The German enterprise software company, which until recently included some PLM functionality in its core R3 ERP suite but lacked the sophistication of specialist vendors like Agile, highlighted PLM as one of the main e-business application growth areas during its Sapphire user conference in Orlando, Florida last week.
SAP used the conference to showcase several enhancements to its mySAP PLM application set, including improved collaboration tools focused mainly on the design stage of product development.
PLM typically accounts for about 70% of supply chain costs, and has emerged alongside B2B e-commerce as one of the key areas for cost reduction as the US economy has slowed. As one of biggest enterprise software vendors, SAP is well positioned to expand into the PLM market, which has been dominated until now by independents like Agile recently the target of an aborted takeover by Ariba MatrixOne and Aspect, which was acquired by i2.
SAP also announced that Compaq Computer has chosen mySAP PLM as its collaborative design and engineering technology a significant win for SAP, which until recently, sold the majority of its PLM tools in the automotive sector.
Compaq CEO Michael Capellas, a keynote speaker at the SAP conference, identified PLM as one of the main ways the computer maker is seeking to cut costs. He said Compaq, like its rivals, now faces product lifecycles as short as three to six months, and needs to speed up the design process and collaborate with external suppliers and partners more effectively.
New features in mySAP PLM include improved product design functionality that enables designers to capture product requirements in a flexible yet structured way, a new Recipe Management feature that focuses on reducing time and costs for the consumer products and process industries, and 'cFolders' that facilitate collaboration among virtual teams.
Significantly, SAP once renowned for its 'not invented here' attitude toward other vendors, has also built WebEx Communications' Web-based service that enables real-time sharing of documents and applications into cFolders.
Other enhancements control the distribution of product information from a central mySAP PLM system into operational systems, and enable product quality audits to be conducted throughout the life of a project or product development.
These improvements could help transform SAP from an also-ran in the PLM market to more of a mainstream player, even though some of the tools still need to be more closely integrated.
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