Under IBM's wing, ILOG's latest supply chain apps take flight: food and beverage

IBM's ILOG unit unveiled a set of new supply chain and business rules management software offerings in mid June, but IBM managers seem just as excited about broader synergies with IBM's software group as they are about the specifics of the new applications.


IBM's ILOG unit unveiled a set of new supply chain and business rules management software offerings in mid June, but IBM managers seem just as excited about broader synergies with IBM's software group as they are about the specifics of the new applications.


Batch processing and hybrid industries, such as food and beverage, are among targets for updated offerings from IBM ILOG. Plant PowerOps 3.2 is a plant scheduler.

IBM completed its acquisition of ILOG in January of this year.

The updated offerings unveiled in June include Plant PowerOps 3.2, a plant scheduler aimed at batch and hybrid industries such as food; and LogicNet Plus XE 7.0, a supply chain network design solution.

Among the enhancements in the latter: functionality for measuring a network's carbon-footprint, and the ability to analyze the tax implications of a supply network.

Derek Nelson, a product manager with IBM ILOG's supply chain group, says that LogicNet Plus implementations typically hold data on sites, distances between sites, transportation carriers, and product volume, so much of the foundation data for carbon footprint analysis is readily available.

The tax analysis allows companies to assess how a would-be network impacts total costs, including the after-tax movement of goods.

"The idea is to expand the parameters of what you consider when you think about supply chain network design," says Nelson.

The Plant PowerOps update features faster performance based on improvements to ILOG algorithms, and the ability to simultaneously optimize factory plans and inventory levels well beyond the simple "min/max" logic other tools might have, says Nelson.

"With the new version [users] can create schedules that strike the right balance between the costs of manufacturing and changeovers, with the cost of maintaining inventory," says Nelson.

The Plant PowerOps announcement didn't stress pre-integration to popular ERP systems, but Nelson says integration is possible using adapter and integration middleware within IBM's Websphere product line. Nelson also adds that most user companies select Plant PowerOps primarily based on its ability to handle unique industry needs such as coordinating multiple process steps in the making of food products, and sequencing the cleaning and management of equipment such as tanks.

IBM executives are excited about future possibilities for blending insights from the supply chain solutions with other systems using IBM's middleware and business process management functionality, which now also includes ILOG's software as part of a business rules management system (BRMS).

Ed Lynch, a product manager for the IBM Websphere brand, agrees that IBM's BRMS could be used to automate a host of decisions that involve the supply chain solutions.

For example, a company could potentially tie a carbon footprint analysis to a corporate dashboard using the BRMS. What's more, the BRMS's design tools are geared for business experts, not IT experts.

As Lynch explains, "The rules allow you to manage either the exceptional cases or the routine cases so that you can systematize the business decisions and business thought without having to deal with the latency of humans making decisions."


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