functionality as discrete objects of code—supports capabilities such as integrated e-commerce Web sites, access to ERP data via wireless devices, and integration with best-of-breed applications
An evolution is underway in information visibility, says Benadretti, citing new solutions such as mobile access to ERP data. "We're giving enterprises the capability for 360-degree visibility, which means managers can make business decisions based on current information spanning the breadth of the operations," he says. "In this kind of economy, managers need that real-time information to make critical business decisions."
Optimization plus collaboration for order management
This year's stock market slide forced Adexa to change its strategy for challenging the top-tier supply chain management vendors.
Instead of going public to raise working capital, Los Angeles-based Adexa agreed to be acquired by FreeMarkets, a supplier of e-procurement and Internet marketplace technology with headquarters in Pittsburgh. However, given all the turbulence in high-tech markets, the acquisition has fallen through. Adexa says all the turbulence hasn't changed some basic facts.
"We are still focused on our three pillars of value: optimization, collaboration, and business process automation," CEO Cyrus Hadavi said in a recent interview. To support those three pillars, Adexa offers a full set of supply chain management applications, including functionality for forecasting demand and planning production across a supply chain.
In the spring of 2000, Adexa introduced its iCollaboration suite, which is a set of tools for conducting joint supply chain planning activities with trading partners via the Internet. This suite also contains a workflow component that can be used to create and execute collaborative business processes.
Earlier this year, Adexa introduced a new version of the iCollaboration suite with four new e-Business applications. Adexa calls these applications Collaborative Order Manager, Collaborative Procurement Manager, Collaborative Supply Chain Manager, and Supply Chain Integrator.
Hadavi says manufacturers need the components in the iCollaboration suite of collaborative tools because conducting business "is not an isolated process."
"Every time your demand changes, it has an impact throughout your value chain," Hadavi says. "That is why companies need both buy-side and sell-side solutions, as well as applications for customer relationship management, demand planning, order management, and capabilities like order tracking and available-to-promise."
With Adexa's Supply Chain Manager, Hadavi says, companies also get "a cockpit" through which they can evaluate overall supply chain performance, including the performance of individual suppliers. This monitoring, which should lead to continuous process improvement, is part of what Adexa refers to as total procurement life-cycle management.
Working now as partners rather than as part of the same company, combining the FreeMarkets e-Sourcing platform with Adexa's supply chain management software will provide the ability to configure, design, and manage an entire supply chain. "That is the essence of total procurement life-cycle management," Hadavi says.
71 ProfitKey International
Kicks out the cobwebs with "ERP for Free" program
When you hear the name ProfitKey International, what terms come to mind? Solid? Steady?
Get ready for a shock. The Salem, N.H.-based provider of enterprise resources planning (ERP), manufacturing execution, and supply chain management software is shaking things up in the mid-tier market. After a ho-hum 2000, with sales up slightly, ProfitKey is poised to make some noise.
"We knew we needed to do something very aggressive," explains Joseph Vinhais, a company vice president, "so we developed a program that put our money where our mouth is."
The result was ERP for Free, a promotion that includes the full Rapid Response Manufacturing (RRM) ERP system for unlimited users, 10 days of services and training, and yearly maintenance, for $35,000. "There are no license fees and this includes all travel and expenses," Vinhais says. "Then you have six months to run the product and if you're not satisfied, you get your money back."
This is all part of the new-look ProfitKey that's building on existing strengths and adding new areas of expertise and growth. "We have a three-prong game plan," Vinhais says. "First, we're already synonymous with ERP solutions, and we will continue to build on that reputation with new solutions and new initiatives."
"The second prong of our plan is to establish ourselves as a true player in the manufacturing execution system [MES] space," Vinhais says. MES provides the infrastructure to do the data collection and distribution of real-time shop floor data. That's why people are so excited about this."
The third prong of the ProfitKey game plan revolves around participation in public trading exchanges. "Our value proposition is that we represent the manufacturers to the exchanges," Vinhais explains. "This goes beyond just information offering. We've been inside each manufacturer, so we know what equipment, what certifications, and what capabilities they possess."
See the entire supply chain
SynQuest is a supply chain management (SCM) software supplier with a slightly different approach.
Tim Harvey, president of Atlanta-based SynQuest, says, "We are focused primarily on decision support surrounding logistics, but we are not a transportation management company. We take a holistic view of the supply chain. The idea is to help companies decide how they can reduce their operational costs and still satisfy customer demand." Those decisions can relate to any aspect of supply chain operations—from strategies for acquiring raw materials, to planning production, distribution and transportation of finished goods, or even methods of sharing information with trading partners.
Like other SCM vendors, SynQuest deploys optimization technology, essentially computer models that use advanced mathematical algorithms, to synthesize data in a manner that allows users to make quick decisions on what often are complex problems. But Harvey says SynQuest's technology puts it in a position to complement rather than compete with some of the larger SCM suppliers such as i2 Technologies and Manugistics. "We can take information from their products and actually add value to that information for our customers," he says, "by looking at the cost associated with executing specific operations."
While other SCM vendors were touting their platforms for building Web-based trading communities, Harvey says SynQuest Web-enabled its products, but it concentrated on using those products to solve specific business problems. That led to the development of two new products.
One is an Inbound Planning Engine that helps companies develop optimal strategies for getting raw materials to their plants. "This is a problem that has never been addressed before," Harvey says.
SynQuest's other new product is Dynamic Sourcing Engine, which lets companies get input on capabilities and capacity from all of their trading partners when determining how they will acquire the appropriate resources to meet customer demand. Harvey says these new products complement SynQuest's existing line of optimization engines, which handle functions ranging from designing a supply chain to providing customers with active order-promise dates.
78 Made2Manage Systems
Solving business problems for the mid-size market
Made2Manage Systems built its business by targeting small and medium-sized manufacturers with an enterprise resources planning (ERP) system that stressed ease of use. Today, the Indianapolis-based company emphasizes that same theme, but it is applied to a much broader range of solutions that include supply chain management, customer relationship management (CRM), business intelligence, and e-Business software.
"Today, we are an enterprise applications vendor, not just an ERP or back-office system vendor, but we still target the same market with the same philosophy behind our applications," says David Wortman.
"Whether it's ERP or collaborative commerce, we're trying to make it easier for our customers to solve business problems."
According to Wortman, the company is watching expenses closely, but also believes it has made the necessary investments in research and development to position itself for continued growth. Part of this effort has gone toward updating its core ERP package. For example, a Microsoft SQL Server edition of the package is available, and a new function for speeding order entry was recently added.
Made2Manage also has put considerable investment into new Web-based solutions such as M2MVIP, a hosted collaborative commerce service that offers customer- and supplier-facing portal functions. Since last fall, 75 companies have signed up for the service.
Tier 3 manufacturers have three top concerns regarding the Internet, Wortman contends. "First is to increase the visibility of their products on the Web, and grow sales," he says. "Second, they want to tighten relationships with their customers, and the way to do that is by sharing information via the Web. Third, they want to streamline their organization and processes to combat cost and lead-time pressures.
"Manufacturers in our market are going through a lot of changes," says Wortman. "Companies need updated back-office systems. That's the foundation, but they also need the applications and tools that will allow them to grow sales, get closer to customers, and better plan and synchronize their supply chain operations. At Made2Manage, we offer solutions for all these needs today."
Targets the small- and medium-size market
With the economy at the brink of recession, and businesses slashing spending, many technology vendors face a stormy future. Yet Logility CEO Mike Edenfield sees a golden opportunity for his Atlanta-based company to market its business-to-business (B2B) collaborative supply chain products.
Why the silver lining in the dark clouds of an economic downturn? Edenfield believes that in the current climate, customers will forego elaborate, expensive supply chain solutions in favor of cheaper, off-the-shelf applications. "We think companies are reluctant to do two-year, $50-million projects," he adds. "They will want to do something where they can see a return in six months. That's our strength."
Over the last year, Logility has made several additions to its Voyager supply chain suite. New products include Voyager XES, which enables collaborative transportation management between trading partners; and Logility i-community, which allows a network of partners to collaborate on sales forecasts and replenishment plans. In March, Logility also unveiled Voyager Navigate for supply chain event management, and Voyager Collaborate for collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment (CPFR) initiatives.
Logility has captured several large customers, including ConAgra, Heineken, Sprint PCS, and Sony Electronics. "The great thing about our product is how scalable it is," says Edenfield. But with the supply chain solution market for small and medium-sized businesses largely untapped, he sees an opportunity for Logility to seize a niche. "We think we can be the dominant player in the small- and medium-sized business segment."
That is why Logility has been aggressively partnering with several large vendors. "Our emphasis is on partners who can expand our sales and distribution," says Edenfield. Logility has allied with Great Plains, an enterprise resources planning vendor recently acquired by Microsoft. Edenfield sees the deep penetration of Microsoft Great Plains in the small- and medium-sized business market as an excellent gateway for Logility to dominate those niches.
Sticking to what's real
"We had a good year and we're still here. If we were called harrisdata.com, we would probably be gone," says Al Seyler, CEO of HarrisData, a Brookfield, Wis.-based vendor of enterprise resources planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution system (MES) software. But HarrisData isn't gone and the decimation of the dot-coms had little affect on the vendor, its revenues, or its strategy.
For HarrisData, the sweet spot has been IBM AS/400, and now, development on the rebranded iSeries platform. The company's specialty is serving up business application solutions to small- and medium-size manufacturers and distributors. HarrisData targets manufacturers that do not have a large information technology staff. "These companies simply don't have the people to evaluate, implement, and create software and all kinds of wonderful modifications," says Seyler.
IBM's rebranding of its computer line last year was viewed as a positive event for HarrisData. "IBM's move to a high standard of integration is important for us," Seyler says. "It is important for these companies to have a seamless, integrated system, and not five different best-of-breed packages that they have to pay an army of people to integrate and keep operating," he says.
Two years ago, HarrisData made the decision to rewrite its code utilizing ILE RPG (integrated language environment for RPG development on the AS/400). "ILE essentially was designed for the iSeries," comments Seyler, adding, "so that put us in a base platform that opened up many things."
But sticking to the same strategy does not mean standing still product-wise. This year HarrisData announced that all of its screens and systems will be browser-based. "We re-architected the entire product," says Seyler, rather than taking a screen-scraper approach.
The browser-based applications promise to save time for order takers "who spend a lot of hours answering silly questions. Now they get answers to these questions on a 24x7 basis, straight out of a core system that the manufacturer can trust," says Seyler.
84 Friedman Corp.
Hones in on dimensional configuration needs
Friedman Corp., a member of the Constellation Software group of companies, has a clearly defined niche. "We would like to be viewed as a company that offers enterprise system solutions for discrete manufacturers with complex configuration requirements, especially those with dimensional product characteristics. That's where we excel," says Craig Yamauchi, CEO and president of the Deerfield, Ill.-based company.
Yamauchi explains that custom configuration is needed for products like doors, windows, furniture, cupboards, and recreational vehicles. But most enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems cannot handle the complexity involved, he contends. "Because of this, as recently as eight years ago, custom meant only features and options," says Yamauchi.
Wanting to provide a solution for "to-order" discrete manufacturers, Friedman created an ERP architecture around the configuration concept. "We don't use part numbers, but dynamically created configuration codes," Yamauchi says. "Every combination ordered via the system will have a unique number."
It's important, Yamauchi says, that Web-enabled ERP solutions tap into a product configuration engine and integrated ERP database. Often, customers ordering products over the Internet deal only with front-end electronic catalogs.
Because of the complexity of the work, the configuration process creates voluminous transactions. "Customers may handle 2,000 orders per day, which represent two to three million transactions," Yamauchi says.
While offering its Frontier ERP solution on IBM's iSeries—in 2000, Friedman acquired First Systech, which extended its configuration-based functionality to the NT and UNIX platforms.
86 CMS Manufacturing Systems
Value message hits the mark in mid-size market
Maybe mom was right: with every dark cloud there's a silver lining. Despite the economic gloom that has settled on the market for enterprise resources planning (ERP) solutions, CMS Manufacturing Systems is more than holding its own.
"No question, it was a difficult market last year, but we were up somewhat across the board," reports Brian Angle, a vice president for the Toronto-based provider of what it calls integrated manufacturing software. "Last year we closed nearly 50 new accounts and finished the year very strong."
The key for CMS appears to be value. "The good news for us is that in tough times, buyers tend to gravitate to a high-value package," Angle says. "For years, we've been successful in the small- to medium-size market by keeping our overhead down and delivering highly functional software for half the price of our competitors."
Another key is the rock-solid reputation of the IBM iSeries servers (formerly called the AS/400) that power CMS applications. "This is absolutely the most reliable server for running enterprise applications," Angle notes. "If a manufacturer really is looking for the best function, value, and reliability, we will nearly always win the business. If they value high image or trendy, sex-and-sizzle demos, there will always be competitors who will spend more presentation time in delivering those images than we will."
That's not to say that Version 5.0 of the company's CMS/400 Integrated Manufacturing System is dull. In fact, the new release boasts a fully integrated, Web-enabled business system that supports customer service, supply chain management, logistics, and manufacturing operations in a multi-site, multi-lingual, and multi-currency environment. There also is a Java-based advanced planning & scheduling tool with a graphical user interface.
CMS continued the e-Business theme with the first-quarter announcement of its new Easy e-Business Suite, a Web-based collaboration tool that provides value chain partners with real-time access to selected CMS/400 files.
90 ROI Systems
Honesty and the medium-sized manufacturer
How does a medium-sized manufacturing enterprise get started in e-Business? Treat it as a non-event, says extended enterprise software vendor ROI Systems, Minneapolis. "The important thing is to have an enterprise infrastructure you believe in, and then start extending out from there," says Bill Pisarra, an executive vice president with the company. In other words, it needn't call for throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Since the emphasis in manufacturing today is to "make what's ordered, and ship what's made," says Pisarra, one good place to start those enterprise extensions is with order entry. That way the journey from customer contact to shop floor execution is seamlessly made through a fully integrated back office. Once a success is booked, other extensions can follow.
Pisarra is being honest when he says that many medium-sized manufacturers have not yet embraced the e-Business revolution. He says some are content to stick with the electronic data interchange (EDI) systems they're already using, while to others it's not clear what the significant and immediate benefits of e-Business will be.
"They need to see that they can begin extending beyond the enterprise incrementally," says Pisarra, "without great cost, and begin to experience benefits. The real change will come when they see how inexpensively they can roll it out to their customers."
To that end, ROI has introduced release 7 of its MANAGE 2000 enterprise system, and Web sales order entry and status reporting, called eSOP, is part of the release. But that's not all. Other new and enhanced functionality is in the areas of service management, engineering, general ledger, manufacturing planning, and purchasing.
Release 7 also represents a significant technology upgrade for MANAGE 2000, including Web clients—in addition to "power" clients—and extensive use of eXtensible markup language (XML) for easier access, navigation, and global interfacing.
How do you know if your forays into e-Business are a success? "It's a success," says Pisarra, "if your clients spend less time trying to contact you, your salespeople spend more time selling, and your customers can enter requests into your help-line through a Web front-end without needing help."
Mid-market solution boasts native Oracle platform
ESI/Technologies is a no-nonsense enterprise system vendor, but one that prides itself on offering a software suite that runs on a world-class technology platform. The Buffalo, N.Y.-based vendor's eMIS enterprise resources planning (ERP) system runs on an Oracle database, and was developed with Oracle tools, which according to ESI executives, is a major difference between eMIS and the host of other ERP solutions aimed at medium-sized enterprises.
"The eMIS suite not only offers the power of the Oracle database, but it was created with Oracle's Designer 6/Developer 6 tools, which allows the software to be easily maintained," says Ralph J. Proulx, executive vice president with ESI/Technologies. "ESI also offers an optional catalog authoring tool called C@T, which takes data from eMIS and generates printed and electronic catalogs."
Another advantage to the Oracle development and operating environment, says Proulx, is flexible deployment. The Oracle tools and subsequent architecture of eMIS, says Proulx, allow the system to run in both client/server and Web-centric environments.
The target market for eMIS is mid-sized enterprises with $50 million to $250 million in annual revenues, although units or divisions of much larger companies also use the system. Some of ESI's customers for eMIS include ABB Power Relays, Dynabrade, Nokia, and PPG. Recent wins for the vendor include eMIS deployments by American Music Group, and Finland-based Carrus Oy. The company claims 10,000 licensed seats for the system worldwide, with sales in Europe, Asia, the Mid-East, and Africa.
While ESI/Technologies executives emphasize the power of a "native" Oracle enterprise system, they also point out that eMIS, with 50 modules, is laden with features and functions.
The eMIS system supports a broad range of discrete manufacturing verticals, and various "to-order" modes of production, as well as make-to-stock and repetitive manufacturing.
The system is available in several languages and is capable of multi-currency and multi-language transactions.
Unlike some enterprise system vendors that gain much of their revenues from services, ESI/Technologies' model is rapid implementations and a relatively small portion of revenue from services. According to the company, a full 65 percent of revenues is from eMIS, and 35 percent from service and maintenance.
92 Software PM
Targets internal efficiencies via low-cost solutions
These days, it's refreshing to hear an enterprise resources planning (ERP) software company executive say that core ERP functions come far ahead of e-Business. But that's exactly how the leadership of Software PM, a Milwaukee-based ERP vendor, sees the true needs in its target market of small manufacturers with up to 350 employees.
"Smaller manufacturers, without exception, still are focused primarily on the in-house need for an MRP II [manufacturing resources planning], closed-loop solution," says Jim Sciano, president. "As such, e-Business is somewhere in the future."
It's instructive that Sciano sticks to the older term of MRP II, rather than ERP, to describe Software PM's Manufacturing PM II (MPM II) solution. While in many ways the MRP II concept involved most of the same integrated (i.e., "closed loop") functions as the later ERP concept, the MRP II moniker connotes a no-nonsense, manufacturing-focused business system.
"MPM II is a complete, closed-loop, manufacturing software business system for the IBM iSeries server line," says Sciano. He adds that the system is "value-priced," and includes the source code.
Manufacturers across multiple vertical industries and modes of operation use the system, says Sciano. Most have annual revenue of $5 million to $75 million. Sciano says that the solution also fits distributors doing light manufacturing, kitting, assembly, and/or packaging.
Software PM supports its solution direct, as well as through a network of 350 third-party support organizations.
93 Relevant Business Systems
CRM solution caps breakthrough year
The secret's out. Relevant Business Systems is alive and well and making some noise in the midrange enterprise resources planning (ERP) system market.
"We did very well this year. You might say it was a breakthrough year for the company," notes Chuck Stevenson, a vice president for the San Ramon, Calif.-based company. "For a long time, Relevant Business Systems has been one of the best-kept secrets in the market. This year, with an aggressive direct marketing effort and the establishment of new direct sales and support offices, we've gotten out the word about our INFIMACS II ERP solution."
The target of the sales and marketing activity is primarily discrete manufacturers in the $25- to $300-million range. "Our product speaks well to several industry niches where we have deep, industry-specific functionality," Stevenson says. "Our two strongest areas are among contract manufacturers of electronic components, and companies that provide maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services for airplanes. The MRO companies have very stringent requirements they must meet regarding tracking parts and condition codes."
Over the last year, Relevant introduced a host of new enhancements to the INFIMACS product.
At the top of the list of upgrades is probably the customer relationship management (CRM) module introduced in first quarter 2001. "Much of what people are looking for in a CRM product, we've always had in INFIMACS," Stevenson notes. "This is a manufacturing-oriented CRM that includes a complete contact history on which people you're working with, what calls have been made, what correspondence has been exchanged. This marries all that together in a single place."
Takes on big rivals with new hosted service
Newport Beach, Calif.-based webplan has spent the last five years promoting "collaboration" as the paradigm under which manufacturers should conduct supply chain planning. But for most of this period, the market embraced "optimization" instead, leaving the supply chain planning vendor struggling for market penetration and acceptance.
Today, collaboration is all the rage. This has led to significant growth for webplan. The company experienced revenue growth of greater than 50 percent per year over each of the past four years, and came close to doubling revenues last year.
"Collaboration is in vogue and the market is saying, 'This is what we've been looking for,'" says Michael Ker, webplan president and CEO. "The marketplace finally caught up with us."
The company offers a solution built around what it calls a collaborative trading network: a system that connects all the players in the chain within a single data model. Ideally, manufacturers can see demand from customers and push it out to their suppliers. With everything automated in an exception-based process, and partners working collaboratively to meet the customer demands, excess time and inventory ostensibly can be eliminated.
Ker is optimistic about future growth. The company recently released eSupply-Chain.net, a hosted Web service that provides real-time supply chain visibility and analysis. Ker expects the product will be a big hit, with the potential to propel webplan to an initial public offering.
The eSupply-Chain.net offering is a subscription-based service with a monthly fee. Without the integration burdens of traditional software deployment, Ker believes the service will cross tiers and be accessible by all Tier 2 and most Tier 3 manufacturers.
Currently webplan targets five verticals: electronics (including contract electronics manufacturers), aerospace, industrial equipment, automotive, and consumer durables.
The company's other challenges are no less significant. Now that the market is open to the message of collaboration, webplan must seize the opportunity and execute on sales and marketing. Finally, as a small, private company, it faces stiff competition from publicly traded behemoths like i2 Technologies and Manugistics.
99 Mercia Software
U.K.-based supply chain management vendor ramps up in U.S.
For Atlanta-based Mercia Software, the wheel has come full circle. The company was founded in the U.K. in the late 1980s by current chairman Barrie Webster, who as a mathematics student had corresponded with the legendary R.G. Brown, an American professor of inventory management. A former vice president of operations with Curtiss Wright, and consultant with Arthur D. Little—as well as a former short-order cook, carpenter, and semi-pro bass baritone—Prof. Brown's writings and teachings on the subject had by the mid-1960s brought him a wide audience among American industrial companies.
But that meant traveling to see them—and Brown hated traveling. The result was LOGOL, a computer program that automated many of the forecasting and inventory management calculations that companies needed to perform. Instead of buying Brown, companies could buy his software—and in 1988, so did Webster, who was by then running a U.K.-based consultancy. But rather than buy a license, he bought the worldwide rights to LOGOL. The result is Mercia Software, which these days has extended LOGOL into a full supply chain planning system called MLCS.
When Mercia finally opened up in America 10 years later (September 1998), the handful of people in the Atlanta office were primarily tasked with supporting U.S. companies that had implemented the software elsewhere in the world, and now wanted it installed and supported in America, explains Alan Miller, a company vice president and head of North American operations.
Miller, who transferred to the U.S. from Mercia's Singapore office, clearly still has a soft spot for the early days—"just me and a couple of administrative people"—but the operation quickly grew, with the focus shifting to a fully staffed American operation in January 1999.
As a result, the U.S. market now accounts for 25 percent of Mercia's sales. Indeed, in just three years, the Atlanta office has become the company's second-largest source of earnings.
Driving integrated enterprise response
Few enterprise system vendors—even the largest—can claim to have been offering integrated enterprise resources planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) applications software for nearly as long as PowerCerv has. For several years now, the Tampa, Fla.-based enterprise applications vendor has been known for a product lineup that combines integrated ERP and CRM applications for mid-sized manufacturers.
PowerCerv hasn't stopped there: it has beefed up its supply chain management, e-Business, and business intelligence functionality over the last couple of years, and more recently, has highlighted the business case for these combined capabilities under the concept of integrated enterprise response.
" 'Response' is the key aspect of the initiative, which was launched in May 2000," says Scott Galloway, a PowerCerv vice president. "With integrated enterprise response, PowerCerv's customers are sharing valuable inventory information, enabling Web-based order processing, engaging in Web-based CRM activities such as self-service diagnostics and lead-capture capabilities, and generally developing a more responsive organization."
The Web-based collaboration and commerce functions offered by PowerCerv are found in its eSeries e-Business applications. These collaborative portal functions in eSeries integrate with ERP Plus, PowerCerv's suite of integrated ERP and CRM applications software.
According to Galloway, enterprises need to carefully examine just how integrated an enterprise system vendor's ERP and CRM applications are. He notes that several PowerCerv competitors partner for CRM capabilities, rather than having built their own CRM software, as did PowerCerv. "What sets us apart is the deeper level of integration that cannot be obtained via third-party partnerships or acquisitions," says Galloway.
An example of this deeper integration, says Galloway, is reconciling the way a product configuration engine touches ERP system data such as item, bills of material, routings, costing, and pricing. "The third-party approach manifests itself with problems like redundant data elements that need to be synchronized between disparate databases and systems," says Galloway. "And, of course, this approach also leads to very basic problems such as different user interfaces, different release schedules, programming languages, and in some cases, even different database technologies."