By implementing the system, which went live last week, the Premier Farnell group, (which incorporates Farnell in the UK and Newark in the US) will be able to supply orders placed by buyers at BAe Systems through the aerospace and defence trading exchange Exostar in real time.
The move is significant because, to date, many business-to-business (B2B) marketplaces, both public and private, have failed to take off due to a lack of supplier participation.
Premier Farnell investment in e-commerce has also landed it four major contracts, it claims.Increasingly, suppliers who cannot connect to e-marketplaces will lose business, claimed Gordon Euan, e-business development manager at Premier Farnell.
Euan added that BAe approached the company about the Exostar project just over a year ago, largely because of Farnell's commitment to developing a global capacity for e-procurement.
Both Farnell in the UK and Newark in the US had AS400-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems but they were operationally different, so development work began with the IBM MS middleware layer, dubbed the "integration hub". That was then linked to an Iona connector, known as the company's XML "Babel fish" for its ability to translate any dialect of XML into Premier Farnell XML.
Moving from concept to going live took just over 10 months. "There's no batch processing going on from the buyer to our core transactional systems - the order ripples through Exostar's trading systems, through Commerce One to our platform, then back again in real time," said Euan.
Some of the biggest integration issues of the project were thrown up by the lack of consistency in standards, Euan said. "Standards are evolving even as the system is being delivered, so it's critical to agree not only on which standard you're going to adopt, but on which version of that standard and to get all parties to agree to it, otherwise you're in trouble," he added.
BAe Systems, was one of the founder members of the Exostar exchange which was launched in September 2000 along with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.