SAP rushes to repair apparel app

SAP rushes to repair apparel app

ERP heavyweight SAP is rushing to fix problems with its R/3-based apparel and footwear applications that drove at least one US buyer to stop installing the software recently.

"It's a mess, and we need to clean it up pronto," said SAP CEO Hasso Plattner. "We'll throw everything we have to at it."

At Sapphire '99, the vendor's European user conference held here, Plattner confirmed that US clothing maker The Warnaco Group pulled the plug -- at least for now -- on its plan to use the Apparel and Footwear Solution (AFS) add-on to SAP's R/3 enterprise resource planning suite.

Officials at Warnaco, a $US2 billion company that makes Calvin Klein jeans, underwear and other items, couldn't be reached for comment.

To try to stabilise AFS, SAP last month folded the small development team that was writing the software into its retail and consumer goods business unit. More developers were assigned to the product, and SAP also set up a SWAT team to work with users on customisations and performance tuning.

AFS, a key part of SAP's effort to expand beyond its traditional manufacturing strongholds, was released last year and quickly bought by about 60 apparel and footwear makers looking for packaged software that could meet their specialised needs.

But Plattner and other SAP executives have admitted that the demand overwhelmed the AFS developers. Also, the software wasn't well integrated with other parts of R/3 or key third-party applications such as warehouse management systems, they added.

The steps being taken by SAP sound like "a major, positive change", said Leroy Allen, vice president of re-engineering at US-based company VF. Allen and two co-workers arrived here just before Sapphire started to meet with SAP executives about their plans for straightening out AFS.

"I think they finally do realise they've got a product that can be successful if they fix the problems, or [else] they've got a product that's going to be a failure," he said. "We left there feeling like they were finally going to deal with this once and for all."

SAP promised to deliver this month the bug fixes that VF, a maker of jeans and other clothing, needs so it can start stress-testing a full R/3 and AFS system on schedule in late June.

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