Category Archives: Sourcing-Maniacs

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 15: Upside

This post is a little lengthy, so it’s been broken into Flipside and Upside.


Wakko Why are we in Texas? I thought we were headed Northward.
Yakko We’re not in Texas, Wakko. We’re in Alberta.
Wakko Alberta?
Yakko Yes, Wakko. We’ve crossed into Canada.
Wakko But the plains. The bright sun. The cowboys.
Yakko Are also found in Alberta, who’s biggest trading partner is Texas.
Wakko So that’s why everybody’s oot and aboot, eh?
Will we get to meet Bob and Doug MacKenzie?
Yakko They’re not real Wakko.
Wakko Not real? NOT REAL? They’re my heroes!
  Editor’s note: Oh Dear!
Dot So what are we here for?
Yakko Upside.
Dot What upside can we possibly find in Canada. I’m a sophisticated girl. How sophisticated is a country where most of its population still lives in igloos most of the year!
  Editor’s note: While some traditional Eskimo’s in the far, far noth still live in igloos, the vast majority of the 33 Million plus Canadians do not live in igloos. In fact, except for the fact our money is colorful like European money (only our twenties are green), and we pay more taxes (supposedly to cover our public healthcare costs and additional social programs, but you can check the news to see where it really goes), Canada is extremely similar to the US. Canada may have stayed tied to Britian longer, but the US, our largest trading partner, is Canada’s primary influence. About the only other difference is that we still follow the British parliamentary system, and we don’t get to vote for whether we want tweedle-dee or tweedle-dum as Prime Minister.
Yakko Actually, Canada is quite sophisticated. Although it is true that the majority of e-Sourcing companies are in the US, and more recently, in the UK, there are a few players in Canada and some, like Upside, have attracted a significant user base outside of their native land. And remember, the doctor is Canadian, and currently lives in a place called Halifax, Nova Scotia, which he claims is the best place to do international business in Canada.
Dot So what’s the upside?
Yakko Upside Software, a specialty provider of Contract Management solutions.
Dot So where are they?
Yakko Edmonton.
Dot Edmonton. Never heard of it!
Yakko It says in the guidebook that it has the West Edmonton Mall which was, since its construction in 1981, the World’s Largest Shopping Mall until Jin Yuan, the Golden Resources Shopping Mall, opened in Beijing, China in 2004.
  Editor’s note: Only three malls are larger. The Golden Resources Shopping Mall in Beijing, the South China Mall in Dongguan, and the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City in the Phillippines.
Yakko It also says in the guidebook that the mall contains the Galaxyland Amusement Park with the Mindbender, the world’s largest indoor high speed, triple loop roller coaster.
Yakko To Upside?
Yakko & Dot Yes, Yes, To Upside!


Dot Why are we stopping?
Yakko I think we’re here.
Dot I don’t see a Mall!
Yakko Remember, work first, play later.
Wakko rather solemn
out comes the mini-mallet
tap … tap
Spectabled Sales Guy ‘Ello, ‘ello!
Dot What’s my upside?
Spectacled Sales Guy Excuse me?
Yakko I think she means to ask, is this Upside Software?
Spectacled Sales Guy Why, yes it is.
Yakko And what’s the upside of using Upside Software for Contract Management?
Spectacled Sales Guy Well, that’s a rather involved question. Who are you?
Wakko I’m Wakko.
Spectacled Sales Guy No comment.
Spectacled Sales Guy I’m Yakko.
Spectacled Sales Guy Obviously.
Dot And you can call l’il ol’ me, Dot.
Spectacled Sales Guy Hi Dot. And where are you from?
Yakko Well, we used to be from the valley …
Wakko … but we got wak’d.
Spectacled Sales Guy O …. K …. and who do you work for now?
Wakko No one … we’re fancy free!
Spectacled Sales Guy So why do you want to know what the upside of using Upside Software for Contract Management is? You obviously don’t have any use for it in your current predicament.
Dot We’re trying to better understand the sourcing space.
Yakko It seems our view is a little narrower than it should be.
Spectacled Sales Guy But why are you here? There are obviously dozens of other companies you could talk too, some of whom may even be hiring, and most a lot closer to California than us.
Wakko the doctor sent us.
Spectacled Sales Guy You really are wacko. Doctors prescribe medicine …
Dot Not a doctor, the doctor … of Sourcing Innovation.
Spectacled Sales Guy Sourcing Innovation … hmmm … the blog?
Yakko The one and only.
Spectacled Sales Guy So if I answer your question, I’ll get some free publicity?
Yakko Of course!
Spectacled Sales Guy Well, even though we don’t really need it … we’ve been in the press a lot lately … we are, after all, one of Canada’s Best Employers … and companies … but it’s a fair exchange. So have a seat. And I’ll tell you why we’re different — and what the upside to using Upside is.
Dot Great!
Spectacled Sales Guy First of all, we support the full life-cycle of the contract. How familiar are you with enterprise contract management?
Yakko Isn’t it just the centralization of all of your contracts in a centralized, searchable repository so that you can find out who you have contracts with, what they’re for, when they’re expiring, and, most importantly, how much you should be paying for a good or service?
Spectacled Sales Guy Well, that’s where it starts, but it’s much more than that. To quote your doctor, it’s not just “managing your contracts” but “managing the information that is within the contracts and related to the contracts”. “It’s being able to not only find the contract for the part you need, but share that information with your sourcing and procurement systems for automated compliance verification of invoices. It’s about being able to not only create standard terms and conditions in your contract templates but being able to annotate them with the reasons therefore. It’s about being able to determine not only what contracts are about to expire, but what risks you are open to with respect to your current contract base with respect to liability, supply stability, and corporate social responsibility. It’s about being able to drill down from a supplier contract into relevant supplier data to determine compliance. It’s about being able to drill down from your customer contracts to your supplier performance metrics to determine on-time delivery performance. Its about being able to truly manage your operations off of your contracts.” (From Enterprise Contract Management.) And more.
Dot More?
Spectacled Sales Guy It’s budgeting, project management and risk management. And it’s about simultaneously meeting the needs of accounting, legal, and procurement, whose needs are quite diverse.
Dot Really? That too?
Spectacled Sales Guy You draft a contract for goods or services in specified quantities in specified amounts. The contract has a committed amount, which comes out of a budget that needs to be carefully tracked. And if you’re in construction, consulting, or exploration, for example, most of your contracts are project based, and need to be managed against projects. And these days, contract management is as much about risk management as it is about price and service levels. You need to identify the risks, mitigate the risks, and monitor that the identified mitigations are being implemented.
Yakko And your tool does all that?
Spectacled Sales Guy To the extent that a Contract Management tool can.

It lets you define your budgets, which contracts, and associated line items, are billed against the budgets, and then, as invoices are entered into the system and billed against contracts, it tracks expenditures against budgets.

It lets you define projects, and project components, and associate contracts, and component line items, with projects. Projects can also be identified with funding levels, required forms, and have associated alerts when budget levels are reached, actions need to be taken, or insurance or certifications need to be (re)verified.

And the application allows you to establish, and track, “risk drivers”. You can define a risk event, the “risk driver” that would cause the event, the impact the event would have, and the probability that the impact would be realized. For example, for an early contract termination event, you could define a “risk driver” of no on-time delivery and an “impact” of lost dollars with 75% probability. You can then track the risks by contract, by project, and by budget and this helps to ensure that your risks, and identified mitigations, get monitored.

Dot Wow!
Yakko But what about basic contract management. Since your tool does so much, is it difficult to use?
Spectacled Sales Guy Not at all! It’s a streamlined SaaS offering that supports single sign-on and customization by each client. This insures that you only have to use as much as you need, on a contract-by-contract basis. Furthermore, it’s a wizard-based tool that guides you through the process of requesting, creating, and monitoring contracts, and is thus incredibly easy to use.

Contract creation is as simple as selecting a type, defining a jurisdiction, choosing an appropriate template, customizing the options, defining the duration and boundary dates, and adding a searchable description.

Dot So you have to have a template first?
Spectacled Sales Guy No, but we highly recommend it … because the template can be re-used again and again. And our templates aren’t static Word document templates, they’re dynamic templates where each clause can have different, auto-configured, options depending on jurisdiction, risk tolerance, duration, and value. In addition, legal can define additional alternatives for each clause for special situations that can be selected as needed. This allows contracts to be quickly and easily generated with very little customization.
Dot But I’m comfortable with Word!
Spectacled Sales Guy Most people are … which is why our contract creation tool is 100% Word compatible. You can export to Word for editing, and then import the updated contract at any time. But our tool is much more powerful. Not only can you create drop-down alternatives, including auto-selecting alternatives, for each clause and sub-clause, but you can also track how often an alternative clause is used, how often a clause is modified, and define notes that allow usage to be properly interpreted. Plus, you can define levels of approval and equivalents in foreign languages. This is what allows our system to automatically draft a base contract once the basic meta-data of jurisdiction, duration, risk tolerance, etc. are defined. Whereas most systems just retrieve a static template, our system retrieves a customized contract.
Yakko So creation is powerful. What about management?
Spectacled Sales Guy Equally as powerful. You can search by any associated piece of information; organize contracts by geography, supplier, product, project, budget; and customize the meta-data you want to track. It’s a fully functional repository.
Wakko And all that other stuff having to do with enterprise contract management you rambled on about?
Spectacled Sales Guy All there. There’s compliance management functionality that allows you to specify, track, and alert the affected parties to the requirements at different points in the life-cycle. There’s performance management that allows you to define and track metrics — and we can tie into external systems to automatically load the approptiate data. There’s invoice and receipt tacking, which is supported by our ability to link into ERP systems to pull transactions and status levels. There’s planned expenditure and budget tracking. There’s a powerful wizard-based form-building tool that allows just about any form you might need to support a contract or relationship to be built. E-mail functionality is built into the system, and it can track all communications by contract. All of the data can be exported in flat-file, csv/Excel, and XML, and reports can also be exported in HTM, RTF, and PDF formats. And there’s a very extensive adminitrative tool that allows just about everything to be customized. Wherever possible, we use reference tables to define data, workflow, and functionality and all of them can be customized by our customers in their implementations.
Yakko I never knew there was so much to contract management!
Spectacled Sales Guy Well, it really depends on the organization. A small organization might not need more than decent templating and a centralized repository, but a large multi-national enterprise has very extensive contracting needs — needs that we continually work hard to meet each and every day. And with that, I bid you good day. There’s a wide world out there that also needs my attention.
Wakko & Dot Off to the Mall!

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 14: Source One & ThomasNet

Today’s post is a little long, so I have broken it up into Prelude and Platform. If you’re short on time, you can go straight to the Platform and skip the comedy of errors.


Wakko MFG … it’s dynamite
MFG … it’ll win the fight
MFG … it’s the power load
MFG … watch it explode!
   air guitar
  presumably to the music of AC/DC’s TNT
the doctor Guys, if I might interrupt.
  silence … as I haven’t interrupted in a while, I think they’ve forgotten about me again
Wakko Whaaa …
the doctor Your story so far has been great, but I was wondering if we could jump ahead a little bit to a couple of vendors in particular.
Yakko Why?
the doctor Well, for starters, I think that given the current economy and financial situation of most companies, I think those that are looking to dip their feet in the e-Sourcing waters for the first time would be very interested in your visit to Source One to learn about their new ThomasNet Purchasing Tools offering, and I must admit that I’m a little impatient to hear about it myself. I’m also impatient to hear about your visit with Upside Software, one of the leaders in on-demand Contract Management, which is a very important element of good risk management these days, and one of the few Canadian companies in the space!
Dot But we were just about to tell you about our great visit with …
the doctor And I fully intend to let you. You can come right back to where you are now as soon as we cover these two companies. Okay?
Dot I guess so …
the doctor Great … take it away!
  a few seconds pass as the maniacs fast-forward their story in their minds
Dot So where are we now?
Yakko Still somewhere in Georgia, I believe.
Dot No, no. Who’s next?
Wakko Why.
Dot Why?
Wakko Yes, Why.
Dot But I’m asking who’s next!
Wakko Why is next!
Dot I’m asking a question!
Wakko And I told you Why!
Dot Why?
Wakko Yes, Why!
Dot What?
Wakko Not What, Why!
Yakko Where again?
Wakko Not Where … Why!
  The Abbott and Costello routine continues for about 10 more minutes until the maniacs get a most opportunely timed call …
Yakko ring, ring
Yakko’s Yuletide Yaks … Nature’s Lawnmowers are Your Friend!
the doctor Hello.
Yakko In his best Bugs Bunny impersonation, which is rather flawless:
Eeeeh, What’s up, doc?
Yakko activates the speakerphone.
the doctor That’s what I was going to ask you. I was wondering where you were on your tour.
Yakko Yesterday we just visited Servigistics.
the doctor Good. So you’re on your way to ThomasNet next?
Wakko Yes, Why!
the doctor They offer a free set of purchasing tools that give smaller organizations a great way to try out e-Sourcing in a cost and risk-free manner ..
Wakko Not They, Why!
the doctor Who?
Dot Yes, who?
the doctor What?
Wakko Not What, Why!
the doctor I told you why. Because …
Wakko Not Because …
Yakko He’s been doing this for the last 15 minutes. I can’t even find out where!
Wakko Not Where, Why!
the doctor I think I understand now. Do you mean Why Abe?
Wakko Yes, Why!
the doctor I’ve got it now. Wakko, I’m not calling you Abe. I know you like to answer to that name, especially when you’re wearing your black topper hat, but I’m not. When I said “Why Abe” …
Wakko Yes, Why!
the doctor … I was referring to the free commerce platform, sponsored by Source One, that underlies the new ThomasNet Purchasing Tools that I asked you to check out.
Yakko And where are they?
Wakko Not They, Why!
the doctor ignoring Wakko
Yakko, ThomasNet Purchasing Tools are in New York. Source One is in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
Wakko Transylvania?
the doctor still ignoring Wakko
You can go to whichever location is closest, but remember that you’ll want someone from Source One to give the demo, which will have to be web-based if you go to New York.
Yakko Well, since we just finished with Servigistics, we’re still somewhere in Georgia, so I think we’ll go to Pennsylvania.
Wakko Transylvania?
the doctor at this point, everyone’s ignoring Wakko
Great! I look forward to your report when your tour is done.
Wakko Why! Why!
Yakko & Dot Shut up, Wakko!
  The manicas take off towards Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. For once, they are silent!


Yakko I think we’re here.
Wakko Great!
out comes the mini-mallet
tap – tap
Proper Gentleman Hello. Can I help you.
Wakko Why …
Yakko cutting Wakko off …
We’d like a demo of Why Abe, the platform that underlies ThomasNet’s new ThomasNet Purchasing Tools offering …
Dot … and an explanation of why you decided to join up with ThomasNet.
Proper Gentleman Well, that’s easy. ThomasNet has over 3 Million users a month who need more than just supplier information. We have a great tool, that’s free to any buyer who wants to try it, that we want to make available to the mass market. It’s a perfect match. We get our tool out there, and better prepare buyers for strategic sourcing, and ThomasNet gives it’s users a way to interact with the 600,000 plus suppliers that it tracks.
Dot And what’s the big advantage? Can’t a buyer just use your tool, and then go to ThomasNet, D&B, CVM, or any other supplier information provider when they need more information on a supplier?
Proper Gentleman They could. But it’s not very convenient. And, more importantly, how do you know that they know what suppliers they need information on? The power of ThomasNet is it’s extensive classification hierarchy that allows a buyer to not only find suppliers for the products that they need, but to find suppliers that they never new existed, who are sometimes just one city over. ThomasNet also just released a “preferred suppliers” capability where it will extract those suppliers that are close to you and known to be capable of supplying the products you need in the quantities you require. Buyers have found this to be extremely beneficial. Since its introduction, the average number of suppliers invited per RFx has increased, the average number of responses per RFx has increased, and the average benefit the buyers have seen using the tool has increased. And that’s the point.
Yakko So the synergy works. But it’s just a simple CMS with primitive RFx capability, right? After all, it can’t be that good if you’re giving it away for free, considering we used to sell these platforms for six-figures a year.
Proper Gentleman Well we think it’s pretty damn good. We eat our own dog-food and use it ourselves. And I think it all depends on your definition of good. We designed a platform that would meet the needs of most small and mid-size organizations, who can’t afford, or don’t need, expensive enterprise systems that contain hundreds of “features” they’ll never use according to the 80/20 rule. All of the core functionality you need to do the majority (80%+) of your projects, the majority (80%+) of the time.

This means that it has all of your core RFx capabilities, although we do have some limitations on the number of attachments and sizes since it’s a pure SaaS application and we don’t have unlimited storage networks, your basic reverse auction capabilities, and your basic contract tracking capabilities that satisfies the needs of most small and some mid-size companies. You’re familiar with Coupa, right?

Wakko Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-do
Yakko cutting Wakko off again
Yes, we’re familiar with Coupa.
Proper Gentleman Well, it’s like the sourcing version of the Coupa Express, the free open-source coupa platform. It’s not as extensive as the full Coupa platform, which itself is very affordably priced compared to some of the enterprise procurement platforms that run into the six figures, but if you’re just starting, or your needs are modest, it’s a great way to jump in and get most of the benefits of e-Sourcing without a hefty price tag.
Dot So it really is a fully-functional basic e-Sourcing platform? Even though it’s free? the doctor wasn’t pulling our leg?
Proper Gentleman Yes it is, at least at a basic level. And who are you?
Wakko Wakko.
Yakko Yakko.
Dot Dot.
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot We’re …
Proper Gentleman in a weary tone
… the Sourcing Maniacs. I’ve heard of you.
Yakko So you’ll give us a demo?
Proper Gentleman I take it you won’t leave until I do?
Dot That’s right!
Proper Gentleman ok. But you DON’T leave the conference room. OK?
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot looking rather solemn
glumly OK.
Proper Gentleman Let’s get started.

Here’s our main screen for RFX Management. It’s broken into three parts: Setup and Administration, RFX – For Buyers, and RFX – For Suppliers.

Dot Why is RFX – For Suppliers there? It’s a buyer’s tool, right?
Proper Gentleman Primarily, but it’s also a tool for suppliers to submit bids and other requested information.
Dot True, but shouldn’t that be a separate tool?
Proper Gentleman Most companies buy goods to operate and sell goods to make money, right?
Dot Right.
Proper Gentleman So a company operates as both a buyer of goods and a seller of goods, right?
Dot Right. But it’s usually two different people.
Proper Gentleman At big companies, yes. But not at small companies. Often, procurement falls under the inventory manager who is responsible for goods coming in AND goods going out. In our system, she has one login … where she can do everything she needs to do. Get it?
Dot I got it now! The right tool does what you need it to do in a manner that is as straightforward as possible. Multiple logins or interfaces to fundamentally the same tool is just confusing.
Proper Gentleman So may I continue?
Dot I’m ready …
Proper Gentleman On the set-up side, the user can set-up reviewers, block suppliers from quoting, and customize template distribution lists for current and future RFXs and Reverse Auctions. On the buy-side, a user can create a new RFX or reverse auction, bring up all active, closed, saved, or copied RFXs or auctions, and select winners. And when they are ready to issue a contract, they can click over to Contract Manager where they can define the contract meta-data and upload the contract, define reviewers, define time-based alerts that correspond to required actions or upcoming expirations, define owners, and specify the affected suppliers.
Dot That’s it?
Proper Gentleman Let’s say you’re a small company where the majority of your purchases are office suppliers and raw materials for the specialty gears that you make. In this situation, besides strategic negotation for key raw materials, how sophisticated is your procurement going to be the majority of the time?
Dot Not very.
Proper Gentleman So what else do you need?
Dot Well, in this case, not much.
Proper Gentleman Precisely. You have to remember that our goal is to take e-Sourcing to the masses. There are already enough tools out there for the Fortune 500 and Global 2000. What’s missing are tools for the hundreds of thousands of companies around the world that could also benefit from e-Sourcing, but who don’t have the complex requirements, or the bank account, that those tools require.
Yakko So is it easy to use?
Proper Gentleman The majority of users we’ve talked to say it’s the easiest sourcing and procurement tool they’ve every used. Because we don’t need complex workflows or bells and whistles, we’ve managed to streamline it to the point where it’s literally as easy as Amazon One-Click.

Everything is wizard-driven and guides you through what you have to do, when you have to do it, and in the manner you need to do it. It just asks you for the basic data, and let’s you decide what else you need – allowing you to upload attachments for anything specific to the event.

Let’s take the RFX creation process for example. You categorize the product or service, which allows ThomasNet to pull up supplier and preferred supplier lists that you can select from for ultimate distribution, specify RFP, specify the event duration, specify the currency and country, provide a description, optionally add line items, upload specification documents and an image, specify the listing type — public or private, invite reviewers to monitor the event, and distribute it. It’s literally a 5-minute process once you’ve written the RFP document you need to distribute.

Reverse Auctions are almost as simple. The only extra information you have to specify is whether you’re using rank or lowest-bid, whether duplicate bids are allowed, whether a minimum decrement is enforced, whether auto-extend should be turned-on to prevent bid-sniping, and, if it’s supplier rank, the ranking formula. The invites go out, the suppliers log in when the auction starts, and, presto, a few minutes later you have your award.

Yakko And contracts?
Proper Gentleman Just as simple. Define the basic data: the title, number, version, type, product(s), amount, physical location, signature date, start date, end date, renewal terms, commited amounts, committed quanities, searchable descriptions; upload the attachments; define the alerts; set-up some reviewers; and you’re good to go.
Yakko So it really can be that simple?
Proper Gentleman For small and many mid-sized companies, that we assist all the time in our roles as strategic sourcing professionals at Source One, it really is. We’re not trying to compete with the Aribas, Emptoris‘, and Iastas of the world … we’re just trying to provide another option for companies that don’t need the extensive e-Sourcing solutions those companies offer.

And now that you know that e-Sourcing doesn’t have to be very complex or involved for the vast majority of companies out there, it’s time for you to move on. I have sourcing events to oversee. Good day.

The Executive shows the maniacs the door.

Dot So, e-Sourcing is really simple at its heart.
Yakko And for many smaller and mid-size companies, a streamlined tool will often suffice.
Wakko It’s wakko!
  Silence again ensues as Yakko and Dot decide there’s no reasoning with Wakko today.

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 13:

This post is a little lengthy, so it’s been broken down into Comedy and Community, which you can skip to if you’re short on time.


Yakko Rapid Response Management. I don’t think we’d ever have thought of that at our old jobs!
  The maniacs just finished visiting with Kinaxis.
Dot It’s sure one cool concept! So Who’s Next?
Wakko Awesome album!

Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Wakko breaks into his best air guitar routine

Yakko & Dot Wakko!
Wakko What?
Yakko I believe Dot was asking a question!
Dot And I want to know what company we’ll be visiting next.
Wakko Oh.
So, onward where?
Yakko Are we done with the K’s?
Wakko I wonder what’s up with that little company down in the valley that we used to pretend didn’t exist?
Yakko Are you referring to Ketera?
Wakko That’s them!
Dot I’m not ready to go back to California.
Yakko I heard they have a new SaaS e-Sourcing offering! Maybe we can get a web-demo and research them online!
Dot That would be cool. I’ll give them a call.
Dot rings up Ketera.
Sales Voice You’ve reached Ketera! How can we help you?
Dot We’d like a demo of your new e-Sourcing offering.
Sales Voice Who are you with?
Dot The Media.
Sales Voice Well, we’re a little backed up right now … the platform is taking off much faster than we expected. Can you wait a few weeks?
Dot Well, uhm, okay.
Obviously not used to being asked to wait.
Sales Voice If you’ll give me your details …
  the maniacs trailed off here
Yakko Well, I guess we’ll have to catch up with them later.
Dot So where are we?
Yakko I guess we move on to the L’s.
Wakko Elle MacPherson … oh yeah … I could definitely …
Wakko looking confused
Yakko Lexington Analytics?
Dot Too Consulting.
Yakko Lexis Nexis?
Dot Too Data Focussed.
Yakko LlamaSoft?
Dot Too mathematical. And Wakko would spend the whole time tearing the place apart looking for llamas.
Yakko Log-Net?
Dot Too logistical.
Yakko LSC Consulting Group?
Dot Again, consulting.
Yakko Well, I’m out of L’s! On to the M’s!

Editor’s Note: Yakko wouldn’t be out of L’s if he’d check the resource site once in a while, which lists over 500 companies in the space, alphabetically sorted, and accessible by starting letter and major category.

Dot I seem to remember this company called Moai from years (and years) back. Think they’re still around?
Yakko I haven’t heard of them in years! Last time I saw a press release from them was … was … 2004! Not long after the Medebiz merger / acquisition. I thought they were as long gone as the Moai statues on Easter Island that they named themselves after!
Dot Maybe … but I thought I noticed that their web site was still there a few days ago.
Yakko Web site! That’s it! the doctor told us about a web-based operation that starts with M that we’re supposed to check out. Just a minute.

Yakko fetches his handy-dandy notebook.


Wakko Are we going for Chinese food! I’m hungry!
Yakko M-F-G, not MSG!
Wakko Oh. Well, can we still go for Chinese food! I’m hungry!
Yakko You’re always hungry!
Dot So who’s this MFG?
Yakko According to the doctor, MFG, who bills themselve as the on-line manufacturing marketplace, is a SaaS-based marketplace where buyers and sellers can come together and do business.
Dot So where are they?
Yakko I believe they’re in Atlanta, Georgia …
Wakko Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
Yakko ignoring Wakko
… but the doctor says that everything they offer, and everything we should care about, is on-line.
Dot Time for another trip to the cyber-cafe!
Wakko Look! Look! Here’s a Chinese Cafe!
jumping up and down
Can we go? Can we? Can we?
Yakko Yes, Wakko.


Wakko I love Chinese food!
Dot Is there any food you don’t love?
Wakko thinking … despite the look of consternation on his face
Escargot and Cavier.
Dot That’s sophisticated food.
Wakko I’d rather baloney.
Yakko breaking out the MacBook
Shall we begin?
Dot Sure. Where do we start?
Yakko Let’s go to the blogs for background. the doctor appears to have two MFG-focussed posts: MFG: A Community in the Making and – Exploding onto the scene, which I found through his handy Annual Vendor Day master index post.

Starting as a “parts marketplace” that is free to buyers, it has, especially after its recent acquisition of, a large supplier community that you can search, and tap, for custom manufactured parts and products through its free on-line sourcing and collaboration tools. Furthermore, it goes beyond just simple supplier directories, as MFG verifies the listed capabilities of suppliers who use the site and allows buyers to post their feedback, which it compiles into supplier ratings.

On top of this, it has a real-time supplier matching capability that works on detailed part specifications which will automatically locate the suppliers who are capable of filling your order. Once you select one, you can work with them using the built-in tools to collaborate on, and refine, the design until you get a high quality design that is cost-effective to produce.

And then there’s the companion site, released about six months ago, open to all manufacturers, and buyers, in an on-line forum that allows them to come together, share information, ask questions, post classifieds, find work, take advantage of open-source machine tools, and keep up with the latest news and trends. It’s all based on “Web 2.0” technologies – forums, blogs, wikis, and networking tools.

Dot Anything else?
Yakko the doctor has also cross-indexed a number of Spend Matters posts on MFG as well. Let’s check them out.

In Going Global with a Unique Leader, JB tells us about their CEO, Mich Free, and how he’s a b-school type — gritty, school of hard knocks, and personally knowledgeable about how a machine shop actually works — and how he used that knowledge to build a team that actually understood what manufacturing is and what it needs in an on-line platform.

In Smock Gets the Scoop, JB references a recent interview that notes that is planning to offer an advanced sourcing solution to buyers, which goes beyond its basic platform that will remain free, that will include “the whole nine yards of sourcing capability plus supplier relationship management and contract management for a subscription price of less than $500 a quarter per buying company”.

Dot Wow! That’s bargain basement pricing! For sourcing!
Yakko In the Fusion posts (I and II), JB told us about some of the visionary insights of Mitch Free, MFG’s founder, and how he’s trying to open up the manufacturing space in ways not previously thought of, and in — Building a Textile Marketplace, he tells us how MFG is creating a new marketplace for textiles, an industry that, like traditional manufacturing, has been traditionally underserved on the web.
Dot Wow! Sounds like MFG are one busy bunch of guys and gals!
Yakko And that’s not all! In “Surviving China’s Rapidly Changing Sourcing Tides” (I and II), the doctor mentions, the MFG companion site … in Chinese … to serve the Chinese marketplace.
Wakko Gan Bei! More Tsingtao please!
Dot Busy, busy, busy!
Yakko Very! I think it’s time to check the site out!

Wow! RFQs are sorted into standard, commodity parts, for open, public bid and custom parts — making it easy for suppliers to find the RFQs most appropriate to their orientation. Hundreds of categories, allowing everything to be precisely specified. There has to be over a thousand standardized parts and products here!

And the resource collection is awesome! Industry LInks to CAD & CAM Software, Consulting Srvices, and Machine Tool Builders to name a few. Links to over 20 relevant Manufacturing Publications. Over 15 relevant manufacturing industry associations. Information on the major certifications and standards. Even a collection of useful utilities.

Wakko That’s a collection that even the doctor, with the largest collection of useful resources (on the Sourcing Innovation Resource Site) in the space, would be proud of!
Yakko And the help, and online process guidance, is very extensive. Even you could use it Wakko!

And as far as I can tell, is just as extensive!

Dot What about – The Global Manufacturing Community?
Yakko I see over 10 active communities – Buy and Sell, Employment, Open Source Machine Tools, General Manufacturing, Sourcing and Procurement, Marketing for Manufacturers, Metalworking and Machining, Textiles and Apparel, Design and Engineering, Software, Logistics, and Materials. And everything’s a wiki document, so you can log in and make it better. And then there’s the blogs. Led by their blog-master, former analyst extraordinaire, AJ Sweatt.
Dot Does Mitch blog?
Yakko Occassionally. (Found here.)
Dot Too bad he doesn’t blog more. the doctor says he’s one smart cookie.
Yakko I don’t think those were quite the words he used.
Dot Same Dif.
Yakko Anyway, this looks like a great resource for manufacturing buyers and suppliers alike!

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part XII: Kinaxis

This post is a little lengthy, so it’s been broken into Kicking It and Kinaxis, which you can skip to if you’re short on time.

Kicking It

Wakko That hits the spot!
Yakko I hope so! That was your fourth serving of pulled-pork!
The maniancs just finished visiting Integration Point in North Carolina.
Wakko So, where are we off to next?
Dot I think we’re done with the I’s. Time for the J’s.
Yakko I only know of JVKG, who do services, and JDA who do logistics and warehouse management.
Dot I don’t know any J’s. I guess that means we skip straight to the K’s!
Yakko I don’t know many K’s either. What does Kewill Systems do?
Dot More logistics. Kanbay?
Yakko Consulting. Kinaxis?
Dot What do they do?
Yakko Something called Rapid Response Management.
Dot What’s that?
Yakko Honestly, I have no idea!
Wakko even Wakko doesn’t have a snappy combeack!
Dot Should we check them out?
Yakko the doctor says they’re rather unique
Dot That’s interesting … where are they?
Yakko Their US headquarters is back in Chicago.
Wakko Can we go to the Funhouse Maze this time?
Yakko I guess so.
Dot Okay! Let’s head back!
  the maniacs were recently in Chicago visiting FieldGlass
the maniacs head back towards Chicago; we rejoin them a few days later
Wakko Here we are!
out comes the mini-mallet
tap … tap a smiling man opens the door
Smiling Man Greetings!
Wakko quickly putting the mini-mallet away
Hi! We’d like a Rapid Response!
Smiling Man To?
Yakko What Wakko means to ask is, what is “Rapid Response”?
Smiling Man And you are?
Yakko I’m Yakko.
Dot I’m Dot.
Smiling Man And you’re with?
Dot No one at the moment.
Smiling Man So you want?
Yakko To learn!
Smiling Man And you’re here?
Yakko Because the doctor said you had a unique solution.
Smiling Man And?
Dot We’re bored.
Yakko Can you tell us what you do?
Smiling Man I’m not sure it will help you, but ok.


Yakko So what is Rapid Response?
Smiling Man RapidResponse is our demand management platform, available on-demand, that is used by manufacturing supply chain professionals to manage their change-ready supply chains.
Yakko How does it do that?
Smiling Man It integrates with your supply chain systems, monitors data in real time, and automatically detects changes that could have a negative impact on your supply chain. It then alerts the appropriate individuals who can run different scenarios to evaluate their options and come together in the tool to collaboratively solve identified problems. But to really understand what that means, we need to take a step back and make sure you understand the problem.
Dot Sure!
Smiling Man In the past, manufacturing companies would typically forecast demands on an annual basis, cut contracts with suppliers and 3PL companies, and then tweak their operating plans every quarter or every month. These forecasts, and operation plans, would be created by gathering multiple years worth of demand and production data and a sophisticated set of assumptions created by internal experts, which would then be fed into complex planning software which would churn on a big model, often for days on end, and spit out a master plan that the company would adhere to.

But that was when business, and the world around it, moved at a slower, and more predictable, pace. Today, the world is increasingly volatile and dynamic, demand and available supply levels change rapidly, an ever increasing amount of your business is outsourced across an increasingly complex supply network, and yesterday’s plan may no longer be valid today.

Manufacturing operations need to be able to monitor their supply and demand networks in real time and take course corrections as soon as demands change or supply inavailability puts production, and thus revenue, in jeopardy. You can’t do that with your traditional Advanced Planning and Optimizer (APO) tool.

Our tool gives businesses the capability to monitor supply and demand in real time, immediately determine the impact of a demand or supply change from a production and revenue perspective, and react to the changes.

Yakko How does it do that?
Smiling Man We integrate with all of the standard ERP and planning systems on the market using data files in standard file formats and import data in from all of your manufacturing systems at your various locations — be they Oracle, SAP, JD Edwards, or Excel flat files — which is updated as often as you like — every day, every hour, or every minute. Every time data is updated, the relevant supply chain models are updated and any supply or demand discrepancies are immediately detected and the appropriate individuals are alerted through the tool’s message center, if the change doesn’t require an immediate response on behalf of a person, or through e-mail.

The appropriate individual can log into the system and review the impact of the change. She can then create virtual scenarios that, depending on the situation, reduce or delay production, expedite supply shipments, or alter expected demand levels. These can then be shared with colleagues who can collaborate through the tool to determine the right response to a demand change or supply chain disruption. When the appropriate response is decided upon, the supply chain model is updated, and any changes are pushed back to the appropriate systems the raw data was collected from.

Dot So is the tool hard to use? It sounds like it’s based on advanced mathematics. Am I right?
Smiling Man Like the APO systems it is replacing, it is based on very advanced mathematical models that combine the best of optimization and simulation and update themselves in real time on every data change. But, at least in our view, and the view of many of our customers which include some of the largest manufacturing organizations in the world, it’s quite easy to use — even easier than the Excel-based spreadsheets that so many organizations still rely on as their legacy APO systems don’t allow them to centralize all of the relevant data in one application or create virtual scenarios to analyze as many different possibilities as our tool allows.

Our application uses a tree-based table view which, once you’ve modeled the appropriate part of your supply chain network, allows you to quickly drill-in, find, and update the data associated with a product, part, or raw material. No more searching through pages upon pages of workbook data to find that one cell that needs to be corrected. Drill, drill, select the proper cell, update the quantity or delivery date, hit enter, and not only are you done — but the entire plan updates in real time.

Dot So it must be hard to setup the network?
Smiling Man No, that’s quite easy too. Create a “workbook” that represents the supply chain for the products you’re interested in, define the different nodes (factories, warehouses, distribution centers, and raw material supply centers), define the flows and their properties (Beijing to LA, 21 days, etc.), define the products you produce, consume, or transfer (within your production and distribution network) at each point, map inputs (consumables) to output (produced products), collect the demands from your current forecasting system, and you’re done. If you have a large network, and if you’ve never formally modeled your network like this, it might take a bit of time, but it’s quite easy.
Dot You say “workbook”. Does this mean your product supports multiple networks?
Smiling Man It supports multiple supply networks and multiple views of the same supply network.
Dot Why would you want that?
Smiling Man Let’s say you have a processed food division and a household products division. Although the products produced by both divisions might be sold in the same store, chances are that both divisions require very different inputs with little overlap, that use pretty much separate networks. In this situation, you’d want to model your supply chain as different networks.

You want multiple views because different business units — procurement, manufacturing, finance, and management — each care about different aspects of your supply chain at different levels of detail. Our tool allows you to set these views up once and then everyone gets to see what they want to see, how they want to see it, since you can customize the scorecards, and reports, available in each workbook.

And, as you probably figured out, each workbook supports multiple scenarios. The current scenario that represents your current production plan, and any problems that it might have, and multiple “what-if” virtual scenarios that allow you to model different plans, and different responses to changing supply and demand patterns, any one of which can be promoted to the current plan at any time by the individual with the authority to do so.

Dot So how many different workbooks can you have?
Smiling Man As many as you want. Most of our installations have at least 10 to 20, and we have a large number of templates to enable our customers to set up the views their various business units need. Our tool is quite versatile despite the fact it was designed for demand planning. Some organizations even use it for projected purchase price variance analysis because it has the most complete data view of any system in their organization!
Dot And it has lots of reporting?
Smiling Man You can set up scorecards for each workbook and scenario, define which metrics you want to track, and see how you’re performing today versus yesterday or another point in time. And you can create reports off of these scorecards. It’s not a full blown reporting tool, but it gives you what you need — in real time — and if you want something fancy, you can do a data export and create whatever you want in your internal reporting package.
Yakko Is that it?
Smiling Man Well, if we dig in, and open it up, you’ll find a lot of cool features and applications, but that’s pretty much it. Our customers told us what they really needed was a way to synnchronize supply and demand data, monitor it in real time, define corrective actions, and put them into play — quickly — so that’s we focussed on. An on-demand real-time application that solved the one problem no one else was solving for them. And that’s what we continue to focus on as our primary goal. As we identify additional capabilities that will be of use to our customers, we’ll add them over time. But our focus won’t change.
Yakko Makes sense.
Smiling Man We think so. And with that, I have more educational responsibilities to fulfill. Good day.

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part XI: Integration Point

When we left off in our tale of the Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour, they had just finished meeting with the CEO of Iasta who told them all about bringing e-Sourcing to the mid-market masses and, in particular, the benefits of applying decision optimization and supplier relationship management to your sourcing process. We catch up with the maniacs in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The post is a little lengthy, so I’ve again broken it up into parts; Interlude and Integration (which contains the content).


Wakko Faster, faster!
Dot Go! Go! Go!
Yakko Floor it!
For the sake of clarity, I should point out that the maniacs are currently at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway watching the cars take practice laps in preparation for their next race.
Wakko Do you think I can take one for a lap?
Dot Given your penchant for mischief, I’d be surprised if they’d even take you for a lap in the 2-seater experience.
Wakko Why not?
Yakko What happens every time you drive fast?
Wakko I tend to crash on occasion.
Yakko I didn’t hear you!
Wakko I usually wreck the car.
Yakko So do you think they’re going to let you take a mulit-million dollar piece of precision equipment for a spin?
Wakko solemnly
Yakko Now that that’s settled, ready to move on?
Dot Where next?
Wakko I thought you said it was eSourcing Place now?
Dot glares at Wakko.
Yakko Well, we’re on the I’s and the doctor strongly suggested that we check out this place called Integration Point.
Dot Where are they?
Yakko North Carolina.
Wakko Sweet Home Carolina
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Carloina
I’m coming home to you
Dot Don’t you mean Sweet Home Alabama?
Wakko Yakko said Carolina!
Dot But …
Wakko Works, don’t it?
Dot Yes …
Wakko Okay, then!

Sweet Home Carolina
Where the skies are so blue

Yakko & Wakko Sweet Home Carloina
I’m coming home to you
Dot, reluctantly, joins in
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot Here I come, Carolina!
  We catch up with the maniacs a few days later.
Dot Are we here?
Wakko reaching for his mini-mallet
I’ll check!
but before Wakko can tap-tap-tap, the door opens … a woman, who appears to be dressed like a marketing-type executive, answers
Marketing Executive Oh. Sorry. Can I help you?
Dot Is this Integration Point?
Marketing Executive Yes it is.
Dot What do you integrate?
Marketing Executive Now that’s a strange question. Who are you?
Dot I’m Dot.
Yakko And I’m Yakko. And that fella over there …
pointing to Wakko who has decided to bonk himself on the head with the mini-mallet, presumably in disappointment in not getting to use it on the door
is Wakko.
Marketing Executive I can see that. Is he okay? Do I need to get help?
Dot Oh, he’s fine. Don’t worry about him.
Marketing Executive Dot. Yakko. Wakko. Why do those names sound familiar?
Yakko & Dot We’re the sourcing maniacs!
Marketing Executive guarded
Oh. Well …
we don’t have any open positions right now. Sorry. Have a nice day.
she starts to close the door … obviously, she’s heard of the maniacs and their antics
Dot Wait. We’re not hear for jobs, unless you have them.
Marketing Executive Then what are you hear for?
Wakko who has grown bored of his mini-mallet
Marketing Executive I can see that you could certainly use some!
Yakko We want to know what you do and why it’s important.
Marketing Executive Why us?
Yakko the doctor said you’d broaden our horizons!
Marketing Executive Well
glancing at Wakko
I don’t think that will be too hard!
Dot So will you tell us what you integrate?
Marketing Executive If you’re sure you want to broaden your horizons. They say ignorance is bliss, and
glancing back at Wakko
it seems to me that he likes his blissful state of ignorance.
Yakko & Dot We want to broaden our horizons!
Yakko And you can ignore Wakko.
Dot Everyone else does.
Marketing Executive OK.
Looking sternly at Wakko. But the construction tools stay in your backpack. Got it?


Dot So what do you integrate?
Marketing Executive I think you misunderstand what we do. We’re not your run of the mill software development or consulting shop … we don’t “integrate” anything, except data.

Let me ask you this, how much do you know about global trade?

Dot You call up your supplier in China, tell him you’d like 20,000 DVD players, and then call up your 3PL to handle the delivery to your warehouse. Easy-peasy!
Marketing Executive Are you sure?
Dot What do you mean?
Marketing Executive What about government regulations? Import and export classifications? Duties and Tariffs? Consignment? Free and Secure Trade Zones?
Dot Aren’t regulations the supplier’s problem?
Yakko And don’t the suppliers know the classifications?
Dot And doesn’t the supplier just add the tax?
Yakko And doesn’t the 3PL take care of consignment …
Dot and the free and secure trade zones?
Marketing Executive No, not necessarily, maybe sales tax and VAT, not always, and definitely not.

Regulations are your problem. You’re the one taking ownership, you’re the one trying to import the goods, and you’re the one who’s going to sell them. You’re the one who has to make sure that the goods meet material and quality regulations, or face the consequences.

The supplier might know the right export code, and the supplier might not. But it’s definitely your responsibility that the right (HTS) import code is utilized. Otherwise, you could face huge losses if the wrong code is used and the tarriff is higher, or huge fines if the wrong code is used and the tarriff paid is lower than it should be. Your 3PL might be able to help you, but proper classification is ultimately your responsibility.

Identification of the appropriate duties and tariffs, and prompt payment, is ultimately your responsibility.

And whether or not you consign goods, and when you do it, is totally up to you.

As is the determination of whether or not you use free or secured trade zones in an effort to take advantage of what they have to offer.

Are you at least familiar with the basic Global Trade Import Cycle and Export Cycles?

Dot The Global Trade What-Now?
Marketing Executive You say the doctor sent you. Didn’t you at least take the time to read his introductory wiki-papers on Global Trade, Customs & Security, Free Trade, and Regulatory Compliance?
Dot Uhm … no. Were they important?
Marketing Executive Very. And they’d help you better understand what we do.
Dot Which is?
Marketing Executive Global Trade Data Management solutions that help customers with import management, export management, free trade zones, compliance, and other aspects of global trade.

Our solutions, which are web-based and true SaaS, help suppliers with classification; advance notification (as required by 10 + 2); denied party screening; free trade zones, foreign trade zones, and special economic zones; customs warehousing; AEO, C-TPAT, and PIP; free trade agreements; and import/export safety.

If you understand the cycle, you understand that there are significant documentary requirements at each stage. These documentary requirements can only be fulfilled with good, up-to-date data. Our systems maintain that data and help you with the creation and, where possible, the electronic transmission of the forms you need to the required parties — which include your supplier, your 3PL or import/export broker, and various government agencies. And, to go bo back to your “what we integrate” question, we can also integrate with a wide range of ERP (and competitor trade platforms) to pull the data you need for form creation out of your ERP and then push the data your missing back into your ERP for archival purposes.

Dot So you generate e-paper?
Marketing Executive Sort of. In terms you can understand, we generate e-paper that keeps you compliant. How much do you know about 10 + 2?
Wakko 10 + 2 = 12?
Marketing Executive It’s the new secure freight initiative from the US Government that requires a more detailed Security Filing that is being dubbed the “10+2” because it requires 10 data elements from the importer and 2 data elements from the carrier that must be electronically filed 24 hours prior to loading cargo onto a shipping vessel ultimately bound for the US. And it’s a doozy. Besides the fact that some estimates believe that it might cost importers 690 Million annually to implement, there’s the little caveat that if the principal fails to comply with the proposed Importer Security Filing requirements, the principal and surety (jointly and severally) would pay liquidated damages equal to the value of the merchandise involved in the default. So, if you’re importing a 1 Million dollar shipment, and you screw up, that’s a 1 Million dollar fine.
Dot That’s a lifetime of Prada bags!
Marketing Executive giving Dot a strange look
At least!
Marketing Executive And how much do you know about REACH? WEEE? RoHS? ELV?
Yakko What now?
Marketing Executive REACH: Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, WEEE: Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, RoHS: Restriction Of Hazardous Substances, and ELV: End of Life Vehicles. The European directives that specify what can, and more importantly, can’t be in products you want to import into the EU. Failure to comply can result in seizure and destruction of your entire shipment.
Yakko But that’s just in the EU, right?
Marketing Executive For now. But similar acts, especially with regards to RoHS, are popping up all around the globe in countries like India, China, and Korea, for starters.
Yakko But China’s the biggest user of coal. Why would they care about electronics?
Marketing Executive A few grams of certain metals and chemicals, which are restricted or banned by acts like RoHS and REACH, in old electronics equipment can contaminate over a million litres of ground water!
Yakko Wow!
Marketing Executive And even the third world countries are trying to clean up their acts these days. But back to topic. These aren’t the only compliance directives out there … different countries, and sometimes even industries, have their own. Our product can track any product-specific data you like, compare it to the regulatory requirements of major acts that we track, and even allow you to add your own industry or company specific regulatory requirements to compare the product data to. This helps you maintain compliance and, more importantly, helps you to avoid large fines and stay out of the headlines.
Wakko So your product helps companies get a complete view of their global operations from a regulatory and compliance perspective?
Marketing Executive stunned (since no one really expects Wakko to listen)
Wakko Cool!
So, can we go get some pulled-pork now? I’m hungry!
Yakko stunned (since he usually asks for baloney)
Uhm, sure!
Dot I guess we have to go now. Thanks for the insight. I never knew global trade was so involved.
  And with that, the maniacs take their leave.

At this point, we take another short break in our story.