Microsoft Corp. plans to follow up on Tuesdays announcement of its Peak Performance Initiative for manufacturing markets by rolling out a supply chain initiative—as well as new RFID partners—over the next few months.
Under PPI, unveiled at the National Manufacturing Week 2005 conference, Microsoft will work with third-party partners on solutions addressing the areas of global value chain performance; sales and customer performance; new product development performance; and plant floor operations performance.
In April, Microsoft will expand on Tuesdays announcement by introducing a supply chain initiative and naming new partners in this arena, said Charles Johnson, Microsofts worldwide director of manufacturing, during an interview with eWEEK.com. Microsoft is already collaborating with SAP AG on the supply chain side, according to Johnson. But Microsoft and SAP are working together only with large enterprise customers, even though SAP has separate programs for SMBs (small and midsize businesses), he said.
Microsofts new RFID partnerships will probably be issued shortly after the supply chain pacts, according to Johnson.
Right now, Microsoft is working with more than 50 partners around the use of RFID in manufacturing, but some of them are still unannounced, he said. As an example of what kinds of RFID deals to expect, Johnson cited recent teamwork around Unisys Corp.s RFID-enabled asset management system.
Microsofts third-party ISV partners in the manufacturing space will help the Redmond, Wash., company extend its presence by building applications based on its .Net server architecture, he said.
These applications will be geared to bolstering traditional manufacturing applications such as CAD (computer-aided design) with Microsoft technologies such as instant messaging, real-time collaboration, and accessibility through Pocket PC and other mobile platforms.
“People [who work in] manufacturing dont stay in one place anymore,” said Johnson.
Some of Microsofts PPI vendor partners, such as Parametric Technology Corp., are brand new. But others have worked with Microsoft for many years, developing products for earlier Windows environments. Some are already working with Axapta or Navision, two of the four ERP (enterprise resource planning) products that Microsoft is including under its Project Green umbrella, Johnson said.
Johnson views several of the newly announced PPI partners as helping Microsoft to penetrate specific vertical markets within manufacturing. Soon, for example, Microsoft will make an announcement around vertical solutions for automotive manufacturing, the Microsoft executive said.
Solutions built by Microsoft and its PPI partners will be implemented by systems integration partners such as Accenture, Unisys and Hewlett-Packard Co., he said.
Revolving around .Net servers such as BizTalk, SharePoint Portal Server and Project Server 2003, Microsofts PPI will emphasize security, compliance with industry standards and interoperability with non-Microsoft software, eWEEK.com was told.
“With all of the other solutions and platforms out there, all solutions arent going to be 100 percent .Net. People will be surprised to see how interoperable [Microsoft] can really be,” Johnson said.
But Johnson described PPI as “more a set of prescriptive technologies than an architectural platform.”
Also on Tuesday, the company launched a Plant-to-Enterprise Interoperability initiative that calls for Microsoft to support ISA-95 standards, in addition to the previously supported OPC shop floor standard.
Johnson noted that Microsofts BizTalk also supports RosettaNet, an architectural standard for the electronics and chemical industries.
In an earlier announcement, Microsoft said that that it was teaming with more than 30 retail and hospitality device makers to build retail solutions around another environment, Windows Embedded for POS (point of service).
Microsofts newly announced PPI partners for manufacturing markets include ABB, Actify, Activplant Corp., Activplant Corp., Aspen Technology Inc., AWS; Capgemini, CoCreate Software Inc., Dassaut Systems, eBots Inc., Formation Systems, HP, Invensys, Marathon Technologies Corp., PTC, Rockwell Automation Inc., Schlumberger; Siemens, OSGI (Orlando Software Group Inc.), 3M IPT, UGS Corp. and Unisys.
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