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VIA Chooses to Go It Alone

While most manufacturing execution system (MES) software vendors are cozying up with their ERP counterparts, some companies are content to fly solo. Take VIA Information Tools Inc., a discrete-based MES vendor with a specialty in automotive. This 20-year-old company is not lining up to get NetWeaver-certified. Why should it, asks President and CEO Gregory DeLaere, when perfectly good integration methods already exist?


"The ERP [systems] we deal with are easily integrated with APIs or middleware," DeLaere says. "I'm not sure what value there is with 'extremely tight integration' beyond what is available already. There are reasons why the ERPs have these APIs and set transactions for you to link into."


Getting certified can be extremely expensive, DeLaere says, and from a functional standpoint, it is not necessary. "We can do it already," he says.


Though DeLaere admits a large multi-national manufacturer may not be comfortable working with a small 40-person MES vendor like VIA, he is quick to issue a cautionary warning that the conglomerates that have gobbled up small MES vendors may be losing their edge.


"If you are going to go with larger, more integrated vendors, chances are you'll get less when it comes to delivery," DeLaere says. "It sounds counter-intuitive on the surface, but when you look at how these guys deal commercially, they are not geared for sophisticated point solutions."


VIA Information Tools, on the other hand, continues to innovate its offering beyond pure integration. For example, it has a patent-pending technology, called Business Atoms, that allows the software to act — and react — to the customer's changing needs. More than 400 objects make up VIA's Business Atoms, enabling the customer to string business applications together in a manner that meets its needs. As a result of flexible technology that helps with lot traceability, process validation, build-to-order sequencing, and business rule governance — and the technology's inherent ability to integrate with other applications where necessary — most of VIA's customers are not tiny OEMs, but are large tier-one automotive suppliers, DeLaere says.


As a result, VIA Information is going it alone for the foreseeable future.


"I love alliances — if they help me do business ... and the only way they would help me do business is if the alliance, itself, inherently brought value to the customer," DeLaere says. And as of today, he says he just doesn't see it.




Editorial from the January 2008 issue of Managing Automation

,VIA Chooses to Go It Alone, by Stephanie Neil, MA Editorial Staff

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