Baan strives to link supply chain modules

Analysts say the new and improved supply chain suite from enterprise resource software planning vendor Baan Co. could put the company at the head of the pack – assuming it can sew all the parts together.

“Supply chain is not typically an area that ERP vendors excel in,” said John Fontanella, research director for supply chain execution with Boston-based AMR Research. “(But) if things go according to Baan’s plan, (the supply chain suite) will probably turn out to be the most functional of the top five ERP vendors.”

He said the challenge for Reston, Va.-based Baan is to tie together the 19 modules that make up the entire Supply Chain Suite – something that has already been some time in coming, he added.

“It takes a couple of years once you acquire a company to get it seamlessly integrated with the rest of the suite, and the quicker you can do it the more value your customers can get out of the solution,” echoed Steven Banker, director of research for supply chain operations with ARC Advisory Group in Deadham, Mass. “I don’t think [Baan’s] integration is over with.”

Announced in August, the Baan Supply Chain Suite comprises technology that Baan developed in-house, as well as functionality it absorbed from two recently-acquired companies: Berclain and Caps Logistics. According to Baan, the suite will allow companies to perform such tasks as supply-chain design, demand forecasting, production scheduling and transportation planning.

Though many of the individual modules have been available for some time, it is only now that Baan has been able to tie the parts together, joining them with Baan’s own manufacturing, sales and e-commerce suites, and offering it as a complete package, according to Sami Cassis, vice-president of product and industry marketing with Baan Canada Inc. in Montreal.

“It was a lot of work to make a complete supply chain out of this,” he said.

As to what sets Baan apart from its competitors, Cassis said it’s the emphasis on wide-ranging planning and decision support capabilities.

Baan says the suite is divided into three broad areas: strategic planning, which is made up of modules that help companies locate its plants, distribution facilities and other parts of the supply chain; operational planning, to help users predict and analyze demand; and transactional execution, which helps users integrate with other mission critical applications, such as other ERP modules or customer relationship management (CRM) software.

New to this suite are analytic capabilities, including the Inference Engine, which will keep users updated on the status of their supply lines via messaging.

The Supply Chain Suite can also be integrated with Baan Front Office and ERP applications, as well as third party software, including rival SAP AG’s R/3 platform. Down the road, Baan plans to add supply chain functionality in its FrontOffice suite, so that, for instance, sales staff can get instant product shipment information to customers.

Baan has struggled to keep pace with its own acquisitions, and tying the various pieces hasn’t been easy for the company, analysts say. Still, the acquisitions have given Baan some cutting-edge technology, Fontanella said.

“Caps Logistics gave them a good software suite of transportation applications. It’s got a loyal following. And it continues to be popular, they’ve just rolled out a couple of modules and had very good reception,” he said.

However, Cameron Dow, analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, notes that regardless of how much Baan beefs up its supply chain suite, in Canada at least, few enterprises are giving much thought to supply chain management.

“Supply chain is way down the list (for Canadian enterprises). It’s just ahead of HR. And really, the focus is on CRM-type apps and e-commerce. [Supply chain is] an emerging market, but in Canada it has yet to really take off,” Dow said.

The U.S. analysts dispute this, however, and Fontanella predicts that the market for supply chain tools such as Baan’s will jump nearly 40 per cent over the next several years.

Pricing for the Baan Supply Chain varies depending on user needs.

Baan Co. in Reston, Va. is at (770) 437-7297 or at