At last week's eBusiness Conference & Expo, SAP AG updated attendees on its
supply chain management application, Advanced Planner and Optimizer (APO).
The solution is designed to enable companies to perform collaborative optimization
across their supply networks to facilitate customer service and order fulfillment.
Available supply chain management modules include collaborative planning, forecasting
and replenishment (CPFR), Internet-enabled vendor-managed inventory, ATP and
shipment tendering. SAP has extended its pilot customer base to more than 350
installations in multiple industries worldwide.
SAP is working hard to win acceptance for APO amid the multitude of other supply
chain offerings flooding the market. The number one ERP vendor has expanded
its test sites to comprise more than 350 separate installations, a number that
rivals the customer base of best-of-breed SCM vendor Logility. Its flood of
APO applications parallels the deluge of press articles that filled news wires
for two years prior to the beta release. SAP is able to maintain the intense
campaign by virtue of its strong market position and wealth of development resources
it can devote to ironing out bugs in the software and making enhancements based
on pilot user feedback. SAP will eventually be successful in overcoming much
of its competition, if only by using its sales and marketing muscle to quash
efforts by other ERP and best-of-breed vendors (See TEC's Technology Research
AG - ERP Leader with a New Dimension" September 1st, 1999). SAP's marketing
department is aided considerably through the company's decision to develop APO
from the ground up, a fact that appeals to IT professionals who are looking
for a seamless integration between ERP and supply chain. Less inspired is their
attempt to differentiate APO's Available-To-Promise functionality by reshuffling
it from the standard term into "Promise-to-be-Available."
Users wishing to acquire transportation planning, vehicle scheduling, repetitive
manufacturing, or supply chain network design solutions should look to third
party vendors such as i2 or Logility, as these modules will not be available
until the second quarter of 2000 or later. Keep in mind that, although these
vendors have certified interfaces to SAP R/3, access to the integrated system
via an Internet portal will not be straightforward. Users should also approach
the broader issue of SAP's ability to offer truly Internet-enabled solutions
with trepidation. Ironically, initial reports of version 1.1 pilot tests indicated
some limitations of APO regarding web enablement (See: "SAP
APO: Will it Fill the Gap?" September 2nd, 1999). In any event, SAP's product
test of APO version 2.0 was only completed within the last several weeks, leaving
the "field test" in the hands of new clients.