The Greenery beats the clock with LANSA
LANSA Integrator lets us tightly integrate systems, but have them loosely coupled.
The Greenery B.V. is a distribution, sales and marketing company for fresh produce. With a turnover of 1.6 billion Euro, The Greenery is one of the leaders in the vegetable, fruit and mushroom sectors in Europe. The Greenery uses LANSA Integrator for exchanging real-time information between its LANSA-based core iSeries system, Windows-based auction and sales systems, and external parties.
Peter Boertjes, development manager at the Greenery, says, "LANSA Integrator lets us tightly integrate systems, but have them loosely coupled. Where available, we prefer packaged solutions above in-house development. Easy integration lets us pick the best available solution. We can replace any of our systems without worrying about the impact on other systems."
LANSA Integrator lets us tightly integrate systems, but have them loosely coupled.
The fruit and vegetable supply chain is from grower to auction house and then to trading companies and retailers. Everywhere in the chain, parties make money, but margins usually get better towards the end of the chain.
Boertjes explains, "We want to actively manage the chain and make more money for our growers. To get more influence in the chain we are actively buying trading houses, directly negotiating with retailers and arranging our own transportation."
The Greenery is now more focused on negotiating long-term contracts with large retailers. Large retail chains want to plan their advertising campaigns and buy in big volumes for a predictable price and contracts give growers the opportunity to plan their crop based on demand. Auctioning doesn't give control to the buyer or the seller and is becoming less popular on both sides.
"But auctioning is still the best method to trade niche products, special quality products and products with a small or irregular delivery and accounts and generates revenue of over 85 million Euro for The Greenery."
"Our old auction system was outsourced, expensive and didn't offer online trading over the web. Integration with our iSeries was in batch mode and manually driven from the iSeries. We found a Windows-based fruit and vegetable auction system from Aucxis Trading Solutions in Belgium, nicknamed 'GreenMate', that met most of our requirements. But we had to integrate this solution with our core system."
The Greenery's core iSeries administration system, called USVA, has been developed and maintained in LANSA since 1991. USVA manages all grower information, compensation and payments, incoming produce, invoicing and distribution. Financial modules and management of container returns is in SAP on the iSeries. A Windows-based system for crop planning collects information when the products arrive at any of the Greenery's ten warehouses.
"Where available, we prefer packaged solutions above in-house development and company mergers and acquisitions contribute to the variety in systems as well. Creating fast and reliable links between these heterogeneous systems is becoming more and more important."
"Because we have been developing with LANSA for over 12 years, we had a look at LANSA Integrator first. We are happy to consolidate as many technologies as possible in LANSA, because it is expensive and difficult to manage too many technologies."
We have been developing with LANSA for over 12 years. We are happy to consolidate as many technologies as possible in LANSA.
Like most fruit and vegetable auctions the Greenery's price Clock starts at a high price and decreases till someone makes a bid. Produce is auctioned according to a schedule, for example tomatoes at 7:30 a.m., broccoli around 7:35 a.m., and so on. As the auction duration for each product may vary between two and ten minutes, depending on demand, the schedule determines the sequence of auctioning, but not the exact start time.
Traditionally the only Clock was on the wall of the auction room, but with the new Windows-based auction system, buyers in the auction room each have a PC with a copy of the clock and continuously updated produce details. Buyers can also bid over the Internet.
Marcel Driessen, GreenMate implementation project leader, explains, "Just before the auction of a certain product starts, GreenMate automatically collects information (such as produce quantity, quality and origins) from the iSeries using LANSA Integrator's Remote Function Invocation (RFI) capability. While the auctioning of tomatoes is still happening, GreenMate collects information for the broccoli, or whatever product is next in schedule, and publishes this in a corner of the screen."
"Because buyers like to investigate produce information a while before it is auctioned, GreenMate collects and publishes produce data 30 minutes before auctioning, with an RFI refresh of information just before auctioning."
Another LANSA Integrator managed data link, this time driven from the iSeries, sends produce data for publication in GreenMate's HTML catalog. Detailed produce data is also available for download from GreenMate's HTML catalog. Typically, a buyer will download the information about the specific produce that will be sold that day.
GreenMate also uses RFI to trigger a daily FTP transfer from the iSeries to its SQL Server database of less dynamic information, such as buyer address and credit limit.
"Because we are dealing with fresh produce, sales transactions from GreenMate must be sent immediately to our USVA system for distribution and invoicing. The warehouses need to be empty within a few hours after the auction. Currently we send sales transactions by data queue, but we may use LANSA Integrator's XML Queue service for easier management," continues Driessen.
The Greenery also uses LANSA for integration between its Windows based negotiated sales system and the iSeries USVA core system. And LANSA is used to exchange sales transactions with internal and external buyers. LANSA Integrator translates sales transactions to XML messages and places these messages in a data queue. If the customer is another Greenery business unit, then communication is handled by Sonic MQ. For external buyers TrustedLink Enterprise is used.
The whole process of auctioning is smoother because of LANSA's fast and automated integration between GreenMate and the AS/400.
Ary van der Waal, the Greenery's auction master explains the practical business benefits of real-time and automated integration. "A major advantage of the new GreenMate auction system is that remote buyers can now bid over the Internet. But just as important, the whole process of auctioning is smoother because of LANSA's fast and automated integration between GreenMate and the AS/400."
"Previously one or two auction assistants sat behind an AS/400 screen in the auction hall continuously sending small files with produce information to the old system. There were very many small files because data is separated by product, location, grower and quality."
"Growers still deliver during the morning, so information keeps on changing, even during the auction. Delivered volumes may be different, produce may be rejected or reclassified, and sometimes a case of fruit falls from a truck. Warehouse staff would advise the auction assistants and resend the data. This started at 6.15 a.m. and continued during the entire auction."
"Occasionally data was so late I would have to pause the auction, or auction products out of schedule."
"With the new integrated auction system, everything goes smoothly. Information is automatically collected just before a specific good is auctioned, and I don't need auction assistants to continuously send files manually. If there is a last minute problem with the produce, I can push a button in GreenMate to trigger an ad hoc refresh of data. I have everything under control."
"Now there are less mistakes. In the old system, the auction data could be inaccurate and sometimes we sold more produce then we received, or we sold too little. Someone had to fix those mistakes, costing time and money," says van der Waal.
I have everything under control and can trigger an ad hoc refresh of data.
"LANSA Integrator lets us tightly integrate systems, but have them loosely coupled," concludes Boertjes. "By loosely coupled I mean that we could replace any of our systems without worrying about the impact on other systems."
"Easy integration lets us pick the best available systems and consolidate transactions from multiple sources in one central and reliable core system."
"Sales transactions from our Windows-based negotiated sales and GreenMate systems come together real-time in our iSeries core system for invoicing and distribution to the customer and payment to the grower. We have very complex rules in USVA that we don't want to copy to other systems."
"Because LANSA Integrator's RFI has proven to be superior in performance and reliability, we plan to use it for all new real-time data integration. While XML based integration allows us to implement loose coupling between our packaged systems."
"We may replace existing FTP and data queue synchronization with RFI. RFI is a real-time call to logic and a real-time exchange of data from one system to another. With FTP you cannot call any logic and you have to wait for the data to arrive, it is not real-time."
"LANSA applications are reliable and fast. I don't worry about them. We had outsourced the auction system since the beginning. Initially I was worried when we took on responsibility for the new auction system ourselves. But the system performs well and without any problems. LANSA just works."
Easy integration lets us pick the best available solution. We can replace any of our systems without worrying about the impact on other systems.
Company and System Information
- The Greenery B.V. has a turnover of around 1.6 billion Euro and has 1,800 employees in the Netherlands and 400 in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. Auction revenue is over 85 million Euro. The Greenery is owned by VoedingsTuinbouw Nederland, a horticultural cooperative whose 2,500 producer-owned members sell their products via The Greenery. The Greenery exports fresh vegetables, fruit and mushrooms to more than 60 countries, with the European Union, Eastern Europe, North America and Japan as its most important markets.
- The Greenery's ICT department has 70 people with 20 focused on application development. Six of these are skilled in LANSA (Visual LANSA, LANSA for iSeries and LANSA Integrator). The Greenery runs its core USVA system on an iSeries 810, with separate LPARs for development and production.
- Greenery runs SAP version 3.1.I on HP UNIX.
- LANSA's RFI is based on Java technology and allows the Greenery to call a remote program (on the iSeries this case) from another system (Windows in this case), and exchange information in real-time.
- For more information visit www.thegreenery.com
- GreenMate, from Aucxis Trading Solutions n.v. in Belgium, runs on a Compaq CL380 with Windows 2000 clients and an SQL Server database. Aucxis Trading Solutions is the world's largest supplier of electronic trading systems for agri-business.
- For more information visit: www.aucxis.com