Innovation engine: ILOG upgrade could spawn new generation of supply chain applications

Supply chain management software users may soon find themselves fielding pitches from vendors offering new applications that promise to solve more complex problems much faster.

By Sidney Hill, Jr., executive editor November 6, 2007

Supply chain management software users may soon find themselves fielding pitches from vendors offering new applications that promise to solve more complex problems much faster.That’s because ILOG just announced an upgrade to its CPLEX optimization engine. This program powers supply chain management applications marketed by many large ERP vendors—including SAP , Oracle , and Infor —in addition to solutions sold by best-of-breed supply chain vendors such as Manhattan Associates , JDA Software , and RedPrairie .Thomas Dong, ILOG’s director of product management and marketing, says CPLEX 11, introduced Nov. 1, has an enhanced mixed integer programming (MIP) engine that allows it to crunch numbers 10 times faster than its immediate predecessor. “That means planning problems thatIn addition, Dong says, CPLEX 11 has a “solution pooling capability” that will allow users to look at a number of solutions for a single problem, and then determine which one best fits the current situation.“These features will have a great impact when it comes to improving existing supply chain applications, as well as in the development of new applications,” Dong says.Currently, the CPLEX optimization engine is widely used in planning and scheduling, supply chain network design, and inventory optimization applications. Dong says any of these applications can get a noticeable performance boost by upgrading to the CPLEX 11 engine.When it comes to new applications, he says, ILOG envisions users applying the faster, more versatile engine to new problems that have arisen with the advent of global supply chains. “Often, when users are developing planning scenarios, they are restricted by artificial boundaries, such as geographic regions or the placement production lines,” Dong explains. “With these new capabilities, regions can be merged; production machines can be combined. Users can create much larger, global models that allow for using all resources more efficiently.”Dong says ILOG will focus its initial efforts at marketing CPLEX 11 on the vendor community, which is why users should expect those sales pitches for new applications. Some of those pitches actually could come from ILOG as it embeds CPLEX 11 in two supply chain management packages of its own:• Plant PowerOps solution that addresses production planning problems, primarily for process-oriented manufacturers such as food & beverage companies;• Fab PowerOps solution, which is geared to solving production planning problems in semiconductor manufacturing facilities.ILOG also offers tools for companies that wish to develop custom supply chain management solutions, and Dong says CPLEX 11 will be added to product line as well.On the vendor front, Verticalnet , a supplier of Web-hosted strategic sourcing applications, is set to deploy CPLEX 11 as part of its solutions for helping customers sort through suppliers’ responses to complex requests for proposals (RFP).“CPLEX has always kept us ahead of the curve,” says Jack Zinn, senior manager, collaborative solutions technology, with Verticalnet. “This new functionality will give us an immediate 30-percent to 100-percent boost in performance. That will allow our customers to put more complicated rules into their RFP models, and explore more opportunities for saving money.”