Toshiba Links Sales to Supply Chain with i2

Toshiba’s Computer Systems Group is using i2’s demand chain management application to offer custom-configured computer products and to ship orders to its customer base, according to Scott Hampson, vice president of operations and supply chain management at Toshiba.

The application “provides customers with the tools necessary to make intelligent business decisions, based on the rules and product information provided for within the system,” Hampson said.

Growing Trend

Toshiba’s installation of i2 illustrates the growing traction that demand chain management and configure-to-order manufacturing strategies are gaining among companies that rely on multiple sales and distribution channels, despite the inherent complexities of these two technologies.

“The more widespread adoption of Internet technologies, combined with the challenging sales environment stemming from the lingering global recession, has caused selling organizations to heighten their focus on the demand side of the value chain,” according to Aberdeen Group analyst Kent Allen, who authored a report on this subject.

In this space, two of the top drivers of growth are order management and inventory management, AMR Research analyst Jerry McNerney told CRM Buyer. Those projects, which are implemented by more than 85 percent of companies installing new supply chain software, will push total SCM revenues to US$5.6 billion in 2001, he said.

Value Chain Configuration

The build-to-order business model was made famous, of course, by Dell. Since then, it has become a de facto standard that customers expect. Along the way, however, new applications have fine-tuned these processes to optimize price for the customer and streamline costs for the manufacturer.

“The framework is to define the flow and movement of goods as well as the related information required to manage the whole process efficiently,” Razat Gaurav, director of product marketing at i2, told CRM Buyer.

Toshiba implemented the i2 demand chain management application to link its sales configuration processes with its order and supply chain planning and execution functions. The application lets Toshiba author and publish parts and material descriptions online, and manage pricing details to ensure that customers see only appropriate pricing levels. In this way, the company can to keep catalog content updated in real-time.

Toshiba said it now integrates its custom computer configuration capabilities across the entire value chain. By managing tightly controlled hardware and software inventories, it can build a notebook to very detailed customer specifications, including hard disk size, memory, operating system, liquid crystal displays, optical media, integrated wireless, CPU processor speeds and applications.

Moving into This Space

Traditionally, such advanced supply chain applications have been the domain of best-of-breed vendors like i2 and Manugistics. However, ERP vendors are beginning to catch up in terms of functionality.

Earlier this month, for example, J.D.Edwards released its latest Advanced Order Configurator, a CRM application that allows sales reps and customers to visualize different variations of a specific product before an order is placed. SAP, Oracle and Baan also offer similar applications.

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