Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Will the real Batchmaster please stand up?

From 1985 through 2000 Batchmaster software ruled the roost when it came to batch manufacturing software – especially for the paint industry. So what happened? What happened to the product and where does Batchmaster stand today?

Batchmaster currently is offered in two flavors – Batchmaster Enterprise by eWorkplace and Batchmaster Platinum by Sage. But how did we get there and what is the difference and why two Batchmasters?

Well I will shed some light.

Batchmaster was originally written in the 1980's by a company called Pacific Micro Software Engineering (Pacific Micro) and was owned by Randy Peck out of Seal Beach, CA. The initial product was called Batchmaster Plus and was a simple but effective laboratory management application written primarily to track master formulas and perform laboratory calculations that are pretty simple based on today's standards.

In 1992 Pacific Micro released a modular application and dropped the Plus from its name simply calling it Batchmaster. At the same time they renamed the company Batchmaster Sofware Corp (Batchmaster). This product offered modules for Inventory, Production, MSDS, Costing and the like. It also expanded its reach by integrating the industry leading accounting package at the time - Platinum DOS. Batchmaster handled the Production, Inventory, Purchasing, Order Entry and Platinum handled financials. This combination did rather well for Batchmaster and Platinum.

This was the time Batchmaster really expanded outside the paint industry and began focusing more broadly on batch manufacturing in general. Some say it was the beginning of the end – at least that is the opinion of many paint chemists.

In the mid 1990's it became apparent to most that Platinum was falling significantly behind the market in releasing their Windows product. So far behind that Platinum quickly relinquished its role as the dominant ERP solution to products such as Solomon, Great Plains and MAS 90. Platinum finally released a version of a windows product in the late 1990's but most would agree it was too little too late. The market had moved on and Platinum for Windows never really caught up.

Batchmaster was caught in this strategic mistake. The growing company had invested its future in the Platinum architecture of Pervasive.SQL and the look and feel of Platinum for Windows. With the sale of the flagship product Platinum (Windows and DOS) from the now public and rebranded Epicor (formerly Platinum Software Corp) to Sage (formerly Best formerly Sage) the writing was on the wall. For Batchmaster to succeed it must diversify away from Platinum.

While keeping significant development efforts in place to support Batchmaster Platinum – Batchmaster hired an outside firm to write an interface to Solomon. This ended up being a huge mistake and cost Batchmaster and others a lot of money. In the end the focus of Batchmaster was truly lost never to be recovered.

In 2000 Randy Peck (majority stockholder of Batchmaster Software Corporation) sold the company to an offshore development company interested in expanding its existing SQL based manufacturing solution (Optipro) into the batch manufacturing arena. They purchased all the assets and marketing rights to Batchmaster and began work converting their discrete product Optipro into a batch manufacturing solution to replace Batchmaster.

After one year of development and little to show for its efforts eWorkplace sold the Batchmaster Platinum product to Best. This move finally put Batchmaster Platinum and its 3,000 users together with the ERP solution – Platinum for Windows.

The odd part of this transaction was that Best did not purchased the Batchmaster brand but only the windows product and the windows users. Best had a right to market under the Batchmaster name for a limited time. That time has since run out and eWorkplace maintains the marketing rights to a product they do not own – Batchmaster Platinum.

At the time of the sale of Batchmaster from eWorkplace to Sage eWorkplace did not have a product to take to market. They had experienced significant resistance from the market for a product that was written for an assembly company and morphed into a batch manufacturing product. That resistance continues to this day.

Through time eWorkplace released their Optipro product. Instead of branding the product Optipro they went to market calling this altered product Batchmaster Enterprise. To this day eWorkplace claims their Batchmaster Enterprise product is the Batchmaster product most users recall. Unfortunately that is not the case.

The true Batchmaster that has earned its name and following is actually owned by Sage software. Unfortunately for us in the batch manufacturing industry Sage relegated that product to virtual extinction and has not yielded much in the way of new features since they owned the product. In effect that product is now dead.

So there you have it. The story is told and you are left to decide which is the true Batchmaster. In the end it really does not matter. Neither product lives up their own hype nor to the core functionality Randy Peck put into the very first product – Batchmaster Plus.

I hope this help reveal the mystery behind the legendary Batchmaster.
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