J. D. Edwards FOCUSes on Active Supply Chain

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J. D. Edwards FOCUSes on Active Supply Chain
S. McVey - July 7, 2000

Event Summary

At its annual user conference, FOCUS 2000, J. D. Edwards previewed the latest components of its Active Supply Chain solution, the mid market ERP vendor's reincarnation of technology acquired from Numetrix in 1999. Active Supply Chain (ASC) comprises modules for Production Scheduling, Production & Distribution Planning, and Enterprise Planning with a module for discrete production scheduling and order promising slated for release in October.

In the year since the Numetrix acquisition, J. D. Edwards has made some enhancements to the core xtr@ applications, but its most significant accomplishment has been to integrate them with its OneWorld enterprise application suite. ASC and OneWorld use the same database, which makes it possible to maintain information needed by both the planning and execution at a single point. Though evident only in demonstration, the collaboration potential of the combined solution was impressive.

New forecast requirements can be communicated to ASC, residing at the manufacturer, by retailers via a web browser interface. An alert is automatically generated and can get the attention of distribution planning personnel by a variety of modes, including an easy-to-understand dialog within ASC, e-mail, page, or cell phone. Upon accepting the retailer's new requirements, the change triggers an increased inventory requirement that is automatically transmitted to external suppliers of parts that are not currently present in sufficient quantities in inventory. Once again, these suppliers receive notification of the change via the Internet or other means.

The browser interface promotes collaboration by allowing business partners to participate without investing in additional software. Manufacturers can provide partners with login capabilities and administer all the collaboration technology they need. Messaging is provided by DOMA (Distributed Object Messaging Architecture), a final gem from the Numetrix development shop. A proprietary architecture, DOMA operates only within ASC and integration of ASC with the rest of OneWorld is accomplished via XML through IBM's Websphere.

The new order promising capabilities are based on features from Numetrix's planning applications, extracted into a form that is accessible from anywhere within OneWorld. The present release is limited to considering only available finished goods inventory and demand, but plans are to extend it to raw material availability and capacity.

Other new products on display at FOCUS include "Autopilot," a tool that J. D. Edwards' CEO Edward McVaney hopes someday will supplant the need for conference room pilots. Autopilot automates user interactions with the OneWorld GUI.

Market Impact

Active Supply Chain has been generally available for less than a month and it is far too early to make detailed predictions on its future impact in the supply chain management software market. J. D. Edwards will be aided in its quest for supply chain implementations by its choice in acquiring Numetrix, a recognized leader in advanced planning technology. In addition to xtr@ software, J. D. Edwards has retained all but 3% of Numetrix development staff and has grown its supply chain division by 75% since the acquisition. The company has also been careful in its integration of Numetrix development organization with its own, keeping the Toronto-based location as its center of supply chain planning and giving it an equal standing to its execution-focused development team in Denver.

Provided that J. D. Edwards can avoid more management turnover over the next few years and can prove its capabilities for top tier, multi-national clients, it should emerge as a strong contender for Oracle, i2 Technologies, and the now mortal SAP. The rise of ASC also portends the demise of J .D. Edwards' alliance with SynQuest that was announced a mere nine months ago, although twelve deals are currently in the pipeline. The agreement likely will persist for the next twelve months (70% probability) or at least until J. D. Edwards can offer ASC for the AS/400, now available only on Unix servers.

User Recommendations

As with all new releases, users should employ a critical approach in their evaluation of Active Supply Chain and require all potential vendors to demonstrate specific business processes. Though demonstrations do not guarantee a trouble-free implementation, they can go a long way toward helping users understand how the software might behave in their environments. Users should also remember that demonstrations like the ones given at FOCUS often belie the difficult nature of software integration as it is attempted during actual implementations. Also, despite McVaney's prediction that Autopilot will eliminate the need for developing conference room pilots, users are urged to go through this exercise anyway, at least until J. D. Edwards has established the Autopilot tool as a viable substitute.

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