Applications from Enterworks Inc. and HubStorm Corp. promise to take some of the headaches out of getting suppliers, particularly smaller ones, connected to a companys private e-marketplace or automated supply chain.
HubStorm this week will begin shipping eSupplier, which enables a supplier to manage its electronic product catalog, connect it to e-marketplaces and transmit orders from e-marketplaces to back-office systems.
Separately, Enterworks Catalog Builder, introduced this month, integrates disparate sources and allows suppliers to format only once before delivering to multiple channels.
By reducing the amount of reformatting required, Catalog Builder should lower the barrier to entry to business-to-business e-marketplaces.
Enterworks is trying to ease the pain of reformatting a suppliers electronic catalog every time it wants to post items to a different e-marketplace.
Catalog Builder sits on top of Enterworks Content Integrator software and maps product information from sources in different components of a suppliers back-end systems. Users can categorize items and create a structure for the product catalog.
The software passes off the data to Content Integrator, which publishes the information in whatever format the e-marketplace requires. Content Integrator recognizes a suppliers business rules on things such as when to apply discounts.
Because Catalog Builder pulls content from operational systems in real time, it doesnt require a central repository and presents up-to-date data, said Bob Lewis, president of Enterworks.
"The typical supplier updates his catalog information three to five times a year," said Lewis, in Ashburn, Va. "With other solutions, you are reconstructing your catalog each time, but since we have live access with pointers, you simply refresh your catalog. It has little impact to your operational system."
HubStorms eSupplier also draws catalog data from multiple sources, but it organizes it in a single master catalog.
The product also enables suppliers to manage all orders via a single interface and provides prebuilt interfaces for enterprise application integration and legacy systems, said officials at HubStorm, of Mountain View, Calif.
A rules-based engine lets suppliers set rules for dynamic pricing, shipping charges and the like. eSupplier also lets companies set up e-commerce storefronts.
Dale Electric Supply Co. had difficulty managing its catalog of 250,000 electrical parts through a Commerce One Inc. e-marketplace. When Terry DeLong, director of e-commerce development at Dale, sent electronic files to Commerce One, in Pleasanton, Calif., to be put into a catalog format, DeLong wasnt able to check the work before it was posted for buyers to see.
"You know what you put into it, but youre not sure of the little things that are wrong until you view it," said DeLong, in Glens Falls, N.Y. "Just because they say this is the part number, it may be displaying differently. And that has occurred."
Using the HubStorm product, it took DeLong two days to get Dales content into the Commerce One format. That compared with a two- or three-week process without the product.
"We dont want to bash [Commerce One]. Its just that the areas are so new, its like the blind leading the blind," DeLong said. "Its just a matter of time until they get it, but its hard for us, in the meantime, to operate a business and not know what our catalogs look like."