As a developer of e-business platforms for high-velocity supply chains, webPLAN's Internet-based solutions allow manufacturers, suppliers and customers to dynamically collaborate on the creation and execution of forecasting and fulfillment plans in real-time.
While revolutionary technologies may change the name of the game, disruptive technologies can also rattle reality, says Michael Ker, CEO of webPLAN. A disruptive technology? Ker describes it as a next generation technology that moves in to completely circumvent the existing infrastructure.
"Look at the manufacturing industry. Right now it's bottlenecked because it can't get information up and down the pipeline--which is the whole idea behind true B2B transactions. B2B is all about moving information between companies at very fast speeds for real-time collaboration to do real-time business," says Ker.
It's this vision that prompted webPLAN to rethink its mission in 1994 in order to build its own disruptive technology--one that would create a new e-business platform for high velocity supply chains that fosters real-time collaboration between customers, manufacturers and suppliers.
A single solution for real-time supply chain collaboration
In 1984, webPLAN opened its doors as a custom software company for the manufacturing industry, says Ker, "By 1987 we came out with the first advanced planning and scheduling system for manufacturers, based on UNIX--and by 1995 we had become a Windows shop with our product development focus on the web."
While e-commerce has changed the supply chain game, claims Ker, it has also caused problems for manufacturers. "We looked around and saw that many e-commerce sites have great customer front-ends, yet the back-end, which has to build or deliver the customer's product, didn't have any connection or visibility to the front-end."
A case in point is when you place an order for a book from an online bookseller, says Ker. Usually, you'll get a message that comes back saying something like 'this book is typically shipped in 6 - 8 days.' Why? Ker claims the manufacturer's back-end supply system is disconnected from the front-end system--which means the front-end can't know when the book might ship, or if it's even in stock.
"We saw this disconnect as a bottleneck to true B2B collaboration. In response, we built a single solution that sits at the manufacturer's operation that can synchronize e-commerce customer demand on the front-end with the supplier's collaboration on the back-end in real time," says Ker, "This enables fast, real-time web collaboration across trading partner communities--which is what webPLAN is all about."
The Intel® 64 Fund Invests in webPLAN
In 1999, the webPLAN team was looking to raise another round of investment when the Intel 64 Fund investment team came along, says Ker. After the two met, Ker said his team "Instantly carved out a piece of webPLAN's investment for the Intel 64 Fund--a quarter billion dollar equity investment fund that invests in technology companies developing innovative enterprise solutions for Intel Itanium� based servers and workstations.
"It was a match made in heaven," says Ker, "What was so exciting about having the Intel 64 Fund as an investor is that with existing 32-bit architectures, we're pushing the 4 gigabyte limit of memory that the Intel platform can deliver. But the 64-bit architecture just blows the top off of everything."
The Intel 64 Fund investment team also saw a good investment match with webPLAN since the company offered a web-based solution to supply chain management that allowed customers, suppliers and manufacturers to collaborate in real-time. After the due diligence investigation, it was also clear that webPLAN would need the Itanium 64-bit processing power to support the company's vision of real-time B2B collaboration. For these reasons, webPLAN received an investment from the Intel 64 Fund in 2000.
A smooth, rewarding relationship
Today, webPLAN's e-business platforms for high-velocity supply chains have been adopted across multiple tiers by such companies as Lucent Technologies, SCI Systems, Honeywell Aerospace, Black & Decker, John Deer and Epson--to name a few.
According to Ker, webPLAN's port to the Intel Itanium platform is a welcome move--and has been the major focus of the investment thus far. "The Intel 64 Fund team has provided us with all the resources we need to port our product over to the Itanium architecture. In addition, their engineering group has been very proficient," says Ker, "They put a very experienced team on our account, with whom I am very pleased. And the Intel 64 Fund team's account manager has been wonderful to work with--he's attentive and quick to offer us assistance whenever we need it."
Once the webPLAN team has completed its port to the Intel Itanium architecture, a lot of the work then flips over to Intel, says Ker. "They will help us fine-tune and optimize the performance of our 64-bit system at the Intel performance labs. So, if our collaboration system across multiple levels of supply chains takes 5 seconds and our goal is to make it 3 seconds--they'll help us make that happen."
Ker says his team gave a live demonstration in October 2000 at Intel's eXCHANGE conference in San Francisco. "We showed webPLAN's product in action in real time with real software using the Intel Itanium architecture," says Ker.
But that's not all. Ker says the Intel 64 Fund team also gets some mileage of its own out of the investment relationship. "Besides the fact that we'll be pushing a lot of high-end boxes, they benefit from us being the disruptive technology for e-business communities," says Ker, "because what webPLAN and Intel are fueling, with webPLAN's software and Intel's 64-bit processing power, is the opportunity for true real-time B2B collaboration--something which the industry clearly needs."
"From the start, our relationship has gone well with the Intel 64 Fund team. Both sides saw early on that we could go further faster if we worked together. The investment, itself, went smoothly, as did getting the beta version of the Intel Itanium system. We are extremely excited about this opportunity since, in working with the Intel 64 Fund team, we can realize on the vision that everyone has in this market, which is for a collaborative, real-time e-business community."
AT A GLANCE...
For more information, contact webPLAN, Inc., .
Last updated: Dec 2000
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