Compu-Call Inc., headquartered in Massachusetts, USA, is one of America's largest distributors of IBM printers and printing solutions. Compu-Call is also a certified IBM Business Partner offering iSeries and xSeries solutions to customers in the Northeast. Compu-Call's printer division used LANSA Commerce Edition to extend their Infor (daly.commerce) ERP solution with B2B customer self-service, merchandizing and administration. The site was up and running in six weeks and has been instrumental in improving customer service and managing dramatically increased shipping volumes.
Paul Picard, vice president of sales at Compu-Call, says "Compu-Call and their business partners have realized valuable improvements in efficiencies and a new level of customer satisfaction since the implementation of the LANSA based Web extensions. Partners using the Web site are ordering equipment in real time, with instant allocation to their order for immediate shipment via their selected method. The Web application has been instrumental in helping us improve customer service and manage the dramatically increased shipping volumes that have been realized over the last two years."
The Web application has been instrumental in helping us improve customer service and manage the dramatically increased shipping volumes
Compu-Call was founded in 1985, initially focusing on providing third-party computer hardware solutions to end user companies. The company became an IBM Business Partner in 1992 reselling IBM systems, servers and peripheral products. Over the years Compu-Call's hardware business became distributor oriented and predominantly focused on reselling IBM printing solutions to other IBM business partners, while the integration and consulting aspect of the business remained focused on end user companies.
Matt Moylan, sales manager printing systems division, explains, "A few years ago IBM’s Printing Systems Division was getting out of the distribution business themselves and needed partners to distribute their product on a wholesale basis."
"At the time there were over 48 distributors like us and it was very competitive. IBM wanted to consolidate to just a few top partners. We had to meet certain pre-requisites and it really came down to what we were going to invest in IBM's program, in our company and in our use of technology. One of IBM's requirements was that we could offer a Web site to order products. There was a deadline as well, we needed to have it up and running by the end of the quarter."
Being an AS/400 user since the inception of the platform in 1988, Compu-Call was running its printer distribution business with daly.commerce on iSeries. But daly.commerce was RPG-based and didn't include effective tools or modules for Web extensions. At the time the Web requirement came about, Compu-Call already worked with LANSA in the integration and consulting side of the business.
Picard says, "Our customers regularly asked about tools and solutions to modernize and Web extend their systems and after some serious evaluations we selected LANSA. When our printer division needed a Web solution, we could wholeheartedly recommend LANSA Commerce Edition, as we had already completed a number of successful Web projects for our customers with it."
We needed to have the Web site up and running by the end of the quarter
Compu-Call started out with LANSA Commerce Edition's base functionality, including product catalog, contact management, inventory inquiry, order entry, order inquiry, shipment tracking, sales history and account information. Order, sales and account related information is only available to registered business partners, but Compu-Call's printer catalog is available to everyone. Over the years, this basic functionality has been modified and extended.
Jon Snyderman, one of the two analyst/developers at Compu-Call who helped to implement the solution explains the project, "We started by making our daly.commerce files known to the LANSA Repository. Next, we ran LANSA Commerce Edition's Integrator to map our files and fields. There is no replication in this process, just mapping. We also installed the Commerce Edition extension files for the shopping cart, promotions, product extensions and so on."
"Then we ran the Commerce Edition Business Object Templates, which are question and answer wizards that will generate a specific eBusiness Web function. There are about 50 or 60 of these. The responses are stored, so you can quickly rerun the templates if needed. We used the Layout Wizard to give the site the look and feel we wanted. The layout is dynamically re-configurable, so you don't need to recompile the functions if you change a color or logo. Luckily we had digital images available for all our products, so it was just a matter of linking the images in."
Linda Parker, the other analyst/developer, adds, "We also utilized LANSA Commerce Edition's 'Product Complement' functionality, which lets you select features for a product. This allows our partners to select additional component items for a printer, basically configuring the printer. The additional components show in the catalog as well, so you see all of the features and accessories that you may want for a printer on the product details page."
Compu-Call combined order enquiry of open and closed orders into a single view, because with their fast turnaround, typically within a day, there was not much point in having separate views.
"Even with no staff fulltime engaged on the project, it took less than six weeks till the site went live. We had our own consulting happening as well, so it was not that we could drop everything else to give the Web project our full time focus," says Picard. "Still, we were able to deliver a site with substantial functionality in six weeks. Since then we have made modifications and additions, but we had everything we needed from day one."
"IBM really liked what we did with LANSA Commerce Edition, bringing our iSeries to the Web," says Moylan. "We implemented on time and got the IBM business."
We implemented on time and got the IBM business
"Today with LANSA everything is real-time," says Picard. "Orders are immediately processed and the product is allocated. Previously orders arrived by fax or email and our data entry team had to physically enter each and every order. We didn't really know which order had arrived first and who should have priority on a specific product. We really run a first come, first served type of business and by placing your order on the Web you can make sure you get in the queue as fast as possible to have the product shipped."
"In addition, we have cut down tremendously on inquiry calls. We had a high volume of calls about product availability and progress of orders and shipments. The Web site has helped us greatly by showing these details. And by making sales history available, it even helps to answer questions like what was the serial number on a product bought two months ago."
"Fast processing, real-time product allocation and inquiry is key to our partners, because they want to invoice on the same day we ship to their customer," says Moylan.
"There is a vital flow of information going all day on our Web site. If a deal comes in at 9.00 am in the morning it might be processed and prepared for shipping by 9:30 am. The moment a warehouse staff member enters the serial number against an order, our partner can see it and invoice their customer. We have over 6,000 square feet warehousing space and warehouse staff that are continually pulling product and getting it ready for shipping."
Parker adds, "We don't have to wait for UPS to pick-up the goods and give us labels with tracking numbers. Because our system integrates with UPS we can assign the tracking number and freight costs ourselves and print the labels. Previously, we had to wait for UPS to give us the labels when they pick up the goods around 4:00 p.m. and tracking information would not be entered in the system till the next day."
"One of the things that we’re looking to do next, is to automatically send a shipment notice by email as soon as the serial number and tracking information are entered."
Compu-Call procedures are to bill the partner but ship directly to the end customer and the UPS labels show the partner's name as the sender. Moylan, continues, "We have been in the business for years and have built a relationship of complete trust with our partners that they let us ship directly to their accounts."
"The Web site and the fast invoice cycle it allows has really become a selling point. We can guarantee our partners same day shipping if an order is entered on our Web site before 3:30 pm, provided of course we have stock. Previously fax orders would take 24 to 48 hours before they were shipped."
"The site also brought administrative efficiencies to our partners. Initially some of our partners had paper based purchase procedures that stopped them from using our Web site. But most partners have overcome these old habits. Partners tell us they love our Web site and that it has led them to find ways to make themselves more efficient, allowing them to cut out steps in their own paperwork for purchase orders, approvals, invoice reconciliation and so on."
"Our printer distribution volume has accelerated tremendously over the last two years. We used to be one of 48 companies competing for IBM's printing business, now we are one of only three. The Web site has helped us to achieve this volume increase with a minimal increase in administrative staff. The site also saves time for our sales reps, making them more available to grow the business. We have a Compu-Call employee at the AVNET office, who helps with their printer sales. We are now pushing for him to get his partners on the Web," says Moylan.
We achieved a tremendous increase in volume with a minimal increase in administrative staff
Picard says, "IBM's request triggered us building a Web site, but from that point on all enhancements have been driven by what the business partners have been asking us. We have modified and grown the Web solution extensively and LANSA Commerce Edition provided us a great start to get going."
"The biggest plus of LANSA for our consulting customers and ourselves is the integration between the core solution and the Web site. So, we’re not looking at two separate pieces of a puzzle. In other solutions, the integration was patchwork, with data being passed back and forth. LANSA works real-time on the same data as our ERP system and runs on the same machine. LANSA allowed us to offer a Web site without adding any complexity to our IT infrastructure."
"The Web site will always keep evolving," concludes Moylan. "The more people you have utilizing the site, the more input you are going to have to improve it. So we are always going to be refining it and making it better."
"We may extend the Web site with wireless PDA access. Our partners have sales guys and consultants who are always on the road. At the moment most of them seem to be happy to phone or SMS their orders to an assistant at their office, who in turn enters the order on our site. But we are beginning to see requests for wireless PDA enquiry of product availability. We need to prove the business case first, but with LANSA, we are technically ready to offer PDA access.
LANSA allowed us to offer a Web site without adding any complexity to our IT infrastructure
Company and System Information
- Compu-Call Inc., headquartered in Massachusetts, USA, is a certified IBM Business Partner offering iSeries and xSeries solutions to customers in the American Northeast. Compu-Call has partnered with IBM to become one of America's largest distributors of IBM printers and printing solutions and developed a host of partnerships with IBM resellers in the US.
- Compu-Call is also a LANSA Solution Partner and has extensive experience with custom software development and a variety of ERP software packages including Daly.Commerce.
- For more information please visit: www.compucallinc.com
- Infor (daly.commerce) is a distribution solution owned by Infor Global Solutions, Inc.
- Compu-Call uses an iSeries model 800 with OS400 V5R3.