PartyLite Worldwide, Inc., a LANSA customer in America since 1995 and in Europe since 1997, is one of the fastest growing direct sales companies in the world. PartyLite independent sales consultants, who number over 65,000 worldwide, sell premium fragranced candles and a wide range of related decorative accessories to consumers through the home party plan method of direct selling. PartyLite operates in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Germany, the U.K. and a growing number of other countries in Europe.
Visual LANSA’s productivity and multilingual facilities have helped PartyLite to rapidly deploy applications over the years to overseas offices and keep up with the enormous operational expansion. PartyLite uses LANSA Client for its end-user reporting, Code Start for its Credit Card validation and LANSA Integrator for XML transacting with suppliers for drop shipping. More recently, PartyLite used RAMP to boost user productivity and feedback as its core application is redeveloped with Visual LANSA Framework.
Deb Kane, manager application development at PartyLite Worldwide, said, "The flexibility of the LANSA repository has provided us with a key foundation for the continued relevance of our custom business systems, built 12 years ago. The ease of use of the LANSA development tools enables our application developers to quickly and efficiently create and maintain business functions in response to ever-changing business needs. We are looking forward to the information access and time-saving benefits that RAMP will provide to our business system users."
PartyLite expands to overseas markets with Visual LANSA
This case study originally published in 2001.
PartyLite, one of North America's fastest growing direct sales companies, sells high-quality candles and candle accessories via in-home demonstrations by over tens of thousands independent consultants in the US, Canada and Mexico as well as thousands consultants across the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Italy and France.
Revenues have sky-rocketed in the 90's, after implementing new marketing strategies and expanding to overseas markets. LANSA's productivity and multilingual facilities have helped PartyLite over the years to rapidly deploy customized applications to overseas offices and keep up with the enormous operational expansion.
PartyLite recently implemented Visual LANSA for its Sales Information data warehouse. Materials Management, Inventory Forecasting and Sales Analysis used to be time consuming tasks using various Windows base productivity tools. Now Visual LANSA based applications instantly retrieve and process information from PartyLite's huge AS/400 based sales files.
"The fact that we can roll out the same system in English, French and German, and that we can do this quickly, has helped us enormously in our globalization process."
- The Challenge
- The Solution and its Benefits
- Multi-lingual Deployment
- RAMP boosts user productivity (update 2008)
- Company and System Information
Ed Kalafarski, Materials Director at PartyLite, comments "Before the implementation of the new system, we used a mixture of tools to download AS/400 data for further analysis into separate PC databases, reports and spreadsheets. We ended up with very fragmented information."
"Getting the information on the desktop was very time consuming and cumbersome and did not allow for our complex selection criteria. We had some people spending half the day just downloading data. This was not only caused by the poor integration of PC tools and the AS/400 data, but also by the sheer volume of data. On some high volume days we receive thousands of orders and our sales order and historical files store in excess of 50 million records."
Brian Turgeon, Application Development Supervisor, comments " We looked for a different approach to analyzing data. We wanted a smart solution that understands our AS/400 application and data structure, rather than using a generic query or reporting tool. We wanted our users to view information real-time on their desktop, and not having to wait for batch queries."
"Another challenge we faced was that any solution we would develop might potentially be used by our overseas offices. So, the application needed to be flexible and accommodate for multiple languages."
The Solution and its Benefits
Several Windows solutions, including Powerbuilder and Visual Basic were evaluated. The IS department wanted to stay with an AS/400 solution, because of its reliability, easy management and security, but needed a smart and fast Windows interface.
"Visual LANSA has immediate connectivity to the AS/400. There is no need for a middle layer that you would have with other development tools. The cohesive integration between Visual LANSA and the AS/400 was for us the compelling reason," says Brian.
"We wanted to have the same high level of data integrity and quick and easy development that we appreciate so much in LANSA for the AS/400. Visual LANSA just adds another facet to the LANSA foundation we already had in place."
"Visual LANSA was easy to learn. Our AS/400 programmers felt immediately familiar with Visual LANSA's repository and 4GL, because these build further on LANSA for the AS/400. However, to become familiar with the event driven programming paradigm was an effort."
"I find Visual LANSA productive in quickly establishing the skeleton of an application. Its reusable components are very powerful and mean you can re-use the same logic consistently throughout your applications."
The Materials Management department was the first department to use Visual LANSA for its Inventory Forecasting and Sales Analysis applications. The system includes maintenance on basic table files (Calendar, Currency Conversion, Index, etc.), workbench analysis where the user can view data by different dimensions, and query and reporting. The query and reporting applications validate selection criteria, determine which files to use and where processing should occur. Most large or complex reports run on the AS/400 and smaller queries run interactively on the PC.
"The response time is rather impressive," says Brian. "Most queries include complex calculations from data within multiple files that retain a million records or more. On average the user gets a first page of information presented within three or four seconds. In that time the criteria have been validated, data is selected and processed on the AS/400 and the processed results are returned to the Visual LANSA application for display."
Kalafarski comments "We made a large leap forward. We are about ten months into the project now and what we have implemented is working well. But we still have a bit to go. We also need to look at some of our older PCs and bring those up to current levels."
I find Visual LANSA productive in quickly establishing the skeleton of an application
Brian concludes, "Visual LANSA performs very well in demanding, large and international projects like ours. The applications are flexible, keep up with the enormous growth in our volume of data and provide for the unique differences in policies, culture and language that we have to deal with."
"LANSA's multilingual facilities easily let PartyLite run the same application in additional languages, while maintaining a single set of source code. When the actual business logic differs by country, a table file points to the program which should be executed for that specific country.
"The same Sales Information data warehouse is likely to be implemented to our Europe offices. Over the last two years we have rolled out all our LANSA systems, developed here in the US, to our European offices. The fact that we can roll out the same system in English, French and German, and that we can do this quickly, has helped us enormously in our globalization process."
RAMP boosts user productivity (update 2008)
PartyLite has customer service centers in its European countries of operation with 8 to 15 staff that felt slowed down by the 5250 applications used to handle calls from sales consultants. The main request was to modernize the screens and consolidate data displayed over multiple 24*80 screens. After modernization with RAMP the application offers easy sorting and searching of consultants and orders, based on multiple criteria. The application also has new functionality, such as integrated Internet access to track and trace parcels.
Hartmut Vietzke, Application Manager for PartyLite's European operations, says, "Now customer service can give a quick and accurate answer when consultants call about the status of their order."
"Our goal is to redevelop the entire application in Visual LANSA Framework. Going through the RAMP stage was helpful, because even though parts of the programs are still refaced, it let us improve productivity in our call centers quickly. Also, because the current Windows version is far easier to use than its 5250-predecessor, the users are getting enthusiastic, resulting in better feedback to us regarding what should be included in the next stage."
"With no previous Windows development skills, the project took about one man month spread over three calendar months. We now feel very comfortable with Visual LANSA Framework and we look forward to the next project."
Company and System Information
- PartyLite is a division of Blyth Industries. For more information see www.partylite.com and www.blythinc.com
- Integration with commercial software solutions:
- Kewill Warehouse Management System
- Starsight Distribution and light Manufacturing (previously called Gemma)
- North America uses two AS/400 model 730's and have approximately 300 users connected. The European offices connect to a central AS/400 model 530 and model 620 and have approximately 100 users. All AS/400's are connected using the TCP/IP protocol.