Ford uses Telesat Canada for data exchange

Telesat Canada and Ford Motor Company announced September 26 a multimillion-dollar satellite-based program that will provide high-speed intranet and Internet services to Ford Motor dealerships across North America.

Ottawa-based Telesat, along with project partners IBM Corp. and Hughes Network Systems, will immediately provide broadcast and broadband services to an estimated 2,000 Ford Motor Company’s Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers across Canada, U.S., and Mexico. The solution is now available in Ford dealerships and will enable dealers to transmit large data files using high-speed Internet and ensures secure access to the corporate Intranet, according to Telesat.

Up until this point, Ford dealers had been going off on their own and finding local ISP services for general Internet, said Steve Lowe, North American director for business solutions at Telesat.

Ford was looking for a way to have a common North American broadband platform across their entire dealer base and Telesat’s satellite solution has an advantage in the simplicity of the network design, Lowe said.

“It’s a pure broadband satellite based system-there is no terrestrial component other than the back-haul network at their host,” Lowe said.

“It’s the ubiquitous service offering-it doesn’t matter if they’re near a central office or cable company, anywhere within North America they can have the same level of service. They’re getting superior performance because of the speed of the service.

For this scale, to be able to deploy a broadband solution to this number of locations, there really isn’t another solution that would have the same cost benefits. When you are a large corporation that has thousands of point of presence, you like to be able to manage that.”

Ford’s future growth will be shaped by a large scale, high-speed broadband connection, said Mark Gruskin, IT manager at Ford in Dearborn, Mich.

Gruskin said it is estimated over half of Ford’s U.S.-based dealers are still using a dial-up connection.

“We have over a hundred Web-based applications that are going to be coming down the pike in an application cycle plan. Beyond just the speed of those applications, some of them will not work without a high-speed, persistent private connection between the dealer and Ford where we can do two-way exchanges of data. So because of the geographic limitations of terrestrial high-speed Internet, the only way we can bridge the gap and get to all these dealers is through satellite,” Gruskin said.

Broadband connection allows for efficient real-time data exchange across the whole dealer base, he noted.

“We’re not doing this to make money on the dealers, we’re doing it just as a ‘break-even’ project,” he added. “What we call it is an ‘enabler project’- it is going to enable a whole bunch of other projects that will have a high return (of investment).”

Larger organizations are constantly seeking low-cost solutions for complex, high-bandwidth communications needs, noted Mark Quigley, telecom analyst for the Yankee Group in Toronto.

“We are seeing more and more companies gravitating toward Internet/intranet-based solutions,” Quigley said. “As with everything it’s always more for less – (companies are) looking for much more bandwidth to provide those services as the applications tend to get more complicated as we go forward.”

In light of the terrorist events in New York City, companies are going to look toward redundant pathways so that they are not entirely dependent on one provider or on one mode of moving information, Quigley said.

“For a company like Telesat, it does provide a service that is not wireline-based,” Quigley noted. “There becomes considerable value added in that all of a sudden there is possibility of a redundant network being set up that is not dependent on traditional infrastructure-and can’t be affected in the same way infrastructure was affected on the 11 th of September.”

Telesat in Ottawa is at

Ford in Michigan is the

Caterpillar network links suppliers

By Michael Meehan

Computerworld (US)

Caterpillar Inc. is launching a major manufacturing collaboration initiative, with the realization that the project will require as much focus on new middleware as it does on supply chain management and business-to-business software.

The US$20.2 billion maker of construction and mining equipment, natural gas and diesel engines, and industrial gas turbines plans to use Dallas-based i2 Technologies Inc.’s supply chain applications to share information with its suppliers as part of an effort to reduce inventories and shorten manufacturing times.

But Michael Hackerson, director of e-business at Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar, said the most rigorous work will involve tying hundreds of suppliers into the new system.

“You need a lot of middleware and hardware to link these companies together,” Hackerson said. “Everyone’s working on different systems, and you can’t assume any of them can just plug into what we’re building.”

That’s where IBM Corp. enters the equation. Its professional services division is being brought into the Caterpillar project to handle systems integration. According to Bruce Anderson, managing principal for industrial sector consulting at IBM, supply chain collaboration marks a huge opportunity for services firms.

“When you choose to collaborate, you cannot escape the fact that you’ve now changed the business process,” he said. “Different people have to be notified and different actions triggered, and you have to be able to describe those processes to the middleware so it can send things to the right place.”

In Caterpillar’s case, middleware functions will be handled by IBM’s WebSphere application server. Anderson said such projects also may prompt IBM to change the way WebSphere is priced and designed.

The company is considering pay-as-you-go pricing methods, such as usage-based or a la carte pricing, he said. It might also develop a limited-functionality version of the application server for companies that need only some of the basic features of the technology.

“We’re going to have to be flexible, because there’s no one-size-fits-all way to set up a collaborative network,” Anderson said.

Caterpillar plans to start linking suppliers to its network by the end of the year, and executives at the company said they believe that the integration work is a necessary precursor to lowering its manufacturing costs.

“We’ve already knocked down the prices we pay to our suppliers as much as possible,” Hackerson said. “We’ve got to come up with a better way of doing business for both sides if we want to eliminate costs down the road.”


Virtual manufacturing connects customers to supply chain

Singapore-based semiconductor testing service provider, ST Assembly Test Services Inc. (STATS), is innovating an IT architecture to create a virtual manufacturing system that connects customers to their supply chain. The IT architecture which will be linked seamlessly to customers’ manufacturing operations, will be fully operational by the second quarter of 2002. The impending pilot run is scheduled for the end of 2001. STATS’ new IT architecture comprises two key components currently being developed — MyStats and e-Tas. MyStats is an external, self-service portal for linking up customers’ networks, providing them online access to real time and reliable work-in-progress reports, as well as other relevant data from STATS’ operations. E-Tas, an internal e-manufacturing system, will form the backbone of its manufacturing operations, tying the entire shop floor operations to the business applications, allowing users to retrieve real-time information and reports from the manufacturing floor. “We are taking advantage of the current industry slowdown to strengthen our business fundamentals, of which IT is a critical component. We are positioning IT to become a strategic differentiator for STATS in the marketplace,” said Tan Bock Seng, chairman and chief executive officer, STATS. STATS’ eventual goal is to build a support architecture beginning from design and production right through to invoicing, after-sales support and shipment to customers. — Sophia Heng, IDG Singapore Online

e-commerce software addresses buyer/seller communication

IBM in September announced new software that it claims will bring to the business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce world advanced order and inventory management capabilities, along with real-time collaboration, business relationship management and security and access controls. WebSphere Commerce Business Edition Version 5.1, is designed for companies that sell their goods to other companies via an automated process that often includes functions such as requests for quotes (RFQs), trading partner agreements and complex order handling. IBM says it is the first e-commerce software in the industry to bring dynamic collaboration and virtual teaming to the B2B environment. Integrated with Lotus software, Sametime and Quickplace, IBM notes WebSphere Commerce Business Edition will allow buyers and suppliers to negotiate terms and discuss the specifics of an order real-time. Beyond simple chat, the software creates a virtual teaming environment in which documents can be shared and real collaboration can take place.

e-business solution integrates wireless

Oracle began shipping its E-Business Suite in August which it claims enables customers to access key e-business applications such as field sales, field service, customer intelligence, financials, supply chain and warehouse management from the desktop, the Web and a variety of mobile and wireless devices. Oracle also announced that it is working with strategic partners, including Compaq, Motorola, Palm and others, to deliver solutions for the mobile enterprise that encompass what customers need to get up and running, including software, hardware, devices and consulting services. Oracle says its mobile access strategy enables companies to provide customers, employees and partners with mobile and wireless access to critical business applications from any interface, thereby helping improve productivity and ultimately reducing the cost of doing business. According to Datamonitor, the mobile CRM market alone is expected to grow to $1.7 billion by 2005.