Tightening the Supply Chain

IBM-Enigma, PTC-Groove partnerships take aim at online collaboration.

IBM and Parametric Technology Corp. have each found partners to help them sell technologies that will enable manufacturers to collaborate online with suppliers, dealers and other business associates.

IBM last week introduced an integrated product suite it created with Enigma Inc. to enable OEMs to gather relevant aftermarket data through a portal-like interface. In the same vein, PTC announced a partnership with Groove Networks Inc. to further enhance design collaboration by incorporating P2P (peer-to-peer) technology from Groove into its products.

San Francisco-based Enigmas software takes information that is useful to OEMs customers (dealers and service companies, for instance), normalizes it in an XML repository and adds hyperlinks to branded sites.

The offering, marketed under the heading of Enigmas 3C Platform, combines IBMs WebSphere, Content Manager, SecureWay and MQ Series with 3C to provide content, collaboration, and, to some degree, integration among OEMs and their customers.

The combined technologies allow manufacturers to create a Web-based application that combines parts illustrations, service bulletins, parts catalogs, maintenance and repair manuals, and parts pricing and availability information that can be delivered via the Web.

By partnering with IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., Enigma is able to provide the middleware that makes the connection to distinct systems much easier, Enigma officials said. The joint solution also increases the commerce and communications elements between seller and customer by linking, for example, an e-catalog to a sourcing system.

Meanwhile, Groove, of Beverly, Mass., provides software and services that enable organizations to extend business processes, projects and meetings across enterprises.

PTC, of Needham, Mass., will embed Grooves namesake technology into the next releases of its Pro/Engineer and Windchill ProductView collaborative manufacturing applications. This will enable engineers to participate in virtual brainstorming, collaborative authoring and product design reviews, according to PTC officials.

Additionally, users will have the ability to observe one anothers work and share control of sessions, send invitations to users, share directories and conduct online reviews.

PTC customer Aaron Spicer, a design engineer at Tech Tool and Molded Plastics Inc., relies on paper, e-mail and faxes to communicate with customers. "Sometimes, we have product developers that arent schooled in the manufacturing process," said Spicer, in Meadville, Pa. P2P technology will "allow us to go back and forth [earlier in the design cycle]. Currently, we can spend a week or two redeveloping those [product] designs for customers," he said.