SOFTWARE CONSULTANT OFFERS EASY PLANNING \ PROGRAM PUTS FOCUS ON NON-COST FACTORS

SOFTWARE CONSULTANT OFFERS EASY PLANNING \ PROGRAM PUTS FOCUS ON NON-COST FACTORS

Chesapeake Decision Sciences, a supply chain software consultant, has developed a software package it says can streamline business planning for manufacturing and distribution at the touch of a button.

The company was recently acquired by Aspen Technology Inc., a software company that designs programs for manufacturing plant operations. The merged companies, whose combined annual revenue reaches about $250 million, see their main competitors as I2 and Manugistics, two larger companies looking to forge leading roles in the growing supply-chain software market.''We've always had the better mousetrap,'' said Phil Mathis, in charge of promoting the new product, Chesapeake Strategic Advisor. ''We just haven't sold it on the same basis.''

The basic premise of Chesapeake Strategic Advisor is that companies often use a budget allocation as the sole mechanism by which to communicate to their staff the importance of a particular project or change.

In many large companies, the analysis that supports the strategic decision-making process is performed by a small group of senior planners.

The analyses are typically spreadsheet-based and focus on financial trade-offs, Chesapeake says. They often do not explicitly consider the company's operational constraints, such as production capacities or customer service targets.

The program tries to focus boardroom attention on other areas than how to nip and tuck on costs down the manufacturing and supply chain process.

Saving money on production doesn't always translate into a better result on the balance sheet, Mr. Mathis says.

Admitting that supply chain software solutions are often regarded as the modern-day equivalent of alchemy, the company tries to avoid a ''black box'' image for their program.

A company that wants to use Chesapeake Strategic Advisor has to provide detailed information about every stage of its manufacturing, supply and distribution systems.

Then all that gets fed into the software, which plays with tens of thousands of parameters before coming out with what it considers an optimal scenario.

However, it also lets the client draw up a hypothetical future with other criteria. What if you build a new plant in Hamburg? Close down the New Orleans office? Expand the diet drink line?

The aim is to give executives and middle managers a clearer set of objectives based on criteria other than pure money.

''They get more than a budget they can't meet,'' Mr. Mathis jokes.

For more information, contact Fritz Lesher at Chesapeake Decision Sciences Inc., (908) 464-8300.