Manufacturers Warm Up to Enterprise Search

Endeca Technologies sees a fast-growing market among manufacturers for its software designed to make information visible.

Google Inc., the Mountain View, Calif.-based technology company, has become a giant of Internet search. But there’s an emerging new market in so-called “enterprise search” technology, which enables a company’s employees or customers to gain visibility to needed information housed in disparate databases and systems.

Microsoft Corp., for one, appears to have recognized the trend. The Redmond, Wash.-based software behemoth announced in January a $1.2 billion acquisition of Fast Search & Transfer, an Oslo, Norway, company that specializes in enterprise search. That deal is expected to close on or before April 30.

Another company looking to cash in on the trend is Endeca Technologies Inc., a nine-year-old Cambridge, Mass.-based supplier of “information access” software. And during a recent interview with Automation World, Endeca co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Steve Papa noted that manufacturers, in particular, are emerging as one of the fastest growing markets for enterprise search technology.

FBI to manufacturing

After Endeca introduced its first product in late 2001, many of the firm’s early customers came from the public sector and retail space. “When the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) seizes hard drives and they want to figure out what’s on them, they’ll use an Endeca system to get visibility to that information,” Papa said. Other customers include Home Depot and Wal-Mart, which use Endeca systems to improve customer searches on their Web sites.

But in just the past two years, Papa observed, manufacturing companies have grown to represent about 25 percent of Endeca’s revenues, which are currently running at a $120 million annual pace. The privately held firm today counts manufacturers including Boeing, Ford, IBM, John Deere and Texas Instruments among its customers.

“What we’ve found is that manufacturing systems are very complex—more complex than just about any other industry in terms of the variability of the information you’re dealing with. And there’s a big struggle for people to see what’s going on,” Papa said. That plays to the strength of Endeca’s technology, he noted, which is optimized to handle the “combinatoric explosion of relationships” that can occur across the multiple complex and heterogeneous databases and systems found within many manufacturing enterprises and supply chains.

Guided summarization

Unlike traditional search engines that provide a long and often unwieldy list of results from a search, Endeca Information Access Platform software provides what Papa calls “guided summarization.” By sorting and categorizing the data, the system enables users to more easily find results based on desired attributes and to quickly find related information. “We summarize lots of messy data and guide a user through it at the speed of thought,” as Papa puts it.

So far, manufacturing companies have been primarily using the technology either for customer-facing applications—enabling better online visibility of products and services offered—or to improve supply chain efficiencies. One manufacturer, for example, “was procuring the same part from different suppliers at three different prices, all because they couldn’t get visibility into their systems,” Papa noted, a problem that has since been solved with use of an Endeca system.

But Papa foresees a growing number of uses for the technology by manufacturers, including some focused on factory floor process optimization. The Endeca technology is located at the intersection of three market spaces—database, business intelligence and search, he said. And that combination, he believes, can yield solutions for a growing range of manufacturing information visibility problems.

What, me worry?

Is Papa worried that Endeca might be overrun in the market by giant players such as Google, Microsoft and others that are turning a stronger focus on enterprise search? The answer is no. “The thing is, they’re just now waking up to it,” he responds. “And it takes years to actually build up the technology.”

Endeca Technologies Inc.
www.endeca.com

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