Plans Stay on the Move

Apps from Valdero, Vizional, SAP, i2 tackle real-time distribution process.

Enterprises have long fed their supply chain information into data warehouses to get a better handle on planning production and logistics activities. Supply chain software from developers including Valdero Corp., Vizional Technologies Inc., SAP AG and i2 Technologies Inc. look to shorten the distance between that planning process and the real-time execution of supply chain plans.

Valdero, of Palo Alto, Calif., next week will release Multi-Tier Demand Visibility, which promises to give manufacturers visibility across complex multitier sales and distribution networks extending from distributors to resellers all the way through to the customer.

The software enables a company to use actual sales figures from the distribution channel to adjust demand forecasts. With these adjusted forecasts, manufacturers can increase or decrease production and respond to suppliers demands to keep a full inventory, according to Valdero officials. The software works particularly well in industries where multitier distribution channels make forecasting difficult, they said.

Other capabilities in Multi-Tier Demand Visibility let the manufacturer analyze inventory sell-in and sell-through.

Another software vendor, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Vizional, in early March released its namesake Adaptive Planning and Execution software suite for real-time global visibility and dynamic supply network optimization. The suite teams applications for demand and inventory management with an Adaptive Identification Management application. The latter links plans directly into execution by enabling companies to set up and manage supply networks using automatic data collection technologies that can identify, track and secure inventory, assets and in-transit goods in real time, officials said.

Separately, SAP in March announced new procurement planning and execution capabilities for companies in the fashion retail vertical. The functionality, which appears in the MySAP Retail applications suite and was developed with European retailer KarstadtQuelle AG, provides new processes for forecast and replenishment at clothing warehouses and retail outlets, according to officials at SAP, of Walldorf, Germany.

MySAP Retail will integrate inventory and financial data, provide a detailed overview of inventory and demand, and enable collaborative planning and execution, officials said. A new Open-to-Buy tool will enable buyers to plan purchasing budgets and monitor them with up-to-date data and alerts.

KarstadtQuelle, of Essen, Germany, will start using the new capabilities next year; other users of MySAP Retail will get access to the capabilities in 2005.

For its part, Dallas-based i2 last week announced Version 6 of its namesake supply chain management suite, which officials said bridges the planning-execution gap by optimizing key metrics within applications for service and parts management, vendor-managed inventory, retail replenishment, and engineering to order.

The centerpiece of i2 Six is its Supply Chain Operating Services architecture, which provides a consolidated view of supply chain activity across multiple systems. The update, available now, provides event management capabilities for real-time views of supply chains, officials said.

Version Six also supports popular Web services standards, including Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition; XML; Java Message Service and Simple Object Access Protocol.

Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. is using an early version of i2 Six to optimize its capacity planning. For example, the Houston-based manufacturer modeled a calendar for picking up parts from suppliers more efficiently, said Kent Hornbacker, manufacturing materials systems manager.

Hornbackers goal for the system is to create a "materials feasibility and capacity plan" that will enable Mitsubishi Caterpillar to model manufacturing floor schedules based on demand and availability of resources. Eventually, he said, he would like to extend that demand and materials inventory visibility to customers so the company can reduce the amount of time from when an order is taken to when the product is delivered.

"Weve been able to successfully deliver [products on time] as promised, [but] our objective is to reduce that lead time to give us a competitive advantage," Hornbacker said. "Were hoping that when the economy does turn around, we will be able to support our customers at higher volumes."

The Web services technologies are important to Mitsubishi, which will use them to export information from the i2 system to the companys home-grown supplier portal.

The portal, which will be available to Mitsubishi Caterpillars top 80 suppliers in a couple of weeks, will enable them to view the companys materials plan.

"That should help a lot in terms of visibility," Hornbacker said.