SAP?s Sapphire ?97 user conference kicked off with the dual themes of extending the supply chain and third party relationships.
The German software supplier has canned its plans to use i2 Technologies's Rhythm supply chain planner as a core component in the R/3 Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP). Instead, it is developing a homegrown version, the Supply Chain Optimisation Planning and Execution system (Scope), due by late 1998. i2 is not out in the cold entirely, since the two systems will be linked via SAP?s Supply Chain Planning Interfaces (SCPIs), developed specifically for third-party interoperability. Interfaces are being developed for several third parties, including i2, Numetrix, Manugistics and Chesapeake Decision Sciences.
Claus Heinreich, executive board member, commented: ?Effective supply chain management requires an integrated approach combining advanced planning and scheduling with ERP... to realise ongoing benefits and cost reductions.?
The key attraction of Scope is its NT-compliant Advanced Planner and Optimizer (APO), part of the Business Framework designed to break up R/3 into manageable, vertical industry components. APO will ship July 1998 for R/3 3.1 and 4.0.
APO consists of several components. The Supply Chain Cockpit is a graphical interface for managing the integration of all stages between planning and execution; Automated Advanced Planning provides scheduling and forecasting; and Available to Promise performs checks on availability and allocation between traders.
R/3?s consulting and project management facilities are being ramped up with TeamSAP, an initiative to raise awareness of the ASAP methodology. The plan is to use it in every SAP implementation and to encourage external consultants to participate in this SAP-led approach.
SAP is focusing on aerospace and defence, announcing a new industry-specific version in R/3 4.0, and announcing this with impeccable timing. The Baan Company, a key competitor, assumed SAP?s ERP mantle at Boeing after SAP withdrew from the contract, having failed to deliver on time and in cost. This week saw Baan denying that Boeing canned its DOD implementation at Irvine, California because of cost or time to implement - the suspicion remains that Boeing is as challenging to Baan as to the previous incumbent.
Not least of the SAP blitz is the plan to preconfigure R/3 systems and components and deliver them via the Internet. Arguably, turnkey software systems are a step backwards, and the appeal may be limited to smaller companies that don?t need the same degree of customisation.
Absolutely core to SAP?s Internet plans is electronic commerce via the Internet. SAP?s objective is a cradle-to-grave services delivered via electronic means, linking manufacturers, suppliers, third parties and customers.
With a browser front end and native Java applications for customer service, ordering and purchasing, plus the new supply chain management modules, SAP is tying in electronic data warehousing applications and rapid application development facilities.
R/3 version 4.0 will start shipping by the year-end, and with the new component approach, installation and maintenance may become less of a bugbear than previously, and high costs of user training should fall significantly.
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