Oracle Ships Supply-Chain Planning Software

FRAMINGHAM (04/06/2000) - Oracle Corp. has started shipping supply-chain planning software that's expected to play a central role in the online exchanges it's setting up with the Big Three automakers and users in other industries.

Oracle officials yesterday said the supply-chain software was released last Friday along with an upgrade of the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. Both packages were originally due out last fall but were delayed.

The supply-chain tools, called Oracle Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), will be marketed for internal use by individual users in industries such as process manufacturing and aerospace.

But Oracle also has said the planning software will be a key part of the business-to-business exchanges it's developing with the likes of Sears, Roebuck and Co., Chevron Corp. and the major automakers - with the latter project also involving Oracle rival Commerce One Inc. in Walnut Creek, Calif.

For example, executives at Ford Motor Co. have said they hope to use Oracle's production planning and supply-chain collaboration capabilities as part of the auto exchange to speed up manufacturing and reduce the need for suppliers to hold big inventories of parts.

Karen Peterson, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said Oracle APS is a critical piece of the plan that Oracle and its user partners have to make the online exchanges more than just forums for automating procurement.

But Oracle is getting into the planning business well behind supply-chain vendors such as Dallas-based i2 Technologies Inc. and even its ERP arch rival SAP AG, Peterson said.

"With Oracle being late to the game, they do have a significant amount of work to do to catch up to the competition," she said. "We'll be watching very closely for the next six months to see how well they can actually do that."

Like SAP before it, Oracle is using advanced demand forecasting and production scheduling algorithms developed by French software vendor Ilog S.A. Oracle APS, which was first detailed last spring (see story), initially supports demand planning, shop-floor scheduling, supply-chain design and real-time order promising.

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