Another Milestone for B2B

Collaboration tools offer help, but some integration problems may remain.

Business-to-business collaboration is getting a shot in the arm from new software. Camstar Systems Inc., Syncra Systems Inc. and Venetica Corp. are each coming out with new collaboration software.

But even with these milestones, integration problems may still limit B2B collaboration in many companies.

Camstar, of Campbell, Calif., last week announced its vision for "live everywhere manufacturing," which is supported by its new software. Camstars Virtual Factory manages multiple locations, processes and companies as a single factory entity by capturing real-time data from the plant floor and sharing it with other systems.

Virtual Factory sits on top of Camstars core product, InsiteLive, a manufacturing execution system that resides within a single plant. Virtual Factory allows InsiteLive systems as well as non-Camstar manufacturing automation systems to communicate outside the individual plants firewalls.

Virtual Factorys LiveConnect module integrates components through a point-to-framework integration broker. A LiveSync module enables customers to centrally manage product and process specifications and broadcast them to factories globally. LiveView provides multisite ad hoc and consolidated reporting for distributed manufacturing, and LiveOrder enables manufacturers to track order execution between plants. LiveAlert allows for event management and notification in the case of an exception.

Corning Inc., a high-tech and fiber-optics manufacturer, is tying together four of its plants using a beta version of Virtual Factory. Corning will remove its home-grown systems and install Camstar. Doug Anderson, CIO of the specialty materials division, said no integration will be needed.

"With our old systems, it took a lot of hard work to make a change and test everything. Now weve got these tools [to automate the process], and the IT people at the factories cant get it fast enough," said Anderson, in Corning, N.Y.

But Camstar officials realize other customers will face integration problems, so they developed LiveConnect, point-to-framework integration software that uses a hub model, and recently acquired services integrator Unified Technology Group.

Syncra Systems is looking at collaboration from another angle. The Waltham, Mass., company is offering a collaboration tool accessed via the Internet, making back-end integration unneeded. Syncra Version 3.0, announced last week, makes it easier for companies to collaborate online by enabling any type of data stream to be incorporated into the system.

Similarly, content integration software developer Venetica, of Charlotte, N.C., this month will unveil the upgraded version of its collaboration software. VeniceBridge 4.0 is aimed at making it easier for customers to access, aggregate and exchange documents, images and other unstructured content that is stored throughout an enterprise. Web services support enables VeniceBridge to play a strong role in collaborative B2B, officials said.