When a technology vendor focuses on a tightly defined market, the value received by its customers is typically greater. Stratyc (www.stratyc.com) is one example of a company that has a very tight focus, consisting of:
E-business - both the 'buy' side and the 'sell' side
Process manufacturing industries - e.g., food, chemical, etc.
The IBM AS/400 (now iSeries) based ERP systems - e.g., J.D. Edwards' WorldSoftware, SSA GT's BPCS, Baan's (formerly Marcam Solutions' and Wonderware Corporation's) PRISM, etc.
The company has seized the market opportunity emanating from unmet needs of thousands of process manufacturing companies still running on antiquated AS/400 ERP systems. These companies are either unwilling or unable to undertake a steep upgrade to a Web-capable ERP system. Most of these companies have long felt stranded because their original ERP provider has ceased to exist, changed the owner/identity, and/or changed the focus to a more prospective OS platform-based ERP product. As these systems were installed some time ago, they are ill equipped to handle the new demands of e-business' induced agility. As a result, companies are faced with the difficult decision of writing off the major investment, or retrofitting it for e-business with the applications specifically designed to integrate with the ERP system (see The "Old ERP" Dilemma: Replace or Add-on, The Old ERP Dilemma: How Long Should You Pay Maintenance?).
Stratyc was spun off in 2000 from H.B. Fuller, a large process manufacturing company, one of the first PRISM users to face the above-mentioned predicament and decide to take the plunge on its own by assigning the immense job of PRISM's eBusiness enablement to its own IT department. Consequently, Stratyc, a vendor born to meet a crying need, offers a real-world ERP implementation, AS/400 ERP web-enablement knowledge, and hands on experience with the intricacies of process industries. The company does not tout any groundbreaking, 'killer' technology as its differentiation (in fact, it harnesses TIBCO's enterprise applications integration (EAI) technology). Quite the contrary, it points out that it offers a seasoned staff with extensive process industry experience and understanding of pertinent business processes; something very few process ERP incumbent vendors can easily purport, let alone the slew of process ERP wannabees.
Flavors of Focused e-Business
Stratyc offers a full suite of e-business applications, which include both sell-side and buy-side applications. With its focus on the needs of process manufacturing companies, these applications include a number of functions unique and well attuned to these industries.
Sell-side applications facilitate trade between an enterprise and its customers. For most companies, they must match the method of doing business with the needs or demands of their customers. Therefore, it is quite common that more than a single approach is used. Stratyc's sell-side applications include:
eBrochure provides an entry point to test the eBusiness waters. By posting up-to-date sales and marketing materials online, companies can reduce printing and mailing costs while improving convenience for their customers. Information can include materials currently available in. marketing literature and can be extended to include technical data, application information, etc.
eStoreFront provides customers 24x7 access to buy and perform all order management directly over the Web with integration to seller's ERP system. Functions include order entry, order status, certificate of analysis (COA) and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
Distributor eStoreFront provides distributors with a Website for their sales and marketing efforts, with catalog product content provided by the manufacturer. It also provides 24x7, real-time access to order management information from the ERP system.
DirectConnect allows customers and distributors to connect directly into the seller's ERP system for all order management, resulting in hands-free "silent commerce" which is lower-cost and more efficient.
eMarketPlace Integrator enables a company to sell via the various eMarketplaces, with integration to the seller's ERP system.
Buy-side applications facilitate trade between an enterprise and its suppliers. Frequently, the buyer can dictate the method of doing business with suppliers. Also frequently, a company will have a different technology relationship with strategic suppliers versus smaller, less strategic suppliers. To that end, the Stratyc buy side applications include:
These applications are distributed in a hosted environment but are also available as traditional software products. According to Paul Satre, Stratyc's CEO, "Our customers often prefer a hosted application for a number of reasons. For example, the smaller initial investment and shorter time to value (higher speed-to-market) (typically less than 100 days) means lower risk. In addition to not having to acquire expertise in Internet technologies, they can also move at their own pace, making incremental decisions and incremental implementations."
Private Supplier Extranet enables streamlined online transactions with suppliers with full real-time integration to the buyer's ERP system.
eMarketPlace Integrator enables a company to procure from any of the eMarketplaces, with integration to the buyers ERP system.
DirectConnect allows suppliers to directly connect into the buyers ERP system for all transaction management. Using DirectConnection, Stratyc's customers have connected to a variety of ERP systems
Stratyc offers integration to most AS/400 ERP systems popular in the process industries, although the vast majority of its customers are the PRISM users, and a smaller contingent of BPCS and WorldSoftware users. Eventually, Stratyc will strive to provide connectors to all the most commonly used AS/400 manufacturing ERP systems. The technology allows the e-business applications to exist in environments where multiple ERP systems exist while giving customers and suppliers a single trading point without regard to the underlying ERP systems. The integration layer also allows these products to run with non-AS/400 ERP systems, though Stratyc is currently focused on the AS/400 segment specifically.
Customers Prove the Solution's Strength
The existing customer list includes both food and chemical companies, using a variety of AS/400 based ERP systems.
Continental Carbon makes carbon black, the ultimate commodity chemical. They are using Stratyc's DirectConnection to electronically interact with key customers including tire manufacturer, Michelin, who runs an Oracle ERP system.
Perstorp Specialty Chemicals serves the market of coating intermediates and performance chemicals. Perstorp's objective is to be "he easiest company to do business with." They use a variety of sell-side applications to improve customer service.
H.B. Fuller, a large, global manufacturer of adhesives, uses both Buy Side and Sell Side Solutions from Stratyc. The eStoreFront, for example, enables them to provide product, pricing and other information 24/7 and in real-time to both their direct customers and distributors, as well as allows automated online order management. On the procurement side, H.B. Fuller uses Stratyc's DirectConnect application to transact electronically with strategic suppliers including Celanese, a key supplier running SAP.
For non-strategic suppliers, H.B. Fuller is using Stratyc's Supplier Extranet to facilitate the transmission and management of purchase orders. Stratyc's eMarketPlace Integrator allows H.B. Fuller to participate in online marketplaces, including Ariba and Elemica, as either a buyer or a seller.
For more information pertinent to H.B. Fuller's experiences, see:
Companies which run ERP systems on AS/400 platform and who find themselves in need of contemporary e-business technologies to streamline operations should place Stratyc on their short list of vendors to consider. Stratyc's hosted solution offers a low-cost, low-risk and fast way to start conducting business electronically with suppliers and/or customers. Stratyc's solution is seemingly a viable solution for companies who, for whatever reason, plan to stay on their legacy AS/400 system but recognize a need to equip it with new functionality. By doing so, Stratyc offers a compelling way to leverage and extend the life of what is typically a substantial investment in the ERP.
Even companies who are contemplating switching ERP systems may want to consider Stratyc as a strong interim solution, which provides immediate bottom line benefit from streamlined electronic transactions now, and a way to later change platforms without changing the customer and supplier facing applications.
Vendors with a large installed base of AS/400 products, which, for any reason are remiss to deliver process industry attuned e-business enhancements to their customers, may benefit from partnering with Stratyc, rather than face the wrath of dissatisfied customer base. On its hand, Stratyc should expand its offering beyond the current set of PRISM, BPCS, and WorldSoftware (to e.g., Geac/JBA System 21, interBiz' PRMS, Infinium Software, etc.).