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Lilly Software - Product Enhancements Remain Its Order 'Du Jour'

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: February 18 2003

Event Summary

On December 20, Lilly Software Associates Inc. (LSA) (www.lillysoftware.com), a privately held enterprise applications provider for small and medium sized manufacturing and distribution enterprises, announced that its users in a range of industries are adding on to their VISUAL solutions and integrating the customer relationship management application, VISUAL CRM. Recent time-saving enhancements to the product, including faster access to data and improved Microsoft Office integration, have reportedly helped to significantly boost fourth quarter CRM sales. According to the company's officials, over 120 Lilly Software customers have purchased VISUAL CRM in the last three months.

The latest VISUAL CRM release, version 3.2, includes over thirty-five enhancements aimed at enabling customer service representatives to respond promptly to customer concerns and to be able to view detailed information to answer questions, to track customers, record data, and enter tasks into the system. Users can now also create mail merges quickly and integrate data with other back office tools, while with the ability to capture Microsoft Outlook e-mails into the database and attach them to any VISUAL CRM record, companies should be able to access accurate information and improve communications both internally, as well as with customers and prospects. Version 3.2 also offers expanded security functions, more advanced searching tools, improved integration with Crystal Reports, and increased support for the Remote Synchronization module.

On December 5, Lilly Software announced the generally available (GA) release of VISUAL Enterprise Project-Based Manufacturing, a solution for companies that manage complex business projects. Over the past 10 years, Lilly Software's tightly integrated VISUAL Enterprise applications have evidently been successful for contract and commercial manufacturers. With the release of the Project-Based Manufacturing edition, however, these companies should now gain advanced tools geared specifically to help them deliver on-time and on-budget, as the product incorporates Lilly Software's traditional enterprise functionality such as patented concurrent finite scheduling, production & inventory control, e-business, financials, and logistics with additional tools for Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), project management, earned value reporting, and project costing, control, and execution.

VISUAL Enterprise Project-Based Manufacturing is a solution that should help companies to manage tasks throughout entire project lifecycles. It includes a comprehensive WBS that should allow users to build a hierarchical definition of their project reporting elements, and it supports the planning of multiple projects. The system also includes features that enable managers to develop and manage costs from Request For Proposal (RFP) through project completion. Users should also be able to capture costs from engineering, procurement, production, inventory, and other activities, and perform scheduling and analysis, while the tightly integrated functionality should allow them to handle budgets for proposals and approved programs and copy those budgets into work orders and relevant project milestones. Users should also be able to establish multi-type, multi-year rate codes for direct and indirect costs and expenses. VISUAL Enterprise Project-Based Manufacturing reportedly also offers project control and execution features that enable users to maintain contracts, set up terms and conditions, and take advantage of tools for risk management.

In November, Lilly Software also announced the availability of the Throughput Improvement Primer (TIP) package. Leveraging the success that it has had with the VISUAL DBR and VISUAL Power Boost solutions, Lilly Software developed this offering to help VISUAL customers and prospects more rapidly realize the value of implementing Theory of Constraints (TOC)/Drum-Buffer-Rope (DBR) management techniques, while minimizing the cost of their initial investment. The TIP package includes four days of TOC expertise and training, where companies should develop high-level implementation plans for using DBR disciplines and strategies to manage production. During this training, top management and production teams will work together to identify their bottleneck resources, discuss how to apply the DBR methodology against these resources, and recognize the impact of these changes on their financial bottom line. As part of the high-level plan, the teams should also create a timetable for achieving their financial goals.

Lilly Software designed VISUAL DBR to be an integral part of its VISUAL Enterprise solution, and it includes the software as part of its VISUAL Power Boost offer to help companies establish and maintain a process of ongoing productivity and profitability improvement. Offered in the spirit of the arrangement described in Dr. Goldratt's book "Necessary But Not Sufficient", VISUAL Power Boost provides companies with the VISUAL DBR software bundled with training in the strategic and tactical applications of TOC from some of the world's most highly regarded TOC experts. Lilly Software has partnered with the Avraham Y. Goldratt Institute (AGI) and Constraints Management Group (CMG) to offer training and consulting services in all aspects of TOC, particularly in Drum-Buffer-Rope techniques.

VISUAL DBR provides the planning tools to help companies exploit their capacity constraints, satisfy existing market demand, and deliver products on time. The product should enable companies to maximize the use of a Capacity Constrained Resource (CCR), reveal other hidden capacity, and use time buffers to create schedules that help deliver products on time. It is an approach to regulating the flow of work-in-process (WIP) at or near the full capacity of the most restricted resource in the manufacturing chain.

This is Part One of a four-part note.

Part Two will discuss Market Impact.

Part Three will be a Competitive Analysis. Part Four will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.

Strategy

The above capabilities seem to be a continuation of the company's strategy espoused earlier in the year with the current Release 6.2.8. VISUAL Manufacturing, where the vendor accelerated its development into vertical markets with new enhancements that target the needs of selected industries. The enhancements have been focused on understanding the unique requirements of critical market verticals, such as the automotive, biomedical, precision tool and instruments, electronics, and aerospace & defense (A&D) industries.

Lilly Software's new automotive functionality should provide automotive/EDI users with the features to enable them to dynamically manage distribution operations on a customer-by-customer basis. The automotive capabilities in version 6.2.8 should streamline the EDI order entry and fulfillment process and ease the task of managing complex orders. They should allow companies to verify order details, maintain price matrices for parts by customer and date, establish shipping information, modify accumulators, and create thermal labels for orders. By integrating with Customer Order Entry, the automotive tools should offer the real-time data that users need to improve customer communication. The functionality also reportedly integrates with VISUAL BTS, Lilly Software's barcode transaction system, to simplify shipping procedures and enable companies to consolidate pack lists, create Advanced Shipping Notices (ASNs), and automatically generate invoices.

Making business processes easier was also the goal of other features in this release, specifically the added support for both macros and user-defined reports. Macros are small script-based programs usually developed by the application user in response to a specific local need, as they can simplify the most complex tasks by automating time-consuming processes and eliminating the chance of incorrect data entry. To that end, the new version supports macros in many windows, such as the Manufacturing Window and Customer Order Entry. Additionally, VISUAL now supports user-defined reports from many application windows, thereby allowing them to create reports that contain only the information they specify, as it uses VISUAL database fields from any of the database tables that the manager can normally access. Users can also take advantage of Seagate Crystal Decisions to design and compile reports, which they can then run from the User Reports menu.

In keeping with its tradition of listening to customers' requests for enhancements, Lilly Software also announced the release of a new add-on module called VISUAL Price Book, which is a flexible pricing and commissions tool that integrates with Lilly Software's VISUAL Manufacturing's Order Management window and other ERP pricing packages. It should allow companies to work outside of "standard" methods by selecting any level of "creative pricing" to determine prices, discounts, commissions, and order terms. With this application, users can establish price breaks based on cost or quantity and adjust figures "across the board" to eliminate redundant adjustments. They should have the flexibility to, for example, set up prices by customer, part, market, commodity, or groups, and to also easily define commissions for their sales staff. The application maintains its definitions in a separate database from the ERP database, with derivations available through an open COM interface, allowing VISUAL Price Book to be a centralized solution.

Expanding Customer Communications

Backing up its vertical strategy, at its recent annual User Conference in October, ENVISION 2002, LSA both celebrated its 10 year anniversary and launched a new initiative to establish and support Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within its customer community. The SIGs should help Lilly Software to better capture the specific business requirements of vertical industries, particularly in the areas of automotive, A&D, and biomedical. The company has a variety of users within these industries and it is prepared to win more customers through the activities of these groups and the release of several new products.

To facilitate the initiation of the SIGs, Lilly Software featured Special Industry Forums that allowed current Lilly customers to participate in discussions on their particular industry needs. This was the first opportunity for group members to meet and talk about their issues with Lilly Software representatives. After the conference, Lilly Software will offer a mechanism for customers to have continued dialog with the company and other industry users.

Incidentally, Lilly has steadily been building the foundations for growth in the vertical markets over the last year. Prior to coordinating the Industry Forums, Lilly released two products that incorporated vertical-specific functionality: VISUAL Enterprise version 6.2.8 and VISUAL Enterprise Aerospace and Defense. VISUAL Enterprise version 6.2.8 includes new automotive functionality that allows companies to dynamically manage distribution operations on a customer-by-customer basis (detailed earlier). To help the A&D industry handle its complex orders and project management requirements, Lilly Software also released VISUAL Enterprise Aerospace and Defense. Resembling very much the above VISUAL Enterprise Project-Based Manufacturing, the solution incorporates standard functionality that should help companies control costs, track resources, and manage operations so they can deliver on-time and on-budget.

Moreover, aiming at the lower-end of its target segment, Lilly Software Associates' solution for small manufacturers, VISUAL Jobshop, has reportedly been experiencing substantial growth despite the overall economic malaise. Lilly initially released the product early in 2001, and Jobshop sales have reportedly steadily increased worldwide, over 300% since October 2001. With customers currently in twelve countries, including the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Taiwan, and Mexico, Lilly expects sales to remain strong as it announces its latest release, VISUAL Jobshop version 3.5, thereby possibly settling the hash of the likes of ACCPAC and Sage/Best Software.

The newest Jobshop release reportedly offers tighter integration with Intuit's QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise small business financial software and coincides with the release of QuickBooks Pro 2003. In addition to integrating Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and General Ledger information with VISUAL Jobshop version 3.5, QuickBooks users should now be able to automatically populate Jobshop's database with existing customers, vendors, and inventory items from their QuickBooks company file.

To address accounting needs, VISUAL Jobshop has always had the ability to import and export data with QuickBooks, allowing customers to handle miscellaneous business expenses, clear invoices, manage payroll, pay bills, and produce financial statements. As a member of the Intuit Developer Network, Lilly Software has enhanced its latest VISUAL Jobshop releases using the QuickBooks Software Development Kit (SDK). Working with SDK, the company has reportedly enabled Jobshop to automatically update and validate information from QuickBooks, allowing users to maintain data integrity between the applications.

VISUAL Jobshop is touted as an affordable software solution for small manufacturers with engineer-to-order (ETO) and make-to-order (MTO) production strategies that want to remain competitive in the short term, while migrating toward a more comprehensive product, i.e., VISUAL Enterprise, in the future. It provides tools that small businesses need to simplify their quoting, order entry, inventory control, production, labor tracking, shipping, and invoicing. Jobshop is also available in Spanish, which has reportedly helped Lilly Software deliver a strong competitive advantage to its Latin American customers and helped expand its sales around the globe. The product includes do-it-yourself implementation, user-friendly Windows features, and an extensive variety of customizable reports, and might be a good fit for companies that want to combine the ease-of-use of QuickBooks accounting with effective manufacturing capabilities to successfully manage their shop floor.

This concludes Part One of a four-part note.

Part Two will discuss the Market Impact.

Part Three will be a Competitive Analysis. Part Four will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.

 
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