Supply chain execution vendor, Optum, Inc., recently released TradeStream,
a new Internet application that is intended to provide customers and suppliers
with the means to eliminate excess inventory and increase working capital.
The application leverages the web to tie together existing transactional
systems to capture, coordinate and manage product inventory information
throughout an enterprise and its suppliers, distributors and customers.
TradeStream aggregates fulfillment data and processes across enterprises
in real time, removing barriers to visibility so companies can trade information
for inventory. According to Optum, "this allows companies to best deploy
product and other resources (wherever they are - whether the company owns
them or not) to meet customer demand."
is composed of a central data repository that aggregates order and inventory
information from ERP systems, legacy applications and web storefronts,
and Java-based applets that leverage this data to reduce inventory and
aid customer fulfillment.
Filling warehouses was once the only method of ensuring prompt customer
delivery, however keeping large physical inventories is costly, especially
in those cases where goods cannot be sold and wind up as scrap. TradeStream
endeavors to eliminate excess inventory and reduce the incidence of obsolete
goods, in effect, by substituting visibility across warehouses for buffer
inventory. Few would have predicted, back when ERP and SCM systems began
to appear, that these applications were somehow flawed in their conception,
stingily barricading data within proprietary databases. Systems integrators
and, later, EAI vendors emerged to address this apparent design flaw,
but finally vendors are introducing intelligence into the integration
of data from different systems.
TradeStream, Optum succeeds admirably in concept, but it is difficult
to say whether it will win out among other vendors taking similar steps.
Among the other vendors clamoring to release software that spans multiple
applications are those in the so-called Supply Chain Event Management
(SCEM) market. Saltare.com is one of the foremost of these and offers
a tool, LEAP! that does not compete directly with TradeStream but also
uses data from other applications to give users better visibility for
making more cost efficient decisions. We expect to witness similar offerings
from other vendors that are aimed at improving existing enterprise applications
via the Internet.
TradeStream is a new product and it is unclear what steps are involved
in linking it to the ERP, legacy, and trading exchanges systems it needs
for data. Past experience teaches that software that pulls data from other
sources can be difficult to implement in part due to the broad nature
of its application. At the very least, TradeStream represents another
example of a vendor introducing a product aimed to address the boundaries
between enterprises and expanding the supply chain, a welcome step in
the evolution of supply chain management.