The builder of a new submarine wants to cut construction costs using an IBM supply-chain management app.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

March 4, 2003

2 Min Read

Construction of one of the U.S. Navy's most important next-generation weapons systems, the Virginia-class nuclear submarine, will be helped along by new supply-chain software that IBM is delivering to one of the project's primary contractors.

Under a multiyear contract, IBM will supply and operate its new Spars (Shipbuilding Partners and Suppliers) marine electronic supply-chain app for the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics Corp.

The deal--financial terms and the exact length of which were not disclosed--marks the first commercial implementation of Spars, which was developed using federal funds from the National Shipbuilding Research Program.

Spars embeds a number of IBM business-integration and middleware applications, including WebSphere and DB2, and numerous custom apps to facilitate electronic business-process integration for shipbuilders.

General Dynamics execs say Spars will speed up parts procurement and generally streamline the contractor's manufacturing and business processes. Right now, General Dynamics uses a mix of faxes, mail, and E-mail. "This is going to tie everything together in a secure, efficient environment," says a spokesman. It's too early to tell how much General Dynamics could save by using the system, he adds.

Spars is designed to automate a number of collaborative business processes, including bidding, invoicing and payment, and document management. In a pilot test with 52 suppliers, General Dynamics shortened its cycle time for parts procurement from 30 days to 10 days. Ultimately, it's expected that hundreds of General Dynamics' partners will link to Spars. IBM is hosting the application for the defense contractor from its e-Business On-Demand center in Secaucus, N.J. A T1 line connects the system to Electric Boat's shipyard in Groton, Conn.

The Navy plans to launch its first Virginia-class submarine, a 377-foot ship capable of carrying nuclear weapons--USS Virginia--next year, with one a year rolling out over the following three years. Spars will likely be applied to their construction, says General Dynamics' spokesman.

Virginia-class subs will be able to steam faster than 25 knots, launch Tomahawk cruise missiles, and dive to depths greater than 800 feet. General Dynamics' Electric Boat division is building the first four in partnership with Northrop Grumman Newport News under a $4.2 billion contract with the Navy. Ultimately, the Navy plans to order 30 Virginia-class ships. Northrop Grumman has not ordered the Spars system, but IBM business-development executive Paul Boulay says the company is "a target opportunity."

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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