'Intuitive' And 'ERP' Words Be Associated?
- July 18, 2002
unfazed by (although certainly aware of) tough economic environment, Intuitive
Manufacturing Systems (www.intuitivemfg.com
), a privately held company offering enterprise resource planning (ERP)
solutions for small and mid-size manufacturers, continues to pragmatically
expand its operations worldwide and to unveil significant enhancements
to its latest product release.
recently, it released Intuitive SPC, an optional statistical process
control (SPC) software module for Intuitive ERP (formerly MRP9000),
Intuitive's flagship ERP system. Intuitive SPC is a real-time module that
combines data collection, charting, monitoring, analysis, communication
and reporting all functions accessible from a single screen. At a glance,
any authorized user can then check on the exact status of any process
at any workstation, department, or plant locally or around the globe.
SPC reportedly allows the user to activate program functions with one
mouse click, choose from one of five ways to input data, and close the
loop with an out-of-control' warning for corrective action before operators
can proceed. The module also allows the user to cut and paste graphic
and table data into virtually any other Windows application. Further,
sophisticated analytical capabilities of Intuitive SPC allow users to
display up to three sets of control limits on charts, choose estimated
or calculated sigma for control limits and process capability calculations,
and generate charts from highly refined data queries.
towards the end of 2001, Intuitive also announced the release of another
optional module, a web-based Advanced Configurator aimed at streamlining
the quotation and ordering of configure-to-order (CTO) products to deliver,
on-the-fly, accurate pricing, product configuration and specifications,
as well as bill-of-material (BOM) and process routings. The Advanced
Configurator is reportedly a true "bottom-up," rules-based configurator,
providing point-and-click product definition under a rule and constraint-based
guidance engine. It can be executed from any Web browser and allows the
user to execute product configuration concurrently or independently in
either client/server or "thin web client" environments all utilizing
one universal set of product configuration rules and objects. The Advanced
Configurator is fully integrated with the sales, inventory, costing and
quoting modules of the Intuitive ERP system.
in 2001, Intuitive announced the release of iTrack, a new e-commerce
enhancement aimed at increasing customer satisfaction while decreasing
sales administrative costs for its customers. iTrack extends the previously
available WebRemote functionality by allowing customers to log
into Intuitive ERP via the Internet and track the status of their shipments
and orders, view a current accounts receivable aging, and make other valuable
inquiries specific to their organization.
was a part of the of the Intuitive ERP Release 5.2, released mid
2001. Version 5.2 added functionality to many areas of the product, including:
e-commerce, key process indicator (KPI) tracking and reporting, international
improvements, major enhancements to the planning functionality, as well
as enhancements throughout the order processing and accounting areas.
Other noteworthy enhancements to the product included:
- The Decision Management Tool, which tracks and analyzes
KPI from throughout Intuitive ERP to generate 28 different decision
points that provide such information as the net sales to inventory
ratio, return on net worth, current and quick ratios, margins, and
inventory turnover. It also allows the user to generate trend analysis
by year, quarter, or individual fiscal period, enabling management
to make better, more informed and timelier decisions.
- The Visual Order Pegging module, which utilizes the recently
released Dynamic MRP module, a completely memory-resident MRP planning
system which drops MRP runs from hours to seconds. The Visual Order
Pegging module allows the user to trace up or down the production
hierarchy (multi-level) to track the source/use relationships. It
then provides the most comprehensive and user-friendly tool on the
market to visualize those relationships, graphically display problems
areas in the schedule, and highlight the effects of things like new
orders or a late-arriving material delivery.
is Part One of a two-part note on Intuitive. Part Two will continue the
discussion of the Market Impact of Intuitive's business strategy and make
in 2001, to bolster its basic front-office and sales management offering,
Intuitive announced its partnership with Interact Commerce Corporation,
makers of SalesLogix, the leader in mid-market and small business
customer relationship management (CRM). Intuitive has entered into both
Business Partner and Technology Partner agreements with Interact, and
will be integrating the SalesLogix package with the Intuitive ERP product.
The SalesLogix suite of products includes complete management of the sales
cycle, marketing campaign management, customer support management, and
eCommerce, all available anytime, anywhere, using essentially any device.
about the same time, the company announced the expansion of its global
partner channel with the signing of 12 international partners throughout
2001. International partners have been signed in the following locations:
Turkey, Quebec, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Spain, Czech Republic,
Poland, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Tijuana, and the
Mexican states of Nuevo Leon and Cohuila.
signings strengthen the existing Intuitive channel to 21 partners outside
of North America. Historically, the Intuitive international channel has
represented just over 20% of sales revenue, which should likely increase
in the future. These new partners join an existing international channel,
which includes representatives in Mexico, Brazil, Norway, France, Australia,
China, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam.
with all the above initiatives, Intuitive has pursued its Microsoft
.NET initiative launch. As a member of the Microsoft Visual Studio
.NET beta program, the company had been designing and testing its
future Microsoft .NET architecture for more than a year. Mid 2001, it
announced the completion of the prototype of Intuitive's Microsoft .NET
architectural framework and its plan to convert Intuitive ERP to the .NET
Microsoft .NET initiative represents a shift that should transform how
software applications are built and deployed. Leveraging Microsoft .NET
technology should make Intuitive ERP much easier to deploy and maintain,
faster to enhance and will allow it to leverage the Internet in through
XML Web services. Software written using the .NET Framework is inherently
more robust, faster, and easier to administer. For instance, software
installation should be accomplished by simply copying files. Intuitive
is glad to be saying goodbye to the old problems of Component Object Model
(COM)-based software that the development world has often referred to
as 'Dynamic Link Library (DLL) Hell' in the past.
time of the economic calamity may still mean the time of opportunity for
the nimblest companies. It appears that a large number of enterprises
with less than $50 million in revenues have yet to deploy an ERP package.
Some of them have cited being intimidated by the complexity of ERP as
deterrence to implementing one so far. Still, like their bigger counterparts,
smaller enterprises also have to efficiently run and expand their operations
while maintaining strict control over cash flow and inventory turns/levels.
that end, Intuitive is one of the vendors that have long attempted to
mitigate the actual and perceived barriers to ERP acceptance by smaller
enterprises. The privately held firm, based in Kirkland, WA, while not
a consistently well-known and visible vendor globally, seems to be determined
to change that situation in the future. In a time in which many ERP vendors
had to backpedal product development and expansion because of market conditions,
Intuitive continued to pragmatically expand its product depth and breadth
and geographic coverage, and to render itself as a more apparent ERP solution
for the small and mid-sized discrete manufacturers.
still an ERP adolescent (it was founded only in 1994) has been both the
company's curse and blessing. The curse for remaining a little relatively
unknown vendor (with estimated less than dozen million in revenues), with
still developing client base and the global presence; On the other hand,
being later to the market, has given the company the chance to make some
right choices and avoid the proverbial traps of many of its peers.
most prominent choice was its use of only contemporary Microsoft
technologies and platforms. Written in Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications,
using Microsoft Access as the user interface (UI) for forms and
reports, and Microsoft SQL Server as the database, Intuitive ERP
has never been "corrupted" by other, now detractive legacy technologies
(e.g., DOS or some proprietary database). Once other proprietary technologies
are introduced into the R&D equation, a vendor has to deal with translation,
interface and performance issues, not to mention the pain of migrating
existing customers and/or maintaining multiple product versions. On the
other hand, using technologies that are intrinsically compatible, should
result in faster and less costly development.
company's strategic relationship with Microsoft has consequently proven
to be of a great importance given its market segment's infatuation with
the technology, whose performance, reliability and scalability has long
been improving as well. By leveraging the capabilities of the Microsoft
platform only, Intuitive now seems to be also in a better position to
be responsive to delivering new functional features that its customers
may demand. In contrast, a smaller vendor that covers multiple platforms
often spends more than a half of its R&D budget on porting issues; thus
making a cross-platform solution the prerogative of only bigger vendors.
the early adoption of the .NET platform should help Intuitive transition
from a traditional two-tier client/server architecture (where the entire
business logic resides at the client front end) to the one where the business
logic resides in a set of business logic components that can be used by
the rich user interface (UI), alternate UIs, or it can be integrated with
other systems through Microsoft BizTalk, which bolsters the systems
interconnectivity and flexibility.
to the SMEs
company has therefore put all of its efforts solely into serving small-to-medium
manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) in need of enterprise application solutions
that are intuitive and, consequently, easy to use and implement. The company
has long demonstrated a deep understanding of this market dynamic and
its requirements of competitively and scalable priced, functional products,
ease of modification, short implementations, and strong service and support.
has been offering its customers just needed (neither overwhelmingly comprehensive
nor meager & insufficient) functionality they can easily digest but still
deploy to its beneficial use. The modules can be implemented in a gradual
fashion to tackle the most burning issues first. Also, the simplicity
and flexibility of the product, bundled with the experience of the company's
founders within manufacturing, often do not impose serious business process
reengineering (BPR) but still produce benefits like pervasive information
sharing and process efficiency.
of the biggest Intuitive trumps is pricing that suits small cost-conscious,
risk-intolerant manufacturers. As the company prides itself on fast implementations
(often less than 90 days) and consequently on implementation costs being
often equal or less than software license costs, it does not take a rocket
scientist to calculate that most of projects' price tag of only a couple
hundred thousands of dollars might be attractive even in the current era
of reduced IT budgets and despite the dollar's strength abroad.
Intuitive ERP functionality includes ample accounting and manufacturing
features, with production and inventory planning being the core pieces.
The product modules are also grouped to underline typical business cycles/processes
like Plan', Buy', Make', Store', Sell', etc. Material Requirements
Planning (called Dynamic MRP for several dozens times faster calculation
than traditional MRP planning engines), purchasing, production and inventory
control, engineering change control, sales order entry, complete accounting
(including accounts payable (AP), accounts receivable (AR) and general
ledger (GL)), sales analysis, and shop floor control are typical capabilities
that offer general small manufacturers the opportunity to increase productivity
while reducing costs throughout the organization, by performing fast and
accurate closing, job costing and financial reporting.
Intuitive product is very strong in terms of tactical level production
status monitoring and work in progress (WIP) management (with, e.g., bar
coding and time & attendance tracking facilities). An intuitive visual
drag-and-drop scheduling functionality also provides customers the ability
to reschedule the shop floor in real-time and to balance workloads. The
system also allows detailed traceability and audit trails to help the
company orient itself towards meeting ISO 9000 and/or QS 9000 requirements.
users of smaller enterprises have also been impressed with the product's
intuitive rich-client Windows UI, which provides ease of system navigation
and of information retrieval and analysis, and with underlying workflow
& email messaging/on-screen notifying system capabilities. Another attractive
feature that the product offers is its native Microsoft On-Line Analytical
Processing (OLAP) and business intelligence system (BIS) capability, as
the company has additionally pre-filled a number of data cubes for out-of-the-box
data analysis. Further, key performance indicators (KPIs) can be graphically
analyzed by management for sales, purchasing, production, financial and
inventory activity by Intuitive Executive Information System (EIS) module.
Intuitive ERP system is aimed at the smaller discrete make-to-stock (MTS)/make-to-order
(MTO)/assemble-to-order (ATO) and mixed-mode manufacturers with deal sizes
averaging 30-users but moving toward the 40- to 50-seat range lately.
These customers will have found themselves entangled into a jumble of
isolated point-solutions and homegrown applications, with no easy way
to bring them together quickly in a way that will produce effective business
decisions. At the same time, these customers are well enamored with Microsoft's
desktop software components like Excel, Project, Word,
and Outlook, which have been seamlessly integrated with Intuitive
ERP. Furthermore, Import Wizards have proven to quickly upload
a pile of legacy data (e.g., customer records) into the Intuitive ERP
concludes Part One of a two-part note on Intuitive. Part Two will continue
to discuss the Market Impact of Intuitive's business strategy, the challenges
it faces, the challenges it faces and make User Recommendations.