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General Mills Inc. tends to think of its automated sell-side business processes as SAP R/3 on Wheaties. Dave Tsang, director of integrated systems for the $13 billion cereal maker, says job-scheduling and event-automation software lets the company handle its supply chain in near real time without the added expense and complexity of supply-chain execution software.
"Companies install a lot of fancy technology and still come in the next morning and find out something went wrong overnight. We spot 'uh-ohs' the minute they happen, and that's critical," General Mills' scheduler Jerry Johnson says. If an order comes in at 10 p.m. and the company's fulfillment managers don't spot a problem until the next morning, "We've just blown that customer's order," Johnson says.
The Minneapolis company uses Tidal Software Inc.'s Enterprise Scheduler to link its legacy systems and 16 otherwise disconnected instances of R/3 to create custom workflows that automate core business processes, including order management and fulfillment. General Mills is also evaluating Tidal's new NexGen suite of event-based scheduling and automation products for Unix and Windows 2000. NexGen is expected to be unveiled next week.
Tsang says General Mills uses Enterprise Scheduler rather than software from an enterprise application integration vendor to internally link the systems used to manage customer orders. For example, large customers annually transmit 2.5 million orders to General Mills via electronic data interchange or private network. Enterprise Scheduler handles the conversion of EDI transactions to SAP's intermediate document (IDoc) format and imports them into R/3. It then routes orders within the company and alerts General Mills personnel to problems.
The NexGen suite is composed of: Event Manager, which adds new capabilities to Enterprise Scheduler, priced at $12,000; Process Manager, for the creation of advanced workflows; and Script Manager. The latter two products will be available in the third quarter.