RealTime IT News

Oracle Takes Supply Chain Global

Oracle officials announced Wednesday that the company is releasing the latest version of its supply chain management (SCM) software within the next 90 days to improve collaboration around the world and within the enterprise.

Oracle SCM 11i.10 targets global growth, government compliance/management and the "lean" enterprise at a time when software sales are starting to show signs of a rebound.

According to a recent report by AMR Research, SCM software will grow five percent in 2004, to $5.5 billion, as companies look for demand-driven supply networks and execution initiatives.

"The good news is that SCM investment is growing; the great news is that companies are grasping what enterprise applications can do for their businesses," said Tony Friscia, AMR Research CEO, in a statement. "Using IT to bring great ideas to market will undoubtedly keep technology spending up. Innovations in RFID and changes in the retail industry are spurring renewed growth."

Jonathan Colehower, Oracle SCM vice president, calls it the growing popularity and need for inter-enterprise applications. The sector has moved beyond departmental SCM deployments to enterprise-wide, he said, and the next step in the evolution is tying software integration with business partners.

"We're going to take that beyond the enterprise collaboration to inter-enterprise, so you're collaborating with your trading partners," he said. "And not just your trading partners; if I'm General Motors and I buy my seats from Dana Corporation, I can find out who's providing the leather for those seats, the supplier's supplier. I think that's where [SCM] is heading."

Colehower doesn't see any one of the three improvement areas in the latest version of SCM that's more important than the other.

The global growth enhancements deal with multi-national organizations combining local and regional elements -- forecasts, inventory and resource utilization -- and combining it with other operations around the world in an automated fashion. Other improvements in the global arena include the ability to connect and manage SCM accounts at remote locations using laptops.

With Sarbanes-Oxley compliance becoming a reality for many companies around the United States, compliance measures are taking hold in many new software updates. Oracle SCM 11i.10 is no exception, with expanded digital signature support for various business processes like inventory, bill of materials, shipping and quality.

The software will also include RFID capabilities to allow for the next-generation tracking of inventory items, as well as integration with Oracle's Internal Controls Manager to track all transactions throughout the supply chain.

The last of the SCM enhancements come in the area of "lean" enterprise management to clarify different types of inventory, like items that are measured in pounds or individually, as well as items separated by lot numbers that have variable pricing.

As Oracle's SCM software expands, the number of functions it performs becomes more generalized, a trend that some companies are trying to reverse. IBM, for example, is starting to tailor its product line and support around specific industries, like manufacturing or retail, to bring in new customers or keep existing ones.

Colehower doesn't believe that's necessary or that people will be turned off by an all-encompassing solution.

"When we build our applications, we have a very clear philosophy. That is, number one, we start with the business process" he said. "It's not about the technology, its about the business process; once you start with that business process then we build the application so the modules work together. And once we deploy them, we make sure it's done in a modular fashion, so you don't have to be overwhelmed."