Analyzing MAPICS' Further Steps After Frontstep Part Two: More Recent Events

Event Summary

For the last several months MAPICS has shown both the signs of significant changes and the persistence of a number of its historically recognizable invariant tenets of operation. Following the acquisition of its former competitor, Frontstep, (see MAPICS To Leap Forward In A Frontstep Way), MAPICS, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAPX) became possibly the largest global provider of extended enterprise applications for solving the challenges of discrete manufacturers.

MAPICS has never departed from its conservative approach of delivering practical innovations and bulletproof applications for its customers, nor from its proverbial fiscal discipline. The Frontstep acquisition has obviously provided MAPICS with a boost in terms of product choice, having solutions on both leading platforms—Microsoft and IBM. With MAPICS SyteLine 7, the vendor now boasts a notable application built on a .NET architecture. However, the loyal AS/400 install base should rest assured of MAPICS' continued support for the platform. The big news on the MAPICS ERP for iSeries product side is that version 7.3, which is slated for December, will feature Double Bytes support, and expanded Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE)-based client technology.

Other developments detailed in this note are:

  • MAPICS Field Service and Support (covered in Part One)

  • A Global Partnership with Systems Union (covered in Part One)

  • Primus Knowledge Solution Results
  • Certified Partner Program

  • Pacejet Logistics, Inc. is a Certified Partner

  • A Revised Sales Strategy

This is Part Two of a five-part note.

Part One began to detail recent events.

Parts Three and Four will discusses the market impact.

Part Five will discuss challenges and user recommendations.

Primus Knowledge Solution Results

What has not changed at MAPICS either is its traditional internal emphasis on providing top-notch customer satisfaction. To that end, in May, Primus Knowledge Solutions (NASDAQ: PKSI) announced that MAPICS has reported measurable return-on-investment (ROI) results from Primus technology after successfully implementing the Primus eServer knowledge base and Primus eSupport within its customer support organization and on its support web site. Since implementing Primus knowledge management software, MAPICS has reported a 10 percent increase in customer care specialist productivity, 40 percent reuse of documented solutions-reducing call escalations from level one customer care specialists, 70 percent usage of the knowledge base by customer care specialists on customers' calls, and rapid acceptance of the self-service option.

MAPICS solutions are in use today at more than 10,000 customer sites in 70 countries and available in 19 languages. These solutions include professional services and software implemented on the two industry-leading technology platforms—Microsoft and IBM—including extended ERP, customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM). The company claims it had three key business issues to solve when it selected Primus as its knowledge management partner:

  1. Capture and easily manage knowledge in the workflow from every MAPICS customer care specialist

  2. Empower MAPICS customer care specialists with the confidence to broaden their areas of expertise by enabling reuse of documented solutions

  3. Create a foundation for MAPICS' self-service strategy by providing customers and affiliates 24x7 access to the knowledgebase

Certified Partner Program

Further, in May, MAPICS announced its certified partner program as part of its enhanced strategic alliance and partner strategy. The program consists of application, hardware, and technology companies that have worked to develop offerings that are complementary to core MAPICS solutions. These partners will continue to offer selected products, interfaces, support, and services directly to MAPICS customers, while MAPICS and its certified partners will continue developing solutions that include industry-specific business processes, which leverage best practices gained from customers' experience. Through partnerships, MAPICS will attempt to make it possible to build complementary, targeted solutions and strategically bring them to market more quickly through multiple channels.

The certified partner relationship should provide value to the partners by giving them the ability to stay closely aligned with MAPICS and to differentiate themselves from other vendors looking to sell solutions to MAPICS customers and prospects. Companies will receive assistance from MAPICS including development, support, sales, and marketing—all coordinated by a dedicated program manager within the MAPICS partnering organization. In order to be considered a certified partner, vendors must demonstrate that their applications have an interface to or can integrate with MAPICS solutions on the IBM or Microsoft platforms. There are many companies already enrolled in the MAPICS certified partner program, providing offerings that complement the MAPICS solutions with advanced capabilities in areas such as electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions, document management, payroll, and personnel management.

Pacejet Logistics Is a Certified Partner

The most recent to join the list was Pacejet Logistics, Inc., a provider of Web-based logistics resource management (LRM) software applications and services. Together, MAPICS' ERP solutions and Pacejet's LRM solutions will enable MAPICS' customers to accelerate and streamline outbound and inbound logistics and distribution business processes to lower operating costs while improving customer service. As a MAPICS Certified Partner, Pacejet will provide its Pacejet Transportation Management application to MAPICS' customers as an integrated extension to MAPICS' ERP solutions. Pacejet Transportation Management provides a Web-based solution for full truckload (TL), less-than-truckload (LTL), and parcel shipping with advanced capabilities such as load consolidation, route and rate optimization, and Web/EDI tendering that can help MAPICS' customers run their logistics operations efficiently. Pacejet also offers Pacejet Distribution and the Pacejet Advanced Commerce Catalog as part of its complete LRM solutions. Pacejet solutions include transportation management, distribution, and supply-chain event management (SCEM).

Revised Sales Strategy

Furthermore, while having a broad functional footprint remains important, MAPICS has departed from its traditional practice of "pushing" sales of its plethora of components onto customers. Going forward, it will instead try to solve challenges for its customers and prospects in their quests for becoming world-class manufacturers. In other words, owing to its vast experience and knowledge of challenges and best practices within a specific set of selected industries of focus, MAPICS will try to reverse-engineer the user's objectives into obtaining an optimal set of needed applications to fulfill these. This crusade, which focuses on the customer's needs and tends to obfuscate any impending platform or product brand allegiances, has already been embraced by Frontstep's addition to the MAPICS fold.

As to further confirm that MAPICS remains a customer-focused organization with the mantra of helping customers in select verticals become world-class manufacturers, in March, the vendor announced that it has broadened its relationship with The Georgia Institute of Technology's Manufacturing Research Center (MARC) to include leading a series of pilot implementations of a next generation information exchange framework for electronics manufacturing. MAPICS has been involved with Georgia Tech's MARC for nearly three years and leads the Framework Implementation Project (FIP) as the only manufacturing-focused ERP solution provider involved. The purpose of the FIP program is to design, implement, and test industry standards that streamline information exchange for electronics assembly and link all aspects of a manufacturing enterprise in real time.

Georgia Tech's MARC, with the backing of major equipment manufacturers, electronics manufacturers, and software and hardware vendors, has established the FIP to build upon and implement the National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (NEMI) Plug and Play Factory Project—an initiative created to standardize data syntax and semantics in electronics assembly, establishing rules for data exchange from the factory floor and across the enterprise. The coalition is implementing and testing a computer aided manufacturing exchange (CAMX), a series of standards that are based on extensible markup language (XML), and defining how and what information is exchanged on the factory floor and throughout a manufacturing organization. These standards, which electronics manufacturers know as the IPC 2500 series, are used to provide a common language that facilitates real time, efficient sharing of critical business data among shop floor equipment and business process applications—reducing costs and decreasing cycle time.

This concludes Part Two of a five-part note.

Part One began to detail recent events.

Parts Three and Four will discusses the market impact.

Part Five will discuss challenges and user recommendations.

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