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SAP gets new business apps rolling

The German company plans to improve integration between its manufacturing and supply chain software. For now, it's adding freight tracking to its transportation management system.

Business software maker SAP unveiled plans this week to enhance its set of manufacturing applications and added a freight-tracking program to its transportation management system.

The next major release of SAP's manufacturing applications, scheduled for 2004, will do more data-sharing with SAP's supply-chain planning programs, the company said. The German company has assembled a team of several hundred software developers to build the new system over the next 18 months, said spokesman Bill Wohl.

While technical interoperability between the two systems is possible today, SAP will concentrate on developing new so-called workflows within the applications. These workflows will shuttle information about the availability of supplies from supply chain application databases to people overseeing assembly lines and production plants.

Such workflows could, for example, trigger a shift in production from one factory to another if a truck delivering raw material broke down and couldn't arrive in time at a plant, said Wohl.

Improving transportation management is the goal of SAP's new rail car management software. Now available worldwide, the program is designed to help companies that rely on rail car shipping--such as chemical and mining companies--to keep track of inventory on trains, process freight invoices and tally various rail costs, such as tariffs.

The system reports detailed rail car information--such as route information, transit times and mechanical problems--and gives transportation planners the opportunity to lower freight costs and to minimize or plan for delays, according to SAP.

SAP leads the market for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, according to IDC. The company competes with Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards in the market for business applications designed to automate human resources, bookkeeping, sales, customer service and manufacturing.

Software giant Microsoft is also to gain share in the market for ERP systems targeting midsized companies.