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Fujitsu Poised to (Inter)Stage Glovia's Comeback Part Three: Market Impact

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: January 22 2004

Market Impact

In October 2003, a leading provider of extended ERP solutions for engineer-to-order (ETO) and high volume manufacturers, Glovia International, announced it formed a strategic alliance with Fujitsu Software Corporation to provide manufacturers, customers, and suppliers with improved collaboration and integration capabilities. Glovia International is headquartered in El Segundo, California (US), and is a subsidiary of Fujitsu Limited (TSE:6702), a Tokyo, Japan-based leading provider of international IT and communications solutions with consolidated revenues of $38 billion (USD) in fiscal 2003. The strategic alliance should allow Glovia to improve its customers' ability to collaborate with trading partners and reduce supply chain costs while enabling Fujitsu Software Corporation to further penetrate the manufacturing industry. Fujitsu Software Corporation, based in San Jose, California, is also a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu, and delivers one of the world's broadest lines of application infrastructure software products, including the Interstage Suite and NetCOBOL.

Glovia is indisputably past its few restructurings and ownership-change hardships from the past few years, and the vendor now has verifiable and clear manufacturing-oriented, extended-ERP product and service offerings, and strategies to execute. The extended period of transitions and restructurings has done a gross disservice to the seasoned vendor whose astute products have been available to manufacturers for over 30 years, and yet, nowadays only some might be aware its longevity.

This is Part Three of a four-part note.

Part One detailed recent announcements.

Part Two discussed Fujitsu's support of Glovia.

Part Four will cover challenges and make user recommendations.

glovia.com

Glovia has long offered a versatile manufacturing-focused ERP system and was renamed glovia.com to further reflect the idea of globalization, optimization, and visualization. Glovia stands for GLObal Value Integrated Applications in 1999. The addition of the ".com" suffix reflected not only the product's Java-based, thin client interface, but also advancements in its object-oriented component architecture and key e-commerce-oriented functional enhancements. To that end, with the help of the parent company's deep pockets and technology infrastructure products, Glovia can now boast web-based software capabilities and domain expertise in business-to-business (B2B) collaboration, as it now offers a fully web-enabled B2B transaction applications suite with more than seventy fully integrated modules that support nearly every area of manufacturing business functions, such as product management; customer relationship management (CRM); supply chain management (SCM); supplier management; manufacturing; financials; projects; business intelligence (BI); collaboration and integration; tools; and, technology.

Moving forward, Glovia will also be able to offer the above functions as individual components, owing to Java wrappers around all of the main business process components it currently supports, such as "design", "sell"' "plan", "source", "make", "fulfill", "service", "finance", and "manage projects". Although the glovia.com suite covers nearly every area of extended ERP and nearly all the processes within the entire product's life cycle, and although it is flexible enough to serve the gamut of manufacturing modes from made-to-order to high-volume manufacturers with one solution, the vendor is not trying to be all things to all manufacturers. It still targets mixed-mode manufacturers (i.e. a medley of engineer-to-order [ETO]/project and contract handling, via make-to-order [MTO], and assemble-to-order [ATO], to high-volume/repetitive/make-to-stock [MTS] practices within the same organization) in electronic components, consumer electronics, and automotive sectors.

The product is also scaleable, with more than 1,000 mid- and large-sized manufacturers in over 5,600 sites worldwide. After Japan, the US is the second strongest market for Glovia with over 300 customers. The product is also global being available in twenty languages and with support for multiple currencies, it is implemented in over one hundred countries. To that end, Glovia has approximately 650 employees worldwide, dedicated customer support centers, and professional services teams in North America, Europe, Japan and Asia.

During these days of an ongoing consolidation in the market, Glovia is blessed with an indisputable viability of its financial backer. Furthermore, Fujitsu provides Glovia with a huge internal selling opportunity. Namely, in addition to over 30 Fujitsu's factories already running on glovia.com, Fujitsu has committed to implementing Glovia inside many more of its over 400 subsidiaries worldwide, which is a vast backlog opportunity every vendor wishes to have in case of a protracted sluggish market. In addition, Fujitsu's hardware and IT services groups have longstanding relationships with Japanese multinational corporations that have often led to greatly reduced (if not automatic) sales cycles in the past. The future could therefore bode well for Glovia given backing from the Fujitsu's blue chip customers like Caterpillar, Dell Computer, Dunlop, Canon, Pioneer, Panasonic, Bosch, Mitsubishi, Eaton Semiconductor, Xerox, Yamaha and Ericsson; its functionally strong and scaleable extended-ERP system; and, its new push with e-business collaboration enabling products. Fujitsu has been a household name in Japan, and has lately also benefited as its domestic customers have pulled it into their subsidiaries in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

With over seventy extended-ERP modules, glovia.com still has much to offer manufacturing and service environments. Although it originated in the US market, it has enjoyed its greatest success with Japanese companies because of Fujitsu's involvement starting in the 1990s. Support for serial effectivity, the "kanban" and the "Seiban" lean/JIT manufacturing approaches enable manufacturers to handle configured items even in batches of one. ("Kaban" loosely translated, means card, billboard, or sign. The term is often used synonymously for the specific just-in-time [JIT] scheduling system developed by the Toyota Corporation in Japan. Seiban is a number or label attached to all parts, materials, purchase and manufacturing orders identifying a particular customer, job, product or product line resulting in separate MRPs in the overall materials requirement planning [MRP] process.) All these functions, aimed at inventory optimization and waste management, streamlined planning and control for specific products, models, and sequenced production, are offered by Glovia, and are functions that Glovia's many competitors have yet to emulate.

Also, Glovia's virtual manufacturing capabilities still give it a functional edge over many other products for the mid-market. In addition to the above JIT practices amenable to Japanese manufacturers, Glovia has lately been involved in delivering a set of "new business models" for the idiosyncratic domestic market. An example would be helping Japanese companies to source outside the "keiretsu" (a Japanese term describing a loose conglomeration of companies organized around a single bank for their mutual benefit) for better pricing and other terms of trade.

Moreover, remote inventory tracking (e.g., parts stored on service trucks) and tracking inventory by projects make Glovia a strong fit for project-based and service industries. At the core of its projects functionality is a service item feature that allows the system to define and manage service products, which are often activities rather than physical stock items, such as engineering, education, installation, and consulting. Similar to the way bills of material (BOMs) aid production planning for standard physical products, the service item aids scheduling and capacity planning for services. Also, the suite supports "progressive engineering", which is the ability to handle items that are part of the project but still undefined, that can nevertheless be included in the project work breakdown structure (WBS). The application will plan around those items without losing the integrity of the structure.

Other highlights of Glovia's projects functionality include project costing, which is kept separate from the ERP system's general ledger, and a project definition feature for defining and managing complex projects. Thus, through program cost accounting, project accounting, project definition, and project resource planning sub-modules, Glovia takes a holistic approach to the needs of project-driven manufacturers, since it can address the entire process life cycle, beginning with the bid and estimating processes, all the way to installation and service management. It can thereby connect project status tracking with back-office processes. The system also can interface to project management tools such as Microsoft Project through the project management interface sub-module.

However, glovia.com has not traditionally been strong in the distribution and transportation modules (i.e., the "ship/deliver" business process), plant maintenance or enterprise asset management (EAM), or in so-called "white-collar" corporate functionality, such as global financial consolidation or human resources (HR). Recently though, Glovia has added much-needed functionality in its financials module, specifically in the areas of general ledger, cash management, budgeting, financial reporting and consolidation (through the alliance with Cognos). This will help increase its win rate within enterprises with complex organization, and help move it beyond the stronghold of the four walls of a single plant and collaborate with its sister plants and trading partners.

As of glovia.com 6, the vendor espoused a demand-focused offering aimed at manufacturers wanting to use the internet to collaborate with suppliers, customers, and other trading partners, and thus re-engineer their supply chains. One of its key new modules is intelligent order management, which takes projected inventory from the system's APS (advanced planning and scheduling) system or a third-party APS system and allows users to plan accordingly by visualizing the best possible shipment date for any order, whether a standard or configured product, from any of its facilities. It further includes advice on product substitutions and alternative configurations, with accompanying costs and delivery information, costs per plant, system prompts and recommendations for the best solution. Global planning, collaboration and integration capabilities in the version 7 should also give customers visibility into demand. Planned future enhancements (possible as early as version 8) will supposedly enable real-time demand planning. Instead of manufacturers aggregating demand and optimizing the long-term plan, they should be able to optimize the execution of the plan and test the capacity, and the profitability of the supply chain in real-time, as the demand occurs.

Other notable available enhancements are the Advanced Capacity Planning module re-written in Java and the Shop-Floor Data Collection (SFDC) module with bar code scanning support for high-volume manufacturing and complex industry requirements. In particular, the latter now features manufacturing execution monitoring through a browser interface. Glovia may also make great play of its web-based configuration tool, which allows users to configure BOMs and routings in a visual graphical environment, and of its CRM functionality specifically designed for its target industries with its sales force automation (SFA) and field service capabilities. In addition to the above-mentioned Configurator, the suite also has parts of product life cycle management (PLM) functionality in its engineering module, including a centralized repository for all product-related data including engineering change management (ECM).

Technology Advantage

A wide range of platforms cover UNIX, Linux, and Microsoft Windows 9x/2000/NT; however, there is currently only support for the Oracle database, which is a potential downside. Owing to its newly found flexibility through Java and XML enablement, glovia.com may now function well as either a corporate backbone system, or as a solution that executes operations and planning at the plant or unit level. As a result of the co-existence with other systems in the latter case, the vendor has lately begun to offer integration adapters to link with other enterprise or legacy systems.

Possibly the most beneficial edge for Glovia is the availability of underlying technologies from infrastructure and up such as system management; storage management; application development suite; application server; portal server; content management server; business process manager; integration manager/server; XML search engine; XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) tool; integration navigators; traffic integrator; and, security integrator, which are all provided by Fujitsu.

Interstage Suite

Fujitsu Software has been making a concerted effort to (re)launch its Interstage suite, comprising of the above pieces of process automation, integration, and application servers. The focus has also been on distribution partners, OEM agreements (like the recent ones with Sybase and SSA Global), and expanding existing client relationships. Fujitsu has already had some success in parts of Europe and Asia but has failed to make a broader global impact because of poor channel and ISVs' (independent software vendors) support. Its flagship Interstage component, Business Process Manager (formerly iFlow), has often generated positive feedback from clients, but Fujitsu has struggled to convert this goodwill into broader sales opportunities, with only about one hundred customers. Time will tell whether its recent enhancements, in terms of linking parts of business process are carried out

The product also features a new rules engine, based on Ilog's JRules technology, which enables user companies to institute a plethora of highly complex rules, such as giving different customers different discounts. Also new are process agents that route or escalate problematic transactions to the assigned problem solvers within an organization, which could also come in handy because of Glovia's real-time global order fulfillment aspirations. The product also offers analytics for business activity monitoring (BAM) purposes, which can be used to set key performance indicators (KPIs) like agreed service levels, and thereby perform simulations and "what if" planning scenarios for senior business managers. Thus, Fujitsu has been making strides to tackle the process automation, performance measurement and visibility aspects of the emerging business process management (BPM) market. The analytics can be driven out of the Microsoft Analyses offering, but will also work with Cognos and Hyperion BI products and on-line analytic planning (OLAP) cubes.

Fujitsu/Glovia's Vision

Despite the digital marketplaces' limited takeoff so far, the Fujitsu/Glovia's vision still remains to become the leader in B2B e-commerce for the global enterprises, responding first pragmatically to business globalization with the current multi-national capabilities of the former glovia.hub product. Even while it is now being rolled into the glovia.com umbrella, the collaborative product is still a work-in-progress, since its first incarnation is very much aimed at globally managed sales order processing and materials procurement, and it should reportedly go a great deal further to become a completly integrated technology solution for instituting operational performance management. For now, it is about helping multi-site, multi-national manufacturers to co-ordinate their sales and procurement via portals without building out and integrating custom infrastructure and applications. Next step will supposedly be to enable business visualization or executive "dashboards" that provide meaningful and user-tailored visual representations of what is going on with the overall department business health. The final step is business optimization which is the ability of a manager to know and understand where the cheapest location to build a product is, given, such as inventory on hand, available capacity to build and logistics network information.

As companies increase their global exposure, particularly through on-line channels, language is an obvious and important barrier to overcome. Therefore, adding a real-time, multi-lingual translation capability, such as enabling customers to enter orders on a web-site in their native tongue, has a tremendous yet straightforward benefit. Despite this, it has not been offered by many at this stage. Glovia's Global Order Management System, which allows companies to manage pricing, ordering, scheduling, and delivery with multi-language, multi-currency, and multi-location, as well as tax and tariff regulation, may offer lots of bang for a buck and give competitors a run for their money. Many increasingly realize that conducting meaningful B2B e-commerce involves far more than just posting a product catalog and taking orders from domestic customers. Other benefits include the ability to aggregate sales and demand within a single organization, to merge products and services as one offering, and to generate quotations that reflect multi-plant collaboration. To that end, glovia.com processes information (e.g., a placed order) in real-time rather than in batch mode, thereby propagating changes almost instantly throughout the value chain.

This concludes Part Three of a four-part note.

Part One detailed recent announcements.

Part Two discussed Fujitsu's support of Glovia.

Part Four will cover challenges and make user recommendations.

 
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