DETROIT -- After four years of development and hundreds of millions in investment, Ford is quietly scrapping the Everest Internet purchasing software system.
Everest was conceived in the dot-com era to consolidate Ford's nearly 30 different systems worldwide and to increase dramatically the speed at which Ford exchanges information with suppliers by automating purchasing processes. A key benefit was that it would allow for the quick exchange of common standard documents such as invoices.
But Everest was fraught with problems as Ford undertook the expensive integration of the purchasing software from Oracle Corp. into Ford's own systems.
One Tier 1 supplier source who frequently used the system called Everest "very time-consuming." The source complained that Everest took five times longer than the system it was replacing. Everest required users to navigate through multiple screens for even simple functions.
Another supplier nicknamed the system "Neverest."
How much? Too much
Ford will not say what it spent to develop Everest. Executives at software companies and others familiar with the system estimate a cost of at least $200 million (about E162 million) and probably much higher.
But sources at Ford of Europe said the Everest program had run $200 million over budget. The sources say the decision to cancel followed an internal request for an additional $200 million to get Everest back on track.
Ford spokesman Paul Wood said 300 to 350 people worked on the Everest project.
The primary technology provider was software giant Oracle. A software industry source estimated that Ford paid Oracle about $50 million for the original global license to use Oracle's suite of purchasing modules. Oracle declined comment on Ford's cancellation.
"This is a huge black eye" for Ford, said the CEO of another technology company that does business with Ford. Ford spokesmen downplayed the decision to scrap Everest.
"Suppliers will still be able to transact business with Ford Motor Co., and they'll still get paid," Wood said.
Ford pointed out that suppliers have continued running the old systems as a backup.
Began in 2000
Everest began in 2000 under Carlos Mazzorin, who was vice president of production purchasing, and CEO Jacques Nasser, who wanted Ford to become an Internet-savvy global powerhouse.
Nasser's vision touched every area of the company, from how cars would be sold to how the parts would be ordered and paid for.
Everest has its roots in AutoXchange, an Internet purchasing site that Ford developed with Oracle in 1999.
Within Ford, some information technology people argued that Ford didn't need to create the Everest software system. They maintained that Covisint, another Internet purchasing software system, would do the job.
When the Big 3 formed what became Covisint, Ford abandoned AutoXchange in 2000.
But then Ford built Everest to work on top of Covisint. Suppliers would enter the system through the Covisint portal, but then be routed to Everest. The idea behind Everest was to consolidate about 30 systems used by Ford units into one global system. Ford buyers and suppliers were to be able to exchange documents using this Web-based system.
In theory, the system was supposed to save time and shave costs.
Instead of using the old process, which included a mailed paper purchase order, Ford buyers could use Everest to transmit online to suppliers a request for a quote.
Suppliers would reply online using Everest. Ford would pay suppliers by electronic transfer of funds.
Everest's global rollout was to include Ford in North America, Europe, South America, Asia/Pacific, the Premier Automotive Group, Mazda, Volvo, Ford Motor Credit, rental car firm Hertz Corp. and the Automotive Consumer Services Group, which oversees dealership service programs.
But the rollout never made it past North America.
– Amy Wilson, Bradford Wernle and Robert Sherefkin contributed