I2 looks to simplify supply chain software with upgrade

Beset by ongoing losses and a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, i2 Technologies Inc. hopes an upgrade of its supply chain management software will help it get back on track with users.

The Dallas-based software vendor said its i2 Six release will be less expensive to install and easier to use than prior versions were. The new applications include prebuilt templates for various vertical industries and will support out-of-the-box integration with enterprise resource planning systems, according to i2.

In addition, the company is building Web services support into the new applications. For users, that should speed up the process of developing data integration links between i2 Six and applications developed by other vendors, i2 officials said. The new software will also be able to exploit technologies such as Java 2 Enterprise Edition and XML.

Pallab Chatterjee, president of solutions operations at i2, said the company’s goal is to reduce the pain users feel when they install the applications and to speed up the returns on their investments.

“We believe if we can help the CIO reduce the total cost and then send some money back to the CEO, he can get some brownie points,” he said.

For example, Chatterjee noted that a new tool kit coming with i2 Six is designed to help corporate developers more easily create integrated data and business process workflows. The tool kit includes a common data dictionary and a set of workflow design mechanisms, he said.

Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. is a beta tester that upgraded from Version 4.3 of i2’s Factory Planner to i2 Six in November.

Kent Hornbacker, manager of manufacturing materials systems at the Houston-based company, said the new software helped Mitsubishi Caterpillar cut the time it takes to run production-scheduling models from as much as three hours to just 20 minutes.

Mitsubishi Caterpillar was also able to optimize its modeling processes by factoring in transportation and supplier data that wasn’t taken into account by the older i2 application, Hornbacker said. The company now plans to use i2 Six to collaborate with a third-party logistics company in a bid to improve transportation performance, he added.

The fact that i2 has developed an integrated system that supports high-velocity supply chain integration is of particular interest, said Dwight Klappich, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. But i2 Six will simultaneously support real-time data exchanges and the more typical batch processing, Klappich said. “A completely real-time supply chain is a dangerous thing,” he said. “It would be anarchy.”

The upgraded applications are available now, said i2.

The company, which has reported five straight quarterly losses, in January acknowledged that the SEC had launched an informal inquiry into the accounting procedures it used in 2000 and 2001.

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