Daily Archives: December 23, 2008

On the Eleventh Day of X-Mas … (Introducing Trade Extensions)

On the eleventh day of X-Mas

my blogger gave to me
another vendor hyping,
blog posts worth keeping,
l’il hampsters dancing,
thoughts for a shilling,
strategies for winning,
tactics for saving,
five golden rings,
four little words,
tri-focal lens,
two boxing gloves
and a lesson in strategy.

Allow me to introduce you to Trade Extensions. Founded in Sweden in 2000, it offers an optimization-based negotiations platform to European clients (from Sweden and a base of operations in the UK), and now, American clients through its office in Houston, Texas.

Trade Extensions offers a self-service on-demand e-Sourcing platform that is available on a per-event basis and backed up by industry leading optimization algorithms designed by scientists with expertise in algorithms, combinatorial optimization, and micro-economics. Like many other platforms, it offers full featured e-RFX, e-Auction, and sourcing project management, but unlike the vast majority of e-Sourcing platforms on the market, optimization is embedded into the RFx bid evaluation and auctions. It’s your favorite sourcing platform on steroids.

The auctions are lot-based, and support as many items, associated attributes, and prices as you want per lot. In addition, pricing, and ranking, can support arbitrary formulas and comparisons can be made against bid logs and historical transactions. Lots are also color-coded, with yellow indicating fields that only the user sees, brown indicating historical data fields that only the user sees, and green indicating fields that the bidder sees. Example fields include name, description, bidder-entered, type, min-value, max-value, decimals, required, distance-to-bidder, and rank-displayed-to-bidder.

The underlying optimization is sufficiently sophisticated and qualifies as true strategic sourcing decision optimization, as per the requirements set forth in the wiki-paper. It supports a number of different types of constraints, called rules, that are based on filters that can act on any attribute. For example, it supports hard limit capacity rules, soft limit allocation rules, meta-allocation “chunk” rules, and composed rules that specify limits on specific lots or lot components. The rules are template-based, which permit them to be saved, copied to, and applied to any relevant scenario. The filters can work on bidders, lots, bids, plants, and lot fields, among others. Furthermore, it can support alternative bids … allowing tiered bids and certain types of matrix bids. And in addition to standard sourcing and freight optimization, the underlying platform can also support limited multi-level supply chain optimization … which is more than most platforms give you!

Analysis is flexibile and powerful, supporting as many scenarios, and comparisons between scenarios, as you like. The analysis screen also allows you to see the status of each scenario, the award volume, the lane allocation, historic costs, savings, applied rules, and solver data. Reporting is above average and allows you to create your own report templates using a plethora of fields, matrices, formulas, and reporting rules.

Now it’s not perfect, as it doesn’t yet support certain types of discounts through the UI that are occasionally useful (although I’m told the underlying model can support them), certain types of mixed freight bids (which, in reality, don’t occur that often), and the UI isn’t designed to support distribution network optimization (but hey, what tool is?), but it’s definitely a tier-1 solution, and it’s nice to see that there’s more than one company who understands that, to be truly useful to the average buyer at the average organization, strategic sourcing decision optimization needs to be powerful, embedded in an e-Sourcing platform and user-friendly. And, they are improving it every day, unlike some “competitive” applications that haven’t changed significantly in years.

Furthermore, unlike most of their competitors, it’s very affordable. They have an event-based model and an unlimited usage model. Their event-based model starts at 0.5% of the value of the tendered goods and services for a full-service event, and drops to as low as 0.3% of the value of the tendered goods and services for a pure self-service event (if multiple events are committed to). Ongoing licenses start at only 10,000 Euros / month for unlimited use (for up to 10 users). Considering that it was only a few years ago where events started at 100K and annual licenses at 50K a month for less functionality — just for optimization — and Trade Extensions’ platform also contains extensive RFX and Auction support built-in, it’s certainly worth investigating if you have optimization needs.