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PeopleSoft Takes Aim at Foods Industry

Written By: Steve McVey
Published On: February 28 2000

PeopleSoft Takes Aim at Foods Industry
S. McVey - February 28th, 2000

Event Summary

PeopleSoft recently announced a partnership with Atlanta-based Bradley Ward Systems, Inc., maker of plant floor execution software for the food industry. The two companies will work to integrate PeopleSoft applications for customer fulfillment, inventory planning, and demand management with Bradley Ward's KEY2Success NT-based product suite for planning, controlling, monitoring, and documenting food production processes.

Food manufacturers must comply with strict federal mandates concerning process hygiene, food quality, and safety, while striving to minimize operating costs. Bradley Ward's products are designed to collect data from SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) and Manufacturing Execution Systems and distribute it throughout the enterprise.

In spite of PeopleSoft's lack of true process manufacturing functionality, the integration will go forward and utilize PeopleSoft's Open Integration Framework (OIF) and other EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) technology. In addition to its new partnership with PeopleSoft, Bradley Ward maintains strategic marketing alliances with JBA International (division of GEAC), SCT Corp., and MARCAM among others.

Market Impact

In theory, integration of machine-level control systems like SCADA and transaction execution systems, such as core ERP, offers vast improvements in supply chain synchronization. Production plans generated in ERP systems quickly become obsolete and must constantly be refreshed with new shop floor level data. There are at least two major obstacles to surmount in sharing data between the shop floor and management level in a meaningful way.

The first concerns proper time synchronization. Though plant floor measurement devices, such as tank level gauges and pressure sensors, usually produce continuous readings, it is rarely practical to pipe this information directly to planning systems. ERP systems cannot create plans instantaneously, relying instead on batch processes that may require hours or days to run.

The second issue arises from the difficulty in interpreting plant-level data. In order for this data to be used effectively in planning, it must first be reviewed by operators on the plant floor who then make assessments of plant conditions, or interpretations. For some measurements, such as tank levels, this step is straightforward, but combinations of readings collected from multiple points over time can yield an explosion in possibilities that would clearly defy machine interpretation.

User Recommendations

Given these inherent difficulties and PeopleSoft's meager functionality for process manufacturers, it is doubtful that the proposed integration between PeopleSoft and Bradley Ward will provide concrete solutions to address each of the issues. Of course, the press release makes no such claim, but is predictably vague about the level of integration. At most, users are likely to see tools built in OIF that allow implementers to combine the two products as required on a particular engagement. Users should not be lulled into believing that anything more than this will be available at mid year. Responsibility for the larger issues will undoubtedly fall to the project team.

In light of the above, users in the food & beverage industries might want to pass over the new partnership offering in favor of more promising food industry solutions such as that announced recently from SCT Corporation and ecFoods.com. Release of both PeopleSoft-Bradley Ward and SCT-ecFoods.com solutions are slated for the second quarter of calendar 2000.

 

 
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