Open Source ERP CRM: Opentaps

Opentaps is a an open source ERP + CRM suite sponsored by Open Source Strategies Inc., and developed by full-time professional developers with the help of a community of contributors, recently adopted by Honeywell International.

Opentaps incorporates several open source projects, including Apache Geronimo, Tomcat, and Apache OFBiz for the data model and transaction framework; Pentaho and JasperReports for business intelligence; Funambol for mobile device and Outlook integration. Plus opentaps applications which provide user-driven applications for CRM, accounting and finance, warehouse and manufacturing, and purchasing and supply chain management.

Si Chen, opentaps project leader, gave me a quick history of opentaps.

The word “opentaps” is an acronym for “Open Source Enterprise Applications Suite.”, but originally it was named “Sequoia ERP” and first released on August 23, 2005.

I started working on an open source ERP project about four years ago. My wife and I had started an online retail business called Gracious Style, and as a group we ended up having a lot of different programs to run the business. I counted that we had six programs in five languages, and I wanted something which could bring together all the processes of our business. So I got involved with an open source project that is now called the Apache ofbiz project, and eventually became one of the main developers of Apache ofbiz. opentaps grew from inside of ofbiz. At first, we added a couple of modules to ofbiz, one for CRM and one for accounting and general ledger. Over time, we’ve grown a bit more distant from ofbiz, because of differences in technical and project management philosophies. (Basically, we like object-oriented code and regular stable releases, and the other ofbiz developers prefer non-object-oriented XML code and no stable releases.)

At this point we’ve had three major releases of opentaps and several hundred thousand downloads on SourceForge. One of the interesting things about being an open-source project is how wide the range of users has been: opentaps has been used by some very large organizations down to very small companies are just a few people.

Where it Opentaps been implemented, who support it?

It’s been used in manufacturing, distribution, retail, and telecommunications projects all over the world. Our company, Open Source Strategies, is the lead developer of opentaps. We support our development through a combination of providing services, support, and relicensing for opentaps. I like to think of us as a trustee for opentaps — we run a for-profit company whose ultimate goal is to develop and promote an open source product that is available for everybody. We serve as an arbiter of opentaps and decide the general direction it’s going and how to incorporate community contributions, while still creating a consistent and high quality product. The interesting thing about opentaps being open source is that we don’t have to be the final word. Other developers can also take opentaps and advance it themselves independent of us.

Opentaps seems the classical open source projects starting by a personal itch, ending to be developed by the original author and supported by a larger community. Apparently also a European Commission-backed project named ToolEast is using it, but so far they didn’t publicly release any product.

opentaps 1.0 has been released, which are your future steps?

With the release of opentaps 1.0 earlier in the year, I think we now have a fairly “feature complete” product. The key goals going forward for us are:

1. How to incorporate all the best projects in the open-source world to build a better ERP and CRM system. I think people don’t realize that one of the greatest advantages of creating open source software is that you can take so many other open-source products and fold them into your system. Great projects like Funambol, Pentaho, JasperReports have allowed us to create a much better ERP system than most of our commercial competitors by offering synchronization with mobile devices and business intelligence capabilities.

2. How to build an ERP system that could meet the needs of a large range of users. This is fundamentally a technical problem with ERP: every organization’s needs are different, so you need to have a system that is very flexible and adaptable to changing needs. This is especially important for an open-source system like opentaps, which will be used by people in all sorts of industries. In many parts of the world. After a lot of thinking, we decided that the “domain driven architecture,” which is a way to develop object oriented software around the concept of business domains, gives us the best way to do this, and we have been building towards this new architecture in the last few months.

Happy hacking Si Chen!

Post Scrittum: opentaps license is not OSI approved.  Originally written by Funambol, the Honest Public License was conceived to close what has been called the GPL loophole, lately closed by the approval of the AGPLv3. Funambol was the first to adopt the AGPLv3, maybe now also opentaps will consider it?

Honeywell International Supply Chain Planning Solution

As a global defense contractor, Honeywell International (NYSE: HON) is responsible for providing spare parts, repair, and maintenance services to both commercial airlines and governments. In one project for the United States government, Honeywell provides complete repair and maintenance services for the engine of a major vehicle system for the United States Department of Defense. This includes maintaining an adequate supply of the engine and its spare parts both in the field and at four maintenance depots around the world over the entire multi-year contracted time period.

To fulfill its obligations, Honeywell needed to plan the manufacturing of the engine and its associated parts over the contract period. This meant it had to project demand for both the engine and the parts over several years and take into account field demand for the engine, the bill of materials which specified its parts, and the existing stock of the engine and parts in the various maintenance depots. The particular engine has over 1600 parts in a nine-level bill of material. The analysis also had to account for the ability of the depots to refurbish some of the spare parts so that they could be used again for future maintenance. Finally, Honeywell needed to examine multiple demand scenarios to determine the adequate level of stock.

Traditionally, this complex analysis was done by 25 Excel spreadsheets with custom models that used pivot tables and lookups. Running the analysis was then both slow and time-consuming, and updating the analysis with new scenarios could take several weeks or longer. In 2007, a team from Honeywell International approached Logistics Modeling Center, Inc., (LMCI) of Hampton, VA to discuss a better solution. Their original goals were to create a centralized database for all the demand forecast data, and then develop a custom model to analyze the data and project inventory levels and production requirements.

LMCI, however, suggested a novel approach: They recommended that Honeywell use the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM system and leverage its existing supply chain management features for inventory planning, instead of rebuilding its custom models from scratch.