Ericom Helps TPG Deliver Optimized Performance
Customers

PowerTerm® Host Publisher Helps TPG Deliver
Optimized Performance

Industry

Logistics & Transportation

Customer

TPG

Host Connectivity Solution

        PowerTerm® Host Publisher

Host Server

        Windows 2000

Host Computer

        SCO-UNIX

The Challenge

        To enable TPG global and local management to optimize Sorting Center performance.

The Solution

        PowerTerm Host Publisher has enabled TPG to extract and merge screens from various applications so that management can access vital information via a Web browser.


Benefits

  • PowerTerm Host Publisher offers flexibility in extracting and reusing screens from various applications.
  • PowerTerm Host Publisher integrates easily with Microsoft® VBA and .Net.
  • PowerTerm Host Publisher SDK is simple and straightforward, providing ample examples to make it easy to use and implement.
  • PowerTerm Host Publisher enabled TPG to automate manual processes.
  • PowerTerm Host Publisher enabled TPG to have their system up and running within 3 days.

"With PowerTerm Host Publisher, management, from the global down to local and operations level, can now review aggregated data and statistics via the web to quickly optimize sorting center performance."
Bas Kroes, Technical Director, ADA Services

Background

TPG is a global company providing premium mail, express and logistics services under the Royal TPG Post (the principal mail provider in the Netherlands), and TNT (provider of express delivery and logistics services worldwide). TPG employs over 150,000 people in 62 countries and provides services in over 200 countries worldwide. In the Netherlands, TPG is the country's largest private employer.

TPG Pakketservice wanted to enable management from global level down to local level to optimize the sorting process within the organization's three sorting centers throughout the Netherlands. The issue was not only to increase the number of packages being sorted, but also to be able to analyze data and pinpoint sorting delay errors so that long-term solutions could be instituted.

Parcels distributed within the Netherlands pass through one or more of the company's three central sorting centers until reaching their final destination. Conveyor belts carry the packages, which are dropped into chutes for the designated territory. Vast amounts of information pass through these sorting centers. Most packages have pre-known destinations and are stamped with barcodes containing multiple data such as package volume and weight information. This and other critical data are processed and stored in applications running on a SCO-UNIX host system. The applications calculate the number of packages conveyed during a specific time period, and records system errors such as how long a conveyor belt remains idle with no sorting taking place.

Bas Kroes is Technical Director for ADA Services, a software development company in the Netherlands, and Systems Integrators for TPG's Logistics Department for the past six years. Kroes explained TPG was looking for an applications integration solution that could be implemented uniformly at all three sorting centers since each center was using different methods. At one sorting center the data was printed out from the SCO-ANSI terminal. The printed pages were then typed into Excel manually at another computer. Obviously, the process was extremely slow and very time consuming. At the second sorting center, in Amsterdam, things were a little more automated. Each screen's data was saved from the terminal onto a floppy disk. Then someone physically brought the disk to another computer, where the data was read into Excel. The specific disadvantage of the UNIX machines is that at certain points in time they reset themselves, so if someone comes in a minute after resetting we've lost the data. The third sorting center utilized a web application. However this application was not supported internally by TPG. Reporting for that application was mainly suited for Operations and was not much use to local and global management.

PowerTerm Host Publisher Meets the Challenge

According to Kroes, the challenge was to find an Extraction, Transformation and Loading (ETL) tool that would support SCO-ANSI, and that would enable TPG to integrate screens from multiple programs. Kroes and his team were in the pilot stage of implementing another host publishing integration tool when it proved too risky and unreliable. "It crashed the CSC-UNIX machine which is critical in the sorting process. The bottom line is if a sorting center stands still for an hour or even a half-hour, that's a lot of money going to waste," said Kroes.

Under pressure to find a dependable solution that could be up and running in a short period of time, Kroes together with three full-time engineers searched the Internet for a reliable integration tool. After a week of evaluating different products, Kroes and his team chose PowerTerm Host Publisher.

Kroes says that one of the main advantages of PowerTerm Host Publisher was that it was easy to work with. "We liked the fact that PowerTerm Host Publisher integrated with Visual Basic and .Net for development, "said Kroes. "Also, compared to the other products we evaluated, PowerTerm Host Publisher SDK was clear-cut and self-explanatory, and offered plenty of examples so that we were able to implement it ourselves." All this helped to give Kroes and his team a very short time to market. "For us it was one day for evaluating, two days implementing, and one day for fine-tuning. With PowerTerm Host Publisher it basically it took 3 days to get TPG's system up and running."

PowerTerm Host Publisher enabled Kroes and his team to extract data from the selected screens and process within other software. "Basically we made a connection from a Windows machine to a UNIX machine, loaded the macro from PowerTerm, and navigated through the menu structure to get into the screen where we can see all the vital sorting statistics," explained Kroes. "It was as simple as saying to PowerTerm Host Publisher, 'get that screen for us and drop it into the file'. With PowerTerm Host Publisher, the whole extraction process was fairly simple and that's usually the hardest part of a project."

PowerTerm Host Publisher is installed on a Windows 2000 server, with a network connection to the CSC (UNIX) host computers. The CSC computer uses a sorter controller, which steers the conveyor belt. The CSC keeps detailed log files for error messages and warnings, similar to log files available on Windows Event View. Screens are extracted every 10 minutes from the CSC machine and are automatically sent to local files that read them into a Microsoft SQL database. The information is presented in a Web interface, and as long as the user has a browser and IP address, he can obtain performance reports for specific time periods.

Kroes says PowerTerm Host Publisher has helped TPG at all management levels. TPG global management is now able see how many packages are processed in a specific month or around holiday time, while local management can learn how their specific sorting center is performing. PowerTerm Host Publisher is also useful on the operations level as it can help determine conveyor belt performance minute to minute, and as errors arise, managers can determine whether additional workers need to be assigned from one conveyance team to another in order to balance package throughput at a specific sorting center. Kroes sums up the benefits of PowerTerm Host Publisher, "With PowerTerm Host Publisher, management, from the global down to local and operations level, can now review aggregated data and statistics via the web to quickly optimize sorting center performance".





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