PeopleSoft makes new bid to win over manufacturers

PeopleSoft Inc. next week will unveil a set of applications designed to help users streamline their supply chain operations, as part of the software vendor’s continuing effort to boost its standing among manufacturers.

SAP AG, Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. are also due to announce new products at the National Manufacturing Week 2004 show, which starts Monday in Chicago. But PeopleSoft’s rollout is particularly noteworthy because the company lags behind top rivals SAP and Oracle in selling manufacturing-oriented applications to large users.

PeopleSoft, which bought J.D. Edwards & Co. last summer partly to boost its manufacturing market share, will add new and enhanced tools that support lean manufacturing and inventory processes, radio frequency identification technology and other functions.

For example, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company is adding two portal-based products to the EnterpriseOne Supplier Relationship Management suite it acquired as part of the J.D. Edwards deal, said Andy Carlson, vice-president of product marketing for supply chain management.

One is a self-service application that will let suppliers look at manufacturers’ inventory data online and quickly respond to spikes in demand and potential out-of-stock situations, Carlson said. Also coming is a portal offering that procurement workers will be able to use to track purchase orders and receipts, identify potential supply glitches and create supplier scorecards.

PeopleSoft is also announcing an order-promising application for configure-to-order manufacturers. Carlson said the tool will provide regularly updated views of available raw materials and the production capacity of suppliers that make items such as complex subassemblies, so users can determine whether they can fulfill incoming orders and how profitable the sales will be. The new products are slated to ship by May.

PeopleSoft’s focus on lean manufacturing is appealing to Ted Weinrich, MIS manager at Larson Manufacturing Co., a storm door and window maker in Brookings, S.D. Weinrich said Larson faces stiff competition and needs to cut costs and boost its production efficiency to meet the demands of major customers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Larson runs PeopleSoft 8.4 ERP and supply chain applications, which are now part of the vendor’s flagship Enterprise product line. Weinrich said Larson’s effort to make its manufacturing operations more efficient could be aided by PeopleSoft’s Demand Flow technology, a set of software tools that’s designed to help manufacturers simplify their operating procedures. PeopleSoft acquired the tools from Englewood, Colo.-based JCIT International Inc. in a deal announced last October.

“People think you buy software and it magically solves your problems,” Weinrich said. “No, it doesn’t. It has to have a cultural change, and PeopleSoft recognizes that and is trying to put the two together.” He added that over the past several years, PeopleSoft has been improving its manufacturing offerings and “doing a great job of coming along with us.”

Thanks to its acquisition of J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft can boast that it has a decent user base among midsize manufacturers, said Navi Radjou, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. But Radjou said PeopleSoft’s own ERP installed base has been more reluctant to buy its manufacturing and supply chain applications, even though many users he has interviewed have indicated that they would prefer to install PeopleSoft’s products in order to reduce integration headaches.

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