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Sources of Software

Earlier articles identified many available sources of Configurator software.(3,4,5) Now, literally all major MRP II software vendors have a product generally falling within the category of "Configurators" as defined above. The sources are too numerous to list here. Sources of rules-based logic other than MRP II vendors include the following categories of vendors with a few representative names cited. This list does not constitute endorsement nor does lack of a vendor's name imply non-endorsement:

1. CAD packages: Advanced Graphics Systems, Tulsa, OK; AutoCAD, Sausalito, CA; ICAD, Burlngton, MA; and Synthesis, Bellingham, WA.

2. Sales Force Automation (Range of software including Configurators): Antalys, Golden, CO; Calico Technol­ogy, San Jose, CA; CWC, Mankato, MN; and Trilogy, Austin, TX.

3. Tool Kit (Artificial Intelligence based software): IBM, Rochester, MN; Inference, Mountain View, CO; Intellicorp, Mountain View, CA; and Trinzic, Palo Alto, CA.

4. Others (Point solutions for Configurators): Catalyst Corporation, Bothwell, WA; Logia, Barrington, IL; TriMin, Roseville, MN; and United Consulting Ser­vices Brookfield, WI.

For some companies, the question may be: "Can we use the MRP II software vendors' Configurator, or should we buy a package that can be integrated with our existing system?" The package offered as a module of a particular MRP II system may not be suitable for some situations. Therefore, selecting another vendor's package and interfacing to the MRP II system may be a legitimate alternative.

In general, the Sales Force Automation vendors stress their use of newer programming technologies and methods, such as object-oriented and constraint-based logic to achieve reduction in the amount of rules writing, and to simplify the on-going maintenance of the rule set.

In the Category of "Others," these vendors have strong roots in MRP II. The Catalyst and TriMin packages were originally designed to operate with the Fourth Shift and MAPICS software packages respectively, but are being implemented with other packages. In the case of TriMin's Knowledge-Based Configurator, the package is based on IBM's Knowledge Tool. The result is a generalized Configurator package for the "To-Order" company.

Logia pioneered the concept of "bottoms-up" (part-based) rules that do not require the hierarchical structuring that is most common now in Configurator packages. Both Catalyst and TriMin have announced similar capabilities. Some of the advantages claimed for this approach are that rules may be applied in a more straightforward fashion and eliminate modular bills.

With the experience of many companies and software vendors to draw on, the many issues regarding integration with other elements of an MRPII system are now coming into focus.

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 01


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