App Helps Buyers Tune B2B Purchasing

Rapt Inc. is looking to take the guesswork out of business-to-business procurement.

Rapt Inc. is looking to take the guesswork out of business-to-business procurement. Rapt last week introduced the second generation of its Rapt Buy application that enables buyers of high-tech and automotive components to improve purchasing efficiency by better managing complex demand forecasts.

The software receives data gleaned from supply chain management systems and outputs prescriptions suggesting how many of each component a company should buy to avoid carrying too much or too little inventory.

Later this month, San Francisco-based Rapt will launch Rapt Sell, an application that provides similar guidance for the sell side of the equation so that sellers dont price products too low and lose potential revenue or too high and lose potential sales.

The heart of both applications is Rapt Decision Optimization Platform, which captures business variables in data marts through integration with enterprise applications from SAP AG and Oracle Corp. The platforms analytical engine builds models that identify various elements of risk and recommends purchasing strategies.

New workflow capabilities in the Rapt Buy upgrade enable companies to decentralize the purchasing process by allowing them to share data from different steps in the procurement process among groups—such as ones devoted to materials purchasing and tactical finance—or with suppliers outside the firewall.

In addition to providing added links to industry- leading analysis and reporting tools, Rapt Buy has a new graphical Supply Budget analysis tool that, among other things, enables executives to monitor supply chain efficiencies and understand where to spend to get the most from their budgets.

The release also has new multiperiod planning functionality for optimizing procurement over time. The Rapt Buy user interface has been completely revamped, officials said.

Before Sun Microsystems Inc. started using Rapt Buy last year, purchasing planners at the Palo Alto, Calif., company performed similar calculations manually, said Ben Ma, director of supply planning and management at Sun.

"It was difficult. There were no tools to analyze the normal curves," Ma said. "There was a lot of approximation before."

Rapt Buy "allows us to use a little bit less art and a bit more technology," Ma said.

Although Sun continues to use business intelligence tools to forecast demand for its computing and storage products, Ma counts on Rapt Buy to help him manage forecasting errors, which can be off by as much as 70 percent for new products.

"The only time you wont need this is if you have a perfect forecast, and that doesnt exist," Ma said. "There is no such thing as the perfect forecast."

Rapt Buy is available now; pricing starts at $750,000.