||Logistics & Transportation
|Host Connectivity Solution
||PowerTerm® Host Publisher
||To enable TPG global and local management to optimize Sorting Center performance.
||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.
"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
- 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.
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
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
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
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
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