With the current version of its MySAP Supply Chain Management suite, SAP is applying what officials there call a holistic approach to a relatively new area for the company. The suite is designed to leverage the company’s longtime experience in other phases of enterprise management and to let users deploy data from other areas for more productive supply chain functioning.
In a recent interview with CRM Buyer Magazine, SAP leaders emphasized the suite’s built-in integration, touting its ability to mesh effectively with other important systems that impact supply issues. For example, the company found that customers were looking for ways to use customer service and promotion data to make necessary adjustments to inventory and materials processing decisions.
“The customer demands a very versatile setup,” said SAP vice president Ed Brice. “We realize we are competing against a number of best-of-breed products out there.”
Various components of the suite compete with stand-alone offerings from a number of rivals, including i2, Manugistics, J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft.
SAP product marketing director Bob Ferrari emphasized the suite’s adaptive technologies, which allow SAP to meet the specific needs of numerous industries with a minimum of integration hassles. “We were not going to put the burden of integration on the customer,” Ferrari told CRM Buyer.
The target audience is composed of the same users, across several industries, who have used other SAP enterprise offerings, and officials say the supply chain product puts a premium on planning, execution and collaboration. It also allows companies to react quickly to events that occur in the supply process, Brice said — a delivery truck arrives late, for instance, or demand for a product suddenly spikes at one retail outlet.
The suite includes an e-marketplace infrastructure for linking the supply process with suppliers, partners and customers. A supply chain portal feature lets users incorporate data from remote sites, and other features aid with supply chain design, materials procurement, demand forecasting and ongoing monitoring of product pricing and expenditures.
Officials said pricing depends on a number of factors, including size of the company, number of individual users and combination of features desired — components can be purchased a la carte.
Wireless Remote Data Entry
Gartner research director Karen Peterson told CRM Buyer that the suite’s full integration is indeed one of its key advantages. This makes it especially easy to implement for companies that are already using other ERP products from SAP.
She said a drawback is that some of the individual planning and execution functions are not as robust as they could be, especially compared with best-of-breed offerings in the same category. Peterson said this applies in particular to the suite’s transportation management and manufacturing process tracking tools, although the latter category has been beefed up by the recent addition of features like wireless capabilities for remote data entry.
“In most areas, the product compares pretty well with the best-of-breed products,” she said.
No Humans Required
SAP officials said future versions of the suite could take supply chain automation to new levels.
For example, Ferrari said the company is exploring technology that allows sensors on store shelves to communicate directly with inventory software at a company office. This technology could be used to alert managers by e-mail or wireless messages about required changes in inventory, or to perform a wide range of tasks without human intervention.
“There are a lot of new things this technology is capable of,” Ferrari noted.