INFIMACS Becoming Ever More RELEVANT For Project-Based Industries. Part 2: Market Impact and User Recommendations
Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: November 1 2001
INFIMACS INFIMACS Becoming Ever More RELEVANT For Project-Based Industries
2: Market Impact and User Recommendations
On September 26, as a result of partnering with its build-to-order, discrete
manufacturing and maintenance organization customers, Relevant Business
Systems, (www.relevant.com) a privately held ERP vendor for small
to medium discrete complex manufacturing companies, enhanced its INFIMACS
II ERP Business Planning module by providing all of the functions required
to prepare forecasts for products, create master production schedules
(MPS) and evaluate the impact of the MPS on company resources, using rough-cut
capacity planning (RCCP). Several MPS runs may be executed and saved without
impacting the rest of the database, allowing users to consider alternatives,
review what-if impacts and select the most appropriate production plan.
One of this two-part event note contains the details of these enhancements.
Despite current difficult economic times, the growth of contract manufacturing
has continued largely unabated. This expansion has been fueled by a number
of factors, among them the advent of the Internet and consequent rise
of e-commerce, as well as the trend in manufacturing toward mass customization.
While the commercial aircraft industry may suffer owing to the recent
terrorist attacks, it is quite the opposite case in the defense and government
industries. Many vendors have spotted the opportunity and have been addressing
the exacting requirements of the project-based complex industries (see
Vendors Moving to Aerospace and Defense Markets).
an illustration, aerospace & defense (A&D) producers are typically high-tech
or electronic manufacturers, and must handle complex production processes
and large, complex supplier networks. Sophisticated customer order management
applications are typically not required. Instead, customer service needs
are more oriented toward contract management and cost reporting. Frequent
changes force contract supplier engineers and OEM engineers to be in constant
collaborative communication throughout the design and production cycle
of the unit. One of the most manual functions in a supplier organization
is the sell-side Request for Quote (RFQ) management, which usually revolves
around a few key individuals that have direct knowledge of the product
or who can manually pull together the diverse information sources into
a unified document.
combination of outsourced manufacturing with increasingly common configure-to-order
(CTO) or build-to-order (BTO) production environments is making unit-level
data management an increasingly high priority for contract manufacturers
and the companies that retain them. Additional tracking and reporting
requirements are another big issue. The ability to track every product,
each of its parts, and its stage in the production cycle has become a
prerequisite to production efficiency and profitability, especially for
MRO organizations. Additionally, the ability to store and access quality
tests history data on an ongoing basis and the ability to thoroughly analyze
that data is crucial in keeping costs low and quality high.
Business Systems Responds
Relevant Business Systems seems to have responded to many nitty-gritty's
of the above industries. After a period of somewhat stealth operation,
Relevant has started to make some noise in the midrange ERP market, with
the product related initiatives outlines in Part
One and with an aggressive direct marketing effort and the establishment
of new direct sales and support offices. The opportunity has been extended
by INFIMACS' support for UNIX and Windows NT
operational systems, as well as for Oracle, IBM DB2,
MS SQL Server, and Informix databases.
company also continues to expand the functionality of its flagship INFIMACS
II ERP product, whose capabilities go beyond traditional ERP functionality,
as evidenced by this latest enhancements bonanza. INFIMACS has long featured
a complex manufacturing-oriented CRM that includes a complete contact
history on which people the company has been working with, what calls
have been made, what correspondence has been exchanged. Also, the CRM
module has service-call tracking to help manage the field service function,
with the ability to give anyone in the organization a view into what is
happening with customers and prospects.
remains focused on satisfying the needs of its target market, especially
in the A&D and MRO industries. In order to meet the needs of airplane
service companies, Relevant beefed up its lot and serial tracking capabilities.
Key to this enhancement is the above-mentioned tail effectivity, which
permits users to tie every part on a plane back to that one entity. The
MRO companies, on the other hand, have very stringent requirements they
must meet regarding tracking parts and condition codes.
many of the these functionalities sound ordinary and appear to be offered
by many vendors as 'supported' when responding to RFIs, subsequent product
demonstration often reveals the need for some tweaking or even for a major
modification in order to satisfy stringent customer requirements. The
devil is always in details.
an example, the native ability to run MRP by condition code is not a feature
typically found amongst a majority of mainstream ERP systems. To enable
an ERP system to track the condition of a component (e.g., new, overhauled,
once used, refurbished, or a combination of these) and to restrict mixing
inventories of materials with different condition codes, would require
a colossal modification.
example would be that INFIMACS II ERP can advise users if any given part
revision can be mixed in inventory with other revisions or shipped for
a particular order. Each Revision Level indicates, on a scale from 1-99,
a specific item's fitness for inventory mixing or shipment. During an
issue or shipment, the ERP reviews whether or not the fitness number associated
with the location allows specific items to be placed into inventory or
shipped. As products are revised over their lifecycles, certain combinations
of features will not coexist properly. Using the Revision Level feature
users are assured that the system is determining if the lot or serial
number can be mixed or shipped with existing quantities. They can also
stop a given item or revision from being used, preventing its receipt
in store locations and issues from all locations throughout the company.
possibly unique in the market is the company's incremental introduction
of enhancements as opposed to doing it through one big product release
to roll out everything that is new and exciting. The general industry
practice of bugs and/or lack of functionality becoming patches, and then
this collection of patches being presented as new features in the latest
product release, has often made product upgrades appear to the customer
as almost a new installation. Instead, as new functionality is added to
the product, Relevant's customers have immediate cost-free and painless
access to the upgrades.
Although Relevant is still a weakling compared to SAP and Oracle,
the company's focus allows it to keep pace with trends in technology and
customer requirements. Still, limited financial resources, undeveloped
global channel and brand recognition, which are almost non-existent outside
the US, and limited product's global capabilities are the challenges the
company has yet to overcome. Having to deliver a number of functionalities
through 3rd-party solutions, which are natively offered by many larger
competitors as a matter of course, may deter some interface-wary customers.
also has to beef up and/or to better advertise its product's interconnectivity
and e-collaboration/product lifecycle management (PLM) offering. One should
never forget about the large players like SAP, Oracle, J.D. Edwards,
Baan and Cincom Systems that are entrenched within
the higher-end of the market, and have recently started addressing the
required PLM and engineering change management (ECM) functionality. Meeting
the project-based industries' dynamic needs will require vendors to improve
ease of installation, interoperability, and service support networks.
Moreover, escalating competition in the A&D markets will definitely make
price a critical competitive factor.
has answered many of these requirements and has thereby encroached upon
the stronghold of vendors like Western Data Systems (WDS), Epicor Software,
Glovia, SAP, Oracle, Psipenta, Friedman Corporation, Cincom Systems, MRO
Software, and IFS. For a more complete list of vendors that have the aspirations
for this field, see ERP
Vendors Moving to Aerospace and Defense Markets.
The current market trend industry-wide is towards vendors that can provide
comprehensive solutions for medium-sized companies. Relevant seems to
have a fair shot at delivering that to project-based discrete manufacturers
such as aerospace contractors, contract manufacturers of electronic components,
window, door & frame manufacturers, and MRO organizations with revenues
up to $300 million.
Relevant customers, primarily North America based, should certainly consider
the offered product line, bearing in mind what the competitors have to
offer. At least, INFIMACS II should be evaluated to raise the bar for
other vendors offerings in the contest in terms of demonstrating their
EDI, work breakdown structure (WBS), project management, Earned Value
reporting, repair and overhaul, engineering, purchasing, MRP, and costing.
Small and mid-sized contract, ETO and CTO discrete manufacturers that
are looking to upgrade to a more comprehensive system may want to consider
Relevant's hosted solution as a cost-effective and faster time-to-market