IBM launches middleware for automotive customers

FRAMINGHAM (03/22/2004) - IBM Corp. has launched software to help automotive customers solve key business challenges, including the faster introduction of new products to market and more efficient communications with customers and suppliers.

"We recognize that customers are increasingly buying solutions, not just products," said Ann Breidenbach, market manager of automotive and electronic sectors at IBM. "They really want to buy our middleware to solve a problem, not just to have the best database or the best security."

Breidenbach said IBM decided to take an industry-specific approach with its middleware by developing software to solve specific products in specific industries. The company then combined those products with services it already has available for various industries.

"For example, in the automotive industry, many of our customers have very specific supply chain problems, and we have architected some good product solutions for (those problems)," Breidenbach said. "Customers also want to be able to use middleware to help them develop the electronics that are in most cars today."

One of IBM's new products is an automotive service that helps customers better develop electronics that go in a car, as well as the software for those electronics, Breidenbach said.

She said the new IBM middleware will also help automakers automate business and design processes.

"We see a lot of the problems in that area," Breidenbach said. "Companies not only ask, 'How do I do what I do?' but, 'How do I do it faster? How do I automate it? How do I better interact with my suppliers without having to generate purchase orders and other paperwork and without having to use the fax and telephone?'"

Customers want automated business processes so they can get products to market faster, cutting the delivery time from several years to just 12 months, she added.

"The key point is ... that these solutions are geared to the problems that IBM's been hearing from its customers," said company spokesman Steve Collins. "Customer feedback is what created this big sea change ... from this horizontal model to this vertical industry-specific model."

The new products are:

- IBM Middleware Solutions for Automotive Product LifeCycle Management, which is designed to enable timely information flow within an organization and with suppliers by extending the use of product life-cycle management functions.

- IBM Middleware Solutions for Automotive eProduction, which the company said will reduce manufacturing and supply chain costs by integrating real-time activities on a factory floor with the supply chain. The goal is to help automakers respond dynamically to customer demands.

- IBM Middleware Solutions for Automotive Retail and Aftermarket Dealer Collaboration, which is intended to automate and improve the supply chain involved with the sale and delivery of parts and accessories ordered after a vehicle is purchased.

- IBM Middleware Solutions for Automotive Retail and Aftermarket Quality Insight, which will monitor and analyze product performance in a bid to detect problems early.

- IBM Middleware Solutions for Automotive Systems & Software Engineering, which is designed to help companies manage vehicle development, which has grown more complex because of the increased use of software and electronics.

- IBM Middleware Solutions for Automotive Telematics, which is designed to help automakers connect with customers to better understand how products are used and how they can enhance the customer's experience with in-vehicle information systems as well as Internet-delivered applications, content and services.

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