Los Alamos buys Web-style with AMS app

Lab users with Java browsers running under Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Unix can
send requisitions, receive approvals, obtain status reports and route requests using
American Management Systems Inc.'s PDWeb.


AMS of Fairfax, Va., built the PDWeb requisition and workflow module into its
commercial Procurement Desktop application at Los Alamos' request.


The Energy Department lab ordered the procurement software through a General Services
Administration schedule contract about a year ago, said David Delaney, a Los Alamos
procurement specialist.


After the negotiating the schedule order, Los Alamos officials directed AMS to make the
system World Wide Web-accessible. Delaney said they also wanted it built with Sybase
PowerBuilder tools in part because there are many Sybase users at the lab.


Delaney said Energy has spent $1.7 million on the project. Pilots by 35 users began in
July, and AMS officials plan to roll out Procurement Desktop to all the lab's 7,000 users
by next summer.


Mike Payne, deputy group leader for systems support, said the browser approach will cut
client-side deployment costs.


PDWeb's Java applet connects to a middleware application written in Sybase's
Distributed PowerBuilder. End users only need a Java browser to order goods and services.


Delaney, one of the pilot users, said it took him about half an hour to submit his
first purchase request with his 90-MHz PC.


Users send their buying requests to a team leader who routes them to a buyer. The buyer
can work on the requests either offline or online. Delaney said Los Alamos does not plan
to extend PDWeb directly to suppliers, because most users make only a few buys from a
particular vendor in a year's time.


The lab already has a just-in-time electronic data interchange system that links its
users to 35 vendors. The EDI system has handled about 300,000 transactions, Delaney said.


He had no hard numbers for the expected savings from Procurement Desktop. But he said
the software will give buying specialists more time for value-added activities such as
negotiating better deals and forging closer ties with contractors.


Delaney said users also would like to fax purchase requests from their desktops, and he
hopes to see that function added to the program.


Other government users of the AMS program include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms and the Interior Department.


Because Los Alamos, operated for Energy by the University of California, doesn't use
standard federal forms, the lab chose a commercial version of Procurement Desktop. AMS
also sells Defense and civilian versions of the software with special forms and reporting
functions.


The AMS Procurement Desktop competes with similar packages from Oracle Corp. and
PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.


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