SSA rolls out new ERP suite

After months of delay, business software vendor SSA Global Technologies Inc. is rolling out its next-generation, Web services-based enterprise resource planning and supply chain suite. It plans to offer the software to its far-flung customer base as a future migration platform.

The Chicago-based company this week announced the release of its SSA ERP LN 6.1 suite, which is designed to cater to its discrete manufacturing customer base by supporting lean manufacturing processes and industry standard integration between applications. The software is available now.

SSA ERP also incorporates a number of the service-based technologies that had been developed by ERP vendor Baan, which was purchased by SSA in July 2003 from Invensys PLC. At the time, Baan had spent an estimated US$100 million developing the next generation of its software, which was known internally as Gemini and would have been called Baan ERP 6.

After acquiring Baan, SSA planned to demonstrate an early version of Gemini last September. But the project was put on hold because the software lacked integration with Baan’s CRM and logistics applications, the company said. SSA also wanted to add more localization features, including support for languages such as French and German, said Cory Eaves, vice-president of solutions management and research at SSA. It also wanted to beef up the testing process to improve Gemini’s quality, for which it launched an “aggressive real-world testing scenario,” said Eaves.

One of the key features of the software is a new portal-based interface that presents all relevant information on one screen, Eaves said. The interface is customizable so users can skip intermediate steps in, for example, a sales ordering process. Other enhancements include support for pull-based manufacturing processes, where stock is replenished depending on actual customer demand rather than on forecasts.

The company is also readying special migration tool kits for the customers of its Baan IV and iBaanV, SSA MANMAN and SSA MK manufacturing applications, which will help automate tasks such as data mapping when upgrading to to the new ERP suite.

Early next year, SSA plans to release SSA ERP LX, which will be targeted at its process manufacturing installed base, including users of SSA BPCS, PRMS and other suites. That’s good news to at least one customer.

“As users of BPCS (ERP software), we are eagerly awaiting the convergence of the ‘LN’ and ‘LX’ platforms, which will truly create a best-in-class offering,” said Marsha Williams, vice-president for IT at cardiopulmonary products maker COBE Cardiovascular Inc. in Arvada, Colo. The company currently runs Version 6.1 of a client server version of BPCS supply chain, manufacturing and finance software.

“Our users are constantly asking for features and functionality within specific modules that are available from ‘sister’ packages like Baan,” she said.

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