Invensys Production Solutions - Can Historic Strengths And The 'Protean Boost' Overcome Its Liabilities? Part Two: Liabilities, Strategy, and User Recommendations




Event Summary

Recently, after a lengthy and painstaking soul-searching exercise, Invensys plc, the global automation and controls group with headquarters in the UK, created a new group within its Production Management Division (PMD) called Invensys Production Solutions (IPS) (www.invensysproductionsolutions.com). The group will include the PRISM and Protean process ERP products plus the resources of Invensys Validation Services group (www.vtc-usa.com), a Montreal, Canada-based provider of regulatory compliance, validation, and consulting services encompassing the entire validation project life cycle and a range of validation services for the regulated supply chain.

This is Part Two of a two-part note.

Part One presented Invensys's background and the strengths of the PRISM and Protean products.

Liabilities

Incidentally, the company might still be burdened by its past baggage and lingering issues. While the products have been strong in plant level needs, they do not have a history of strength in non-plant-centric white collar' functions. They have always fared well in evaluation gigs where the enterprise was focused on a plant-level solution and poorly when the focus was more on administrative capabilities. Consequently, for the reason of not being regarded a comprehensive ERP product, Protean had initially been relegated to the plant/divisional operations of large enterprises and to mid-sized industrial-oriented process manufacturers that would not need complex distribution or financial management functionality.

On the other hand, as a relatively new product, Protean had required significant development funds and resources to make it a comprehensive ERP product, its research and development expenses had been high, resulting with numerous cost cutting moves that had been at the expense of former Marcam's sales and marketing staff. As a result, Marcam Solutions had not been able to gain the market mindshare', and had sadly missed the Y2K compliance buying frenzy at the time that had benefited most of other vendors. Marcam Solutions had sought to alleviate the integration issue with partnerships with PeopleSoft and CODA for financials, and by pursuing the co-existence strategy with SAP, but only with measly success because the trend of most customers at the time was to buy a transaction foundation framework from a single vendor from the green field' situation.

While the company has meanwhile bolstered its financial management and order management capabilities, it still has a limited supply chain execution (SCE) offering that is particularly asked for in the order management needs of the process industries. While the customers have meanwhile become open to integration and composite applications, they still demand their vendors provide assistance with the management of enterprise supply and demand chain initiatives. To that end, IPS will still trail its direct peers like Agilisys, which has long provided these functionalities natively (see Agilisys Continues Agilely Post-SCT) and Ross Systems, which will have found an answer with its recent alliance with Prescient Systems for the SCM offering (see Two Highly Focused Vendors Team For Their Markets' Good). Even within Invensys, the group has continued with the lingering period of financial distress and also limited product investments. While its products have deep functionality, many of the "must have's" of today's market are thus belatedly being added to the product.

Another challenge comes from the fact that its ERP products have always been at different phases of their functional life cycle. Although Protean has robust process manufacturing capabilities, it is still an incomplete and evolving ERP product, whereas PRISM has long been hardly receiving any enhancements because of the emphasis on Protean, and its basic technology has been all but stabilized'. Moreover, the vendor has not been able to leverage PRISM's large installed base because of the "clean sheet" product design strategy used in Protean, which did not provide a clear and easy upgrade path. Actually, the migration from PRISM to Protean would not be different from a new installation because Protean has significantly different data models and business processes than PRISM. Even erstwhile Marcam had toyed with an idea of developing conversion tools and commingling the products at a functional module level to ease migration. However, other than occasional PRISM Order Management module integration with Protean (whose equivalent capability was only in development at the time), using PRISM's Enterprise Manager, a store-and-forward integration mechanism, not much has ever happened on both fronts.

To recap, the company has had a rough history that it now must get beyond to gain traction in the market. First Marcam, then Wonderware and then Baan, the newly named Invensys Production Solutions must remind its customers and the marketplace of its historic success and forget about so many years of financial pressures which dropped Marcam, an early Process ERP leader, into the leagues of the "also runs" of the late 90's. Since the mid-90's this business has been relatively invisible to the market (as seen by less than 100 new customers in last several years), and customers and the marketplace may have forgotten who IPS is and what it stands for. The company must communicate its successes and strategy to the marketplace, and must aggressively invest in customer satisfaction, marketing and sales. IPS must convince customers and prospects that it is here to stay; while the functionally rich products are great advantages, many other considerations make some customers and prospects perceive these solutions a risk.

Competition

IPS' competition has also intensified lately, as many larger competitors offer similar functions, although some of their offerings are based on a modified bill of materials (BOM) architecture. Although the process manufacturing and consumer packaged goods (CPG) target markets have long been under-served by traditional ERP vendors who primarily designed their products for discrete manufacturing, the situation has been rapidly changing recently, with the process ERP market becoming quite cramped with competitors. The recent revival of its direct competitors such as Geac, SSA GT/Infinium and especially of its nemeses Ross and Agilisys that both seems to have gotten their houses in order lately while hinting a strong opportunity, also reveals the internecine war all the players face.

Therefore, a pure process enterprise applications pioneer like IPS does need to be able to further differentiate itself from increasing competition both from the larger players, particularly SAP, Oracle, J.D. Edwards, Intentia, IFS, Ramco Systems, Geac, SSA GT and QAD, which have recently made significant in-roads in the relevant sectors, and from a growing number of process enterprise applications incumbents like Agilisys, Ross, EMR Innovations (with the ProcessProMFG product), Microsoft Navision/Process800 combination, Adonix (with its recently acquired CIMPRO product), and Best Software (with its BatchMaster for PfW product). In addition to many of these ERP players that offer supply chain applications, the pure supply chain management SCM competition will include AspenTech, i2 Technologies, Manugistics, Logility, and WAM Systems.

Strategy

The group has a new enthusiastic leader, Sanjay Razdan, 270 people, and a sharpened focus. Razdan tells us that the group's strategy is to capitalize on the historic strengths of its PRISM and Protean products in combination with the services offered to assist regulated industries with validation needs. Today, the regulated industries mostly include life sciences (e.g., pharmaceuticals) but the company correctly believes to our mind that the regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will soon extend into the food & beverage industries.

Razdan tells us that Invensys Production Solutions will focus on the plant management needs of food and beverages, life sciences, and specialty chemical industries. Many pre-Y2K regulated process manufacturing companies have invested heavily in ERP systems, with the aim of running their businesses using a single, integrated application from top to bottom. However, a great part of them have found difficulties in achieving that at the plant level. In total, PRISM and Protean are installed in 1450 sites with 100% of the sites being in the process industries. The group's management tells us the breakdown by industry is as follows:

Food and Beverage 40%
Specialty Chemical 22%
Life Sciences 21%
Other Process 17%

The validation services business brings experience in the needs of life sciences companies, including detailed knowledge of its regulatory environment. Thus, the key to its future is indisputably its install base, a historic strength. Razdan is focusing on adding value to these customers through services and adding additional functionality to its products. For existing customers requiring validation, both regulatory-oriented development within Protean and the existing regulatory functions within PRISM, with the addition of validation services, is a welcomed situation.

Because of the growing regulatory requirements, enterprises with legacy ERP instances are demanding that their vendors extend their depth in areas such as 21 CFR 11 Part 11, which was introduce to anticipate the effects of electronic technology' on the drug discovery, development, and manufacturing processes. To that end FDA regulations focus on two areas: 1) electronic records (i.e., ensuring accuracy, reliability, consistency, and visibility to changes in records, with time stamped audit trails) and 2) electronic signatures (i.e., authorized on-line signature that is legally binding). To that end, both future releases of Protean (4.1) and PRISM (7.2), which have been committed to be respectively released mid-2003 and at the end of 2003, will feature the above regulatory compliance in full.

The company's early product vision and venerable reputation in the process manufacturing market for providing plant-centric ERP solutions might finally play well to capturing the marketing opportunity. The regulated industries require both immaculate operational compliance and control, and cost containment, both of which IPS has answers to. First, it has long established compliance with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP)-based implementation methodology that is aimed at aligning tools, policies and procedures, making Protean suitable for regulated environments and adding adherence to FDA requirements. Some of these cGMP features include electronic quarantine; location classifications, which let users create various types of inventory states and control the availability and usage of resources; drug and hazardous material reconciliation; and quarantine release by user and material type. Second, as for cost containment, the above-mentioned Production Model should allow users to calculate, track, analyze, and control costs through unique ABC capabilities.

Therefore, having mastered the operational compliance and control, the development is underway at Invensys to integrate the plant solution into enterprise backbones and plant manufacturing execution systems (MES) and production control systems. Sales and consulting groups are being ramped up to serve the existing customers and its target market. All of these points are strong points, but it appears that the intense Invensys corporate activity of last three years has delayed the implementation of a sound product strategy for IPS. All of the pieces appear plausible today, but the challenge now for Invensys is following through on its well-thought-out plan and delivering tangible results as quickly and efficiently as possible.

User Recommendations

Current PRISM customers should feel more comfortable with the vendor's new focus on its strengths, typically the reason for selecting PRISM in the first place decades ago. These companies should consider a program to revitalize the value available from PRISM and evaluate the vendor's effort to add value to their existing investments (both natively and in partnerships with the above-mentioned niche vendors that have filled the void and made some dent in PRISM's client base), such as shop floor integration, barcode and radio frequency (RF) interface, business intelligence (BI), web user interface (UI) and the most vocal customer voted enhancements.

Current Protean customers should proactively understand Protean's future and how they can influence the direction of the product to increase the value of their Protean investments. Like with PRISM, the vendor is committed to future enhancements, such as integration to major corporate-level ERP systems, shop floor interface Web Service, Quality management, formula management as a part of product lifecycle management (PLM), business intelligence (BI), and the most vocal customer voted enhancements.

Life Science mid-market and low-end Tier 1 companies (with $50M-$1B in revenue), looking for plant level solutions should put Protean on their long list. Food & beverage, and specialty chemical companies looking for plant level solutions or production oriented process ERP solutions should consider Protean. Like enterprises from secondary target markets like paper products, metals, glass and CPG may benefit from evaluating Protean. Process manufacturing companies from the above industries, with an affinity to the IBM AS/400, should place PRISM on their short list.

Although these latest announcements are positive, PRISM and Protean users should evaluate their long-term use of the products, based on current functionality, rather than future product vision. Until Invensys settles lingering company-related profitability issues for good, the viability of all of its products will often be a concern.

Very detailed information about Invensys Production Solutions' Protean 4.0 is contained in the ERP Evaluation Center at http://www.erpevaluation.com/

 
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