past two years or so have been an interesting if not a tumultuous period for
the Ottawa, Canada-based, privately-held Webplan Corporation
felt compelled to further refine its original supply chain planning
(SCP) and business-to-business (B2B) collaboration value proposition.
The vendor, which started in 1984 providing fast-acting manufacturing resource
planning (MRP) applications to midsized companies, was formerly called
Enterprise Planning Systems and prior to that, Advanced
Planning Systems. In 1998, Webplan not only changed its name, but started
to reposition its product offerings towards a broader, collaborative SCP suite.
In the most recent soul-searching exercise, during which it replaced and reshuffled
much of its former leadership, the vendor has refocused on highly actionable
response management software (formerly referred to as operational performance
management [OPM], a subset of broader corporate performance management
[CPM] software, which is about communication and delivering actionable intelligence
at the right time) for manufacturers and distributors, what it believes will
be a growth market.
at the end of 2003, Webplan announced that changes made to its business direction
in 2003—including a drive toward delivering value to manufacturing customers
through response management software—has gained acceptance with both its manufacturing
customers and strategic partners, laying the foundation for growth in 2004 and
beyond. Despite the fact that many manufacturers have invested in enterprise
resource planning (ERP) systems and many also have supply chain management
(SCM) systems, most continue to use inopportune batch reports and pesky spreadsheets
to manage their operations performance. These have proven to be inefficient
and error-prone methods of supporting decision-making, and result in a reliance
on "educated guesswork" rather than on accurate dynamic analysis in order to
align decisions with strategic objectives. For that reason, Webplan software
intends to do for manufacturing or operational decision-making what some business
intelligence (BI) applications have already done for financial decision-making.
Reporting, Planning, and Budgeting as Necessary Pieces of EPM).
stated previously, Webplan has made key management additions to strengthen its
team. In 2003, Douglas Colbeth, former Spyglass CEO, joined
Webplan as president and CEO, in addition to his role as chair of the board.
Webplan also added sales and marketing expertise to build on its technology
leadership, since a manufacturing industry veteran, Bob Dolan, was appointed
vice president of North American sales, while Randy Littleson, joined Webplan
as the vice president of marketing.
a few dozen of the leading Fortune 500 manufacturing companies reportedly use
Webplan software at over 200 of their manufacturing sites and is used by about
50,000 users (total), to make crucial manufacturing decisions. In 2003, Webplan
indeed added market-leading manufacturing companies across several key verticals
to its customer list. These included Coty Inc., a global manufacturer
and marketer of personal fragrances, cosmetics, and skin treatments; and Thomas
Built Buses, a manufacturer of commercial transit buses, school buses,
and specialty vehicles. The Asia Pacific region has especially shown major growth
potential for Webplan, as a large number of electronics and other discrete manufacturers
in the region have found a need for its software.
is Part One of a four-part note.
Two and Three will discuss the market impact.
Four will cover challenges and make user recommendations.
Asia Pacific Expansion
global manufacturers expand operations in the Asia Pacific region, there is
an increasing reliance on outsourcing, and companies are looking to the likes
of Webplan to deal with the continuous changes in supply and demand, along with
challenges in supplier collaboration across regions. Casio Computer
Company, Ltd., Japan, a producer of highly sophisticated
consumer electronics, corporate system equipment, as well as electronic components;
Giant Manufacturing Company Ltd., Taiwan, the largest bicycle
producer in the world; and The Hana Group, one of South East
Asia's leading independent electronic manufacturing service (EMS) providers
are among recent high-profile additions.
on March 23, Webplan announced a strengthened and expanded commitment in Hong
Kong and Tokyo, to support the recent growth of its Asian Pacific customer base
and to build on this momentum through direct efforts and by expanding its partner
network. Partnerships with leading technology, integration, and application
providers, including Atos Origin, Hewlett-Packard
(HP) Japan Ltd., Intel K.K.,
ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute),
Kawatetsu Systems, Inc., Microsoft
Co., Ltd, NTT DATA Corporation, Oki
Electric Industry Co., Ltd., and Unitopia
should continue to advance Webplan's position in the region.
In the Asia Pacific region, the vendor sells almost exclusively through its partners, and most of its implementations are also done by partners, while Webplan typically mentors the customer or the partner before or during the implementation. The largest partner in the region is Atos Origin, with offices in Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei, Shanghai, and Hong Kong; Singapore and Bangkok are the most active offices. ITRI in Taiwan is another important partner, while in Japan, until recently, Oki has been the only active implementation partner. However, Intel and Microsoft Japan as well as HP Japan are proving to be great technology partners and are actively promoting Webplan's product.
on April 26, Webplan announced that Kawatetsu Systems has been signed as a value
added reseller (VAR) in Japan. Kawatetsu Systems is a spin-off from JFE
Steel, one of the largest steel companies in the world. With nearly
1,400 employees and fiscal 2002 revenues of nearly $3.4 billion (USD), Katwatetsu
Systems has a strong reputation for reliable service and support in business
application development, implementation and integration, and its System
Integration Division specializes in manufacturing, logistics, and planning
system development and integration. The firm has formed a dedicated team to
market, sell, service, and support RapidResponse, and, as an authorized support
partner, it will provide implementation services as well as maintenance and
support to customers.
for Europe, Webplan is still present only through the installations at certain
high-profile customer sites, including Agilent, Cannondale,
General Domestic Appliances, Raytheon, Sumitomo
Electrical Systems, and Smiths Industries Aerospace.
has also expanded its distribution model to include both direct and indirect
sales on a global basis. Particularly notable was the December's announcement
that Webplan has joined the Cognos Partner Program (CPP)
as a Strategic Technology Partner. The two companies will integrate Webplan's
response management with complementary Cognos' business intelligence
(BI) products, Cognos ReportNet and Cognos PowerPlay
for enhanced operations visibility and analysis, and with Cognos Metrics
Manager to ensure operations decision-making alignment with corporate
objectives. Both vendors believe the end result will be a more rapid and measurable
return on investment (ROI) for manufacturers.
has also developed (or has been negotiating) and strengthened strategic partnerships
with other renowned technology organizations including Intel, RedPrairie
Corporation (a referral partner that also does account planning, pursuing
joint pipeline accounts, and exploring ways to embed the Webplan technology
into its supply chain execution [SCE] solution), Intuitive Manufacturing
Systems (a mid-market ERP vendor looking to embed Webplan's multisite
planning technology and currently negotiating a Webplan original equipment manufacturer
[OEM] agreement), TDCI (a referral partner, with a captive
install base of the MACPAC ERP system users with the rights
to support them, and which intends to become a Webplan VAR to extend its capabilities),
and Agile Software (there is already an established marketing
agreement, while actively engaged in exploring an integrated solution). These
partners are seen to strengthen Webplan's value proposition in areas of product
functionality, performance, integration, scalability, and sales.
The vendor intends to leverage a manufacturer's investment in most important enterprise solutions (e.g., BI, ERP, product lifecycle management [PLM], manufacturing executions system [MES], enterprise application integration [EAI], warehouse management system [WMS], etc.) offered by the above application vendors, to provide advanced real time analytics and enhanced decision support capabilities across the organization. Webplan thus believes its above alliances with application partners, systems integrators, and technology providers should make it easier for large and mid-size manufacturers across industries to implement and use Webplan within the framework of their existing enterprise applications' investment and within a short time to benefit with a measurable ROI.
Webplan RapidResponse 7.3
for the product's functional offering, at the end of March, Webplan announced
the release of the Webplan RapidResponse 7.3 product, which
it believes stands alone in providing the breakthrough solution manufacturers
need to master the reality gap, and enable the "as planned" world to
meet the reality of the "as it is" or the "as executed" world where constant
changes occur in supply and demand. According to Webplan's officials, current
practices for manufacturers are still to use people such as, planners, schedulers,
managers, etc.; paper including, e-mails, faxes, and even letters; and tools,
for example, re-run plans, ad hoc reports, disjointed spreadsheets, etc. to
fill that reality gap. These minimally automated and under-optimized approaches
make it extremely difficult to keep supply and demand aligned, or to fully understand
the ramifications before decisions are made.
Conversely, Webplan believes the introduction of RapidResponse finally addresses the need manufacturers have for real time insight and visibility to effectively manage "at the moment" (including, "as changes occur"), by delivering innovative technology that enables manufacturers to anticipate potential problems, instantly review multiple action alternatives, and align operations to rapidly and effectively master the above-described unavoidable reality gap instead of coming to a halt every time they need to make changes in operations and output. By instantly viewing changes in the supply chain, proposing and sharing action alternatives throughout and beyond the enterprise, and ranking and scoring multiple "what-if" scenarios, manufacturers should be able to make informed, best-practice decisions and manage momentarily the issues, such as inventory excess, product cost variance, and the performance of contract manufacturers and suppliers. Also, the product's architecture connects directly to front- and back-end systems, supports a continuous flow of information across multiple sites, and intends to optimize the value of existing infrastructure.
As to deliver the above touted solutions, RapidResponse leverages the following three key novel technologies that enable manufacturers to abridge the dreaded inevitable reality gap and respond swiftly to today's problems in an informed manner:
Spreadsheets provide Web-based global access to live data feeds from
ERP, SCP, PLM, WMS, TMS (transportation management system) and other enterprise
applications. With embedded AlwaysOn Analytics, manufacturers
can analyze data based on near real time information and manufacturing algorithms
(including calculating the impact of a demand change on supply requirements)
found in a broad number of ERP systems such as SAP, Oracle,
and many others. Doing so aligns action teams around a consistent, continuously
updated view of the impact that changes in supply and demand will have on
their operations in a familiar, intuitive spreadsheet view.
Resolution Engine gives manufacturers rapid, iterative modeling
capabilities that enable action team members throughout and beyond the enterprise
to propose, detail or merge views, and share action alternatives to drive
effective resolution to continually changing situations.
Live Scorecard enables manufacturers to compare alternative
"what-if" action plans based on real time information. By scoring proposed
action plans against predetermined real world corporate performance metrics
and key performance indicators (KPIs), Live Scorecard aims at ensuring
that any chosen course of action conforms to both day-to-day and long-term
business objectives and best practices.
RapidPesponse 7.3 is a further evolution of former Webplan Manufacturing
Insight 2.0, which was built in 2003 within a collaborative framework
as a personalized, role-based supply chain visibility and analysis solution
that would provide real time alignment of supply and demand across the extended
supply chain. Several enhancements were at the forefront of Release 2.0, included
quick launch and new personalization capabilities, as well as web-based administration
to manage users and groups, and support expanding Webplan user communities.
Further, the release of Webplan Manufacturing Insight 1.0 took
place mid-2002, and the product was, even back then, based on a modular architecture,
while its inherent scalability meant that any company, regardless of size or
level of supply chain sophistication, could benefit from the solutions' capabilities.
To make the purchase of its solutions affordable for a broad range of customers, Webplan has since been offering attractive investment options, such as "rent-to-purchase", to suit varying budgets. Designed with mid-tier companies in mind, the rental model should ease the burden on capital budgets and reduce financial risk. At the end of the contract term, the rental agreement converts to a perpetual software license, while flexible terms also give customers the opportunity to opt out anytime during the contract.
in 2002, Webplan also announced its plans to deliver its solution on the Microsoft
.NET Framework. The initial extensible markup language (XML)
Web service developed using Microsoft Visual Studio .NET provided
an XML interface to the former Webplan CeO platform (recently
renamed into RapidResponse Server). This has permitted applications
and servers on almost any vendor platforms to take advantage of Webplan solutions
based on Webplan technology, such as real time adaptive planning and trading
partner collaboration, over the Internet. The new XML interface will be offered
as a component of the RapidResponse Server, which leverages the capabilities
of the Microsoft BizTalk Server and SQL Server
to provide B2B transactions services and XML event services for real time distributed
collaboration. Further enhancements included simple object access protocol-compliant
(SOAP) XML interface for open access to the RapidResponse Response Management
Platform from both .NET and Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based(J2EE) applications,
which should enable access to Webplan supply chain information from virtually
any platform, while the separation of business logic from presentation in ASP.NET
will also reduce the effort required to upgrade customers with tailored Web
concludes Part One of a four-part note.
Two and Three will discuss the market impact.
Four will cover challenges and make user recommendations.