Manufacturer Pumps Up Supply-Chain System - InformationWeek

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Manufacturer Pumps Up Supply-Chain System

Jabil upgrades its supply-chain-management system to run on powerful Itanium processors.

Jabil Circuit Inc., a fast-growing contract manufacturer for electronics and technology companies, needed supply-chain software that could grow with it. The answer? Software from Webplan Corp. that Jabil has upgraded to run on heavy-lifting Intel Itanium processors.

Four years ago, Jabil had only three major clients in the electronic manufacturing industry. Today, Jabil has 23 clients globally, 30 manufacturing sites, and hundreds of users around the world. It's supply chain has expanded, too, and the company needed more horsepower to support Webplan's RapidResponse software, which helps Jabil manage, from a single system, its internal manufacturing operations as well as outsourced operations. RapidResponse helps the company keep track of inventory, demand forecasts, and production at 23 plants. Jabil kicked off the Itanium upgrade in 2003, tested it throughout the last year, and is now starting to reap the benefits, says Paolo Palombo, director of materials information systems at Jabil.

The Intel Itanium processors can perform in a few seconds or minutes what used to take hours to perform with traditional systems, Palombo says. "As the company grew, and we gained more users, the consensus was that the RapidResponse application would become unusable," he says. "The processors helped us to break the memory limitations. Using the processors allows us to keep using the application and keep reaping the benefits of the application even as the company grows."

The success of the deployment was determined based on two criteria: improved customer service and reduced inventory costs. Jabil's suppliers, customers, and internal users can now access the system from any Web browser around the world, Palombo says. This gives Jabil global visibility and allows the company to gather data in a single repository, which has resulted in reduced inventory costs and lower levels of safety stock throughout the company's supply chain, he says.

Webplan designed RapidResponse to help manufacturers create and share demand forecasts and production plans with suppliers, monitor inventory and supplier performance, and track and resolve glitches in their plans. RapidResponse closes the gap between planning and execution, says Dave Haskins, executive VP of product development at Webplan. The software can be linked to other systems, such as back-office ERP, and supports a continuous flow of information across multiple sites.

Manufacturers today must respond quickly to changes and demand. Haskins says the software can help businesses handle last-minute configuration changes in their products and respond to unforeseen disruptions from their suppliers. Palombo agrees. "Better planning translates into lower safety stocks and higher inventory trends, which we have achieved with RapidResponse."

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