The competition between software companies selling supply-chain management systems heated up this week with the announcement that Metasys Inc., Charlotte, N.C., merged with Optum Software of Costa Mesa, Calif.

The new company, Optum, hopes to streak ahead in the integrated supply-chain execution market, according to Advanced Manufacturing Research Inc., a market analysis firm in Boston.The two companies have been combining Optum Software's warehouse management system and Metasys' transportation management system for more than a year now, and have decided to formalize the partnership.

''Today, companies have to marry these disparate systems, and that's very problematic,'' commented Dave Simbari, president and chief executive officer of the new company. He emphasized the firm's focus on customer demands for a ''seamless, end-to-end flow'' of goods and information.

''Both companies have been very successful in a niche in the marketplace,'' said Henry Bruce, vice president of worldwide marketing for the new company, formerly of Optum Software. ''The merger means more of an integrated solution available to the customer.''

Metasys is a serious contender for third place in the current ranking of companies selling software geared for supply chain management, said Gregory E. Burns, a logistics analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co. Inc., New York.

Last week one of the leaders in the field, i2 Technologies, said it was merging with InterTrans Logistics Solutions, which sells software designed for transportation management.

Another leader, Manugistics, has already acquired a transportation management system capability.

''Usually, in an emerging industry, there are five or six companies battling for supremacy. But the head start that Manugistics and i2 have is impressive,'' Mr. Burns commented. He said the Metasys-Optum merger ''makes sense.''

Mr. Simbari was formerly senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sweden's Industri-Matematik International, which merged with Metasys last year.

Boris Resnik, former chief executive officer at Optum Software, will be the merged company's chairman. Patrick Thean, previously president and chief executive officer at Metasys, was named vice chairman and executive vice president, business strategies.

AMR said forming the new company marks another ''win'' for InSight Capital Partners of New York, the lead outside investor in both companies.

''Within the last 12 months, InSight has quietly become one of the dominant investors in supply-chain management enterprise applications,'' AMR said in its report on Optum.