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Cincom Sticks to CONTROL of ETO and MRO Part 3: Challenges and User Recommendations

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: May 27 2002

Challenges

As stated at the end of Part 2, Cincom will have to address inevitable challenges in order to continue to thrive in this ruthless competitive environment with a limited opportunity and functionality that cannot easily be leveraged in many other diverse sectors. Many larger vendors with more resources and leading-edge technology have invaded Cincom's stronghold, and have also been closing the functional parity gap. The likes of SAP, Oracle, Baan, Intentia, IFS, and Western Data Systems (WDS) have espoused strong counterpart offering to CONTROLTM, while Cincom's PriorityTM competes with the likes of Epicor, Made2Manage, Relevant Business Systems, and Lilly Software.

Moreover, the delivery of the above products has somewhat stretched Cincom's resources during the last few years. Venturing into new territories, outside of traditional ERP boundaries and into some non-manufacturing industries, resulted in an additional value proposition and new opportunities, however, the multiple products delivery had for some time confused/detracted customers, sales force, and partners. Although venturing into database management, application development and many other ancillary areas helped resolve the technological conundrum and brought additional revenue, it might soon become too many avenues for the company to handle simply for the opportunity to attract new business.

This is Part 3 of a 3-part note on Cincom Systems.

Part 1 presented a history of the company and detailed recent developments.

Part 2 discussed the Market Impact.

Technology Response

On the technology front, while Cincom embraced the trendy Microsoft technology (described in Part Two) that promises a building-block approach to application development, and XML-based interconnectivity, its vast majority of customers still run on a fat client two-tier client/server architecture and on its proprietary SUPRA® database. Migrating these onto new, more advanced product releases and/or continued concurrent support of diverse product architectures will demand bloated R&D resources. The technological foundation disparity of the products has also taken its toll by doubling the development expenses and in delivering products integration tools.

Namely, CONTROL was originally written in COBOL, which has prompted Cincom to decompose the code into an object-oriented similar approach. Contrary to it, these new products (iC and iD) have long been purposefully based on objects and Microsoft-centric contemporary technologies, with the aim to be easily integrated to CONTROL. CONTROL also initially ran on SUPRA DB only (therefore being the most proven there, and with a majority of installations), while the support for Oracle DB was introduced during the mid 90s. Because the SUPRA database is less scaleable and popular than the Oracle database, it has less appeal to large organizations.

Having to also deliver a number of functionalities through third-party solutions mentioned in the earlier parts, which are natively offered by many larger competitors as a matter of course, may deter some interface-wary customers. This might be mitigated by seamlessly integrating these "alien" applications in a manner that is transparent to customers, which has not been the case for earlier product releases where CONTROL and CODA were interfaced via off-line batch transfers and users had to access both systems separately.

The product offering convergence using the Microsoft.NET development environment, as well as forthcoming business process template orchestrations for critical processes such as engineering change request/approval, receiving/inspection, and request for quote/order, all leveraging the BizTalk Orchestration tool, should help Cincom curb the above hurdles and remain in control of its ETO heartland.

User Recommendations

Cincom Manufacturing Business Solutions' target market is comprised of multi-site and multi-national complex manufacturing companies and their divisions with up to $250 million-a-year revenue range and up to 300 concurrent users per site, with a support for the entire lifecycle of a product or project should consider the company's value proposition, while bearing in mind what the other vendors have to offer. Cincom's solutions target complex manufacturing, but they can also handle other manufacturing modes like repetitive, MTO, make-to-stock (MTS), and ATO.

Cincom's Priority is aimed at SME manufacturers in the above environments and also where there are constraint-based manufacturing problems.

CONTROL is aimed at larger organizations in A&D, instrumentation and control, machinery, medical, telecommunications, heavy equipment, transportation, power engineering, and MRO. The system is particularly a good fit where the products' specifications vary enormously according to end-user configuration, products are of a very high value, there is significant value-adding activity in design and manufacturing, where product lifecycles are long, and hybrid (mixed-mode) manufacturing techniques are involved.

Nevertheless, some industries outside of Cincom's target market such as insurance, banking and financial institutions, healthcare, and education, may benefit from evaluating Cincom's iC Solutions and iD (intelligent Document) Solutions in a stand-alone manner. Existing users of earlier product releases, particularly those running on the SUPRA database, may benefit from querying the company's future product development, product migration path, and/or service and support strategy.

This concludes Part 3 of a 3-part note on Cincom Systems.

Part 1 presented a history of the company and detailed recent developments.

Part 2 discussed the Market Impact.

 
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