Keeping Inventory in Balance

New apps for smoothing supply process on tap.

Oracle Corp., Manugistics Group Inc. and Yantra Corp. are each rolling out software that will enable manufacturers and distributors to smooth out their electronic supply chain systems by maintaining proper inventory levels.

Oracle last week introduced its Oracle Inventory Optimization software, which allows companies to evaluate their long-term inventory investment decisions by taking into consideration such factors as customer service needs, profit and strategic sourcing objectives.

The Web-based tool sits on top of an existing supply chain planning module and augments its functionality, according to officials at Oracle, in Redwood Shores, Calif.

Inventory Optimization helps companies take advantage of their planning system by accounting for variables in demand and supply patterns across the supply chain—something most supply chain planning systems do not currently do, Oracle officials said. A simulation capability evaluates revenue, sourcing and postponement strategies, which in the end aids companies in deciding whether or not to hold finished goods and determining where to store them.

Inventory Optimization is available now and can be implemented as a stand-alone application or as part of Oracles E-Business Suite.

Separately, Manugistics, of Rockville, Md., last week said it will combine Acta Technology Inc.s core functionality of extracting data from enterprise systems with its own SCM (supply chain management) functionality. To that end, Manugistics will provide with its WebConnect Integrate High Volume Edition SCM suite Actas ActaWorks platform for large-scale data transfers in application-to- application integration and data warehousing.

This will allow Manugistics customers to integrate large volumes of inventory and other data between enterprise systems and other applications without having to use outside integration software.

Acta, based in Mountain View, Calif., provides integrated data that feeds into supply chain, analytic, e-commerce and customer relationship management applications.

Tom Murphy, data administration manager at Jabil Circuit Inc., a $3.5 billion electronics manufacturer in St. Petersburg, Fla., is using Actas data integration platform primarily to extract data from Jabils SAP AG R/3 enterprise software system—a notoriously difficult task. Murphy also uses Acta software to integrate data from disparate systems.

Jabil has been in expansion mode for the past several years, acquiring new plants and along with them various ERP (enterprise resource planning) and SCM systems.

Murphy uses Actas integration platform to pull data from those ERP and SCM systems into a single repository. With the integration platform, Murphy is able to analyze data, such as suppliers on-time delivery history, defect rate and pricing structure, to minimize inventory.

Although he is currently using a supply chain planning system from another vendor for Jabils roughly 20 global plants, Murphy said he would consider looking at Manugistics under one circumstance.

"The supply chain systems weve purchased are based on the value they bring to the business and where it can pay for itself," Murphy said. "If it came down to one vs. the other, both had the same functionality and one was integrated with Acta, sure, we would go with that."

Like most in the highly competitive electronics manufacturing field, Murphy is looking to supply chain and inventory optimization to separate his company from its competitors.

Finally, Yantra last week rolled out Version 4.0 of its order and inventory management software suite, which adds new analysis capabilities. Version 4.0 is fully integrated with the Tewksbury, Mass., companys dynamic business process modeling software and provides new role-based participant management, event and alert management, and business performance measurement capabilities.

Cross-enterprise analytics leverage data that is captured by Yantras platform to provide performance metrics, using Cognos Inc.s Impromptu and PowerPlay business intelligence applications.

Being able to understand what is happening in a supply chain in real time is becoming increasingly important.

"The challenge in todays economy is a lot of unscheduled movement," Jabils Murphy said. "In the past, our big problem was capacity. Weve solved that. Now, as a product changes, what that does to our inventory [is what we have to watch].

"Excess inventory will kill us."