Mitrix lands first customer for hosted SCM system

Kawasaki Motors USA taps company to organize North American inventory and distribution

A new entrant in the SCM (supply-chain management) software market, Mitrix Inc., signed up its first enterprise customer this week and released an update to its hosted application, SCM Live 3.1.

Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA picked Mitrix to coordinate its North American inventory and distribution network after an extensive vendor search, according to Kawasaki Vice President of Planning & Marketing Berry Beehler. "There were a lot of large ERP solutions out there that were way beyond the size of what we needed or were willing to pay for," he said.

Mitrix, with headquarters in Irvine, California, bills itself as an SMB (small and medium business) vendor, but it aims at the midmarket's high end. A typical deployment of its SCM Live system would cost US$200,000 for the first year, including start-up and customization costs, and $75,000 in subsequent years, Mitrix Chief Executive Officer Ed Lewis estimated.

Still, that's a lower price tag than enterprise software systems from vendors like SAP AG or Oracle Corp. usually carry. Although he declined to disclose the project's cost, Beehler said Mitrix's software fit Kawasaki's budget and offered the flexibility the company sought. Also based in Irvine, California, Kawasaki makes motorcycles, Jet Skis and other vehicles distributed through a network of 1,500 dealers.

"People that have to use [the system] like Mitrix's interfaces," Beehler said. "They felt it was the most user friendly of the software we evaluated." Kawasaki will use the Mitrix system to better track inventory, which was previously being managed largely with Excel spreadsheets. The Mitrix system will also take advantage of open data standards to link up with Kawasaki's other enterprise systems, which include a homegrown vehicle management system, Cognos Inc. reporting software and forecasting tools from John Galt Solutions Inc.

Kawasaki is Mitrix's first outside customer, but not its first software deployment. The company, which launched its SCM Live offering in June, is a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. Ltd., which built Mitrix's system to manage the supply chains of its assorted business units.

Mitsui runs SAP as its ERP (enterprise resource planning) backbone, but customizing SAP for each unit's SCM needs would be cumbersome and expensive, Mitsui decided. Ed Lewis began working with Mitsui as a consultant in 2002 and oversaw the development of the system that became Mitrix. When Mitsui had Mitrix ready -- it's now used by a dozen Mitsui business units in eight countries -- the company decided to offer the software commercially, to fill what it sees as a market void of midlevel SCM software.

Mitrix offers SCM Live as a hosted solution, a model popularized by ASPs (application service providers) like Salesforce.com Inc. Lewis is evangelical about the financial advantages of the hosting model: Customers have private trading communities but benefit from the economics of sharing IT staff, hardware and other infrastructure costs.

Kawasaki has traditionally run its software in-house and didn't start out looking for a hosted system, but Beehler said he became a fan as he considered Mitrix's bid. "It turned out to be a real benefit in getting something up more quickly," he said.

Kawasaki plans to go live in March with its Mitrix deployment. If all goes well, Beehler said he would be happy to continue paying for Mitrix's hosting and management services.

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