Terminix services rapid growth with LANSA
Without LANSA we could not have completed this major system development in such a short time frame.
The Terminix International Company, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee USA is part of the ServiceMaster family of brands and the largest termite and pest control company in the world, safeguarding over three million homes and businesses in the U.S. and 14 other countries. Terminix replaced a COBOL mainframe system and hundreds of standalone UNIX systems at its branches with a central LANSA-based application on a single 595 iSeries. 12,000 employees at over 400 locations and 5,500 service specialists with wireless hand-held devices use the system that also interacts with an increasing number of third-party systems using LANSA Integrator and web services. More recently, Terminix used LANSA Composer to automate the remittance processing with third parties.
Lee Crump, Terminix vice president and CIO, says, "One of the reasons we have been able to support the growth in annual revenue over the past six years from 600 million dollars to over a billion dollars, is our iSeries and central LANSA-based system. We don't have any capacity limits. Without LANSA we could not have completed this major system development in such a short time frame."
With our iSeries and central LANSA-based system we don't have any capacity limits.
- The Challenge of Rapid Growth
- A Centralized Solution
- Better communication with customers and staff
- Easier transacting with other systems
- A Better Development Environment
- Effortless EDI Extension with LANSA Composer (2008 Update)
- Company and System Information
The Challenge of Rapid Growth
Terminix has 12,000 employees, including 5,500 service technicians, across its head office and 400 wholly owned business locations in the U.S. The company operates in 45 states covering six time zones from the East Coast to Hawaii. Historically each branch had its own small IBM UNIX server to conduct its local business. Data from the branches was collected in overnight batch jobs and transmitted via dial up lines for processing by the financial, customer billing and payroll systems on the head office mainframe.
When Crump joined Terminix in 1999, his first mission was to establish a more efficient IT infrastructure. "The focus was on improving sales and services," he notes. "We were a 600 million dollar business. The plan was to grow the business rapidly, but the architecture and software that was in place was very antiquated. The Terminix president at that time was farsighted enough to say, 'If we're going to grow this business, we have to have effective IT systems'."
"The old distributed IT system hampered our growth and did not let us get a competitive advantage for a company our size," says Crump.
"Setting up new branches was cumbersome and the ongoing support of the individual servers was labor intensive. Our help desk had to deal with a constant stream of application, backup and hardware issues."
"It took the whole night to collect data from the branches and most of the next day to process that data. As a result the mainframe was on average 48 hours behind the branches."
"Because the latest customer information was not available to our 100+ person call center in Memphis, customer queries could not always be handled appropriately. For recent customers sometimes there were no details at all," says Crump.
Branches could not share information either and relied on fax and phone messages and re-keying of data when a customer moved or contacted a different Terminix office.
"The result was a customer-service level below the standard we are aiming for."
Crump decided to replace the decentralized servers at the branches with a single centralized database. After discussions with IBM, he decided to decommission the mainframe and base the new centralized architecture on an easier to manage and more cost efficient iSeries model 890 that had one of the industry's highest percentages of uptime.
After evaluating packaged software solutions, Crump also decided on in-house development. "Almost 60 percent of pest control business is handled by companies with less than a million dollars in revenue, mostly small family-owned companies. We are a one billion dollar company and want to positively differentiate our systems. IT done properly should give the business a competitive advantage in dealing with customers."
Terminix had to find the right development environment that would allow it to quickly build applications that could be shared via a frame-relay network and accessed in a thin-client environment.
"IBM Rochester recommended we look at LANSA because of its productivity," says Crump. "We liked LANSA because, with a single set of source code, you can create green-screens, a Windows-like interface and handle XML. LANSA is not dependent on any specific database. And when we are ready, we can switch to an event driven Windows environment."
The old distributed IT system hampered us in our growth and did not let us get a competitive advantage for a company our size.
A Centralized Solution
Crump and Gabriel Sgolombis, director of systems architecture at Terminix, spent three months visiting branches and talking with staff to find out system requirements first hand. After presenting the data requirements and process and data flows diagrams to the advisory board, Sgolombis and his team began development work using LANSA. "We put a big focus on end-user involvement in the design stage and also got their continuous feedback on the system as development progressed," says Sgolombis.
Terminix used LANSA Services consultants for training and on site mentoring of its staff. "We wanted somebody who was an expert to be able to look over our shoulders, coach us and answer questions. This approach was very helpful in getting up to speed quickly and doing things right from the start," continues Sgolombis.
Development started in the third quarter of 1999 and in October 2000, just over one year later, the first three branches started using the system for an 18-month pilot period. The full rollout started July 2002, with about 25 branches being brought online each month.
"At the time Terminix had just over 300 branch locations, so it was a huge undertaking," says Crump. "Scheduling the cable installations, identifying how much equipment was needed at each branch, shipping that equipment and setting it up, and then scheduling the training."
By April 2004, Terminix had brought all of its branch locations and its call center in Memphis online in a centralized computing environment, accessing the same LANSA applications and information in real time.
Currently there are over 12,000 thin clients, fat PCs, wireless laptops and printers connected across 400 locations through a frame-relay network. In addition, 5,500 service specialists with hand-held devices use the system on the road.
The system currently contains 3,000 functions/programs, 2,000 screens/forms, 1,500 files, 30,000 fields and 600,000 lines of code. The system's core functionality covers capturing customer lead information, making proposals, setting up and managing services schedules, billing and back-end reporting to meet regulatory requirements for companies working with chemicals.
"But that's just the bare minimum, any system would do that," says Crump. "To gain a competitive advantage from your IT system, communication with the customer becomes increasingly important. We now have all the information to improve communication with the customers and help our employees be much more productive."
Over 12,000 devices at 400 locations connect to the system via a frame-relay network as well as 5,500 service specialists via wireless hand-held devices.
Better communication with customers and staff
Technicians on the road have wireless hand-held Dolphin devices loaded with a custom Windows CE application. The Dolphins are updated with the days' scheduled jobs, together with accounts-receivable information and other customer notes. During the day, technicians time-stamp their arrival at the customer, enter the chemicals they use, time-stamp when they complete the job and enter payment details. Terminix is also putting printers in the vehicles, so that technicians can print invoices and service tickets on the spot, rather than taking pre-printed invoices with them.
Currently most technicians still need to go to the office at the beginning and end of the day to upload and download information. But as part of the Smart Truck initiative, already implemented at over 30 branches at the time of the interview, transacting with the central database will be in real time.
"Our technicians have up-to-date customer information at their finger tips, raising the customer service level and our records get updated instantly. There is no re-keying involved," comments Crump.
As part of the Smart Truck initiative, over 5,000 service vehicles are also progressively being fitted with a GPS solution to constantly transmit their position to the branch office for automatic capture by the central system. "We can tell the customer a lot more accurately over the telephone when they can expect the technician to arrive. More importantly, if a customer has an emergency, we can immediately display vehicles in that area and send the work order electronically to the hand-held of the closest available technician," says Crump.
"Not only do we know where our vehicles are at any point in time, the GPS solution also keeps track of every stop the vehicle made and how long that stop was. From an audit and a quality control point, it is an additional tool to manage our service delivery better."
To improve phone communication, Terminix is implementing a Voice Over IP Distributed Call Management system that re-uses the frame relay network Terminix installed to give its locations access to the central iSeries.
"We can now share and divert incoming calls because our call center and the branches have real-time access to the same customer data. We can respond faster and more accurately to customer queries, improving the service level. Not a single call gets missed and notes do not need to be faxed and re-entered," says Crump.
Our technicians have up-to-date customer information at their finger tips, raising the customer service level and our records get updated instantly.
Easier transacting with other systems
"It takes millions and millions of transactions to get to be a billion dollar company," says Crump. "To handle that volume your system needs to be scalable and your integration with other systems must be fast and easy. We achieve both with LANSA."
Terminix uses LANSA Integrator and web services to exchange transactions with an increasing number of third-party systems and with the ServiceMaster IT enterprise group. "Our goal is to use a web services infrastructure for all systems interaction," says Sgolombis. "We are making LANSA Integrator web services our standard way of interfacing."
"For example, LANSA Integrator is used to receive and process leads generated by ServiceMaster, as a result of campaigns and direct mailing. Every thirty seconds we use web services to look in these systems and pull in the leads on an almost real-time basis. Next, the leads are automatically distributed to the proper branch based on the zip code. And the system automatically alerts the sales rep on call with a cell phone text message containing the lead information, so that they can immediately call the customer."
"Our ServiceMaster enterprise group is at the forefront of utilizing address verification software and GPS facilities for efficient scheduling of services. Every time a new address is entered in our database, either manually or by the automated lead processing system, LANSA Integrator triggers a web service from our parent company to get the associated latitude and longitude. This web service also automatically corrects the address to meet Unites States Postal Service standards."
"Our recently piloted Routing and Scheduling initiative uses web services from Point Serve, a company that specializes in routing and scheduling, We send them the addresses of all customers who have an appointment on a specific day, customer preferences and how many technicians and vehicles we have available that day. Their software considers all that data and divides the customers into very tight routes to minimize drive time."
"We also interact with our own damage claims division and many other external parties such as banks, credit card companies and advertising agencies. Whenever we can we are replacing these interfaces with LANSA Integrator and web services," says Sgolombis.
We are making LANSA Integrator web services our standard way of interfacing.
A Better Development Environment
"I am glad we followed IBM's advice to evaluate the LANSA path," concludes Sgolombis. "Living in the LANSA world is much more productive than the typical RPG 3GL world. Our developers would hate to work with anything else."
"With LANSA we can create green-screen, Windows, XML and browser applications from a single set of source code. Everything we write is 100-percent LANSA, so now we are not locked into a specific platform or database," says Sgolombis.
"Our new central LANSA and iSeries IT infrastructure is far easier to support," says Crump. "But in a centralized environment, if our computer goes down, we lose operations in the entire company. So, to us the reliability of the iSeries and LANSA are critical."
"We are going to roll out the same core system to our branches in Mexico using LANSA's multi-lingual features to support Spanish and we will modify the system to handle multiple currencies."
"One of the reasons we have been able to grow annual revenue over the past six years from 600 million dollars to over a billion dollars, is our iSeries and LANSA-based system. We don't have any capacity limits. We opened 25 new branches last year and we're going to open 31 branches this year. The hardware model we have in place for branches is simpler, cheaper and easier to roll out. We have the flexibility of hand-held devices, thin clients or fat clients depending on the job description of the end user, but all the data and LANSA computing power is back here at the head office."
"We are delivering much more capability than we were in the mainframe and distributed UNIX environment and at a lesser cost. The cost of opening new branches and growing the company is much less than the old distributed model."
"We feel very strongly and positively about our relationship with both the iSeries and LANSA," concludes Crump.
Living in the LANSA world is much more productive than the typical RPG 3GL world. Our developers would hate to work with anything else.
Effortless EDI Extension with LANSA Composer (April 2008 Update)
In 2008, Terminix was one of the first companies to implement LANSA Composer, a design and execution platform for business process integration (BPI) that allows business analysts, rather than developers, to automate and integrate business processes.
Terminix had been negotiating with third party partners to offer home owners a solution where the Terminix payment would become part of the partners’ customer remittance process, explains Bruce Baxter, software engineer of infrastructure at Terminix.
"Essentially, this would be a background EDI effort with multiple transmissions occurring for each new customer. These partners will include an insert advertising Terminix services with their monthly statements. When a home owner opts for the service, we set up a new order in our legacy system."
Terminix will use a system i to gather these new orders once a day and feed them into LANSA Composer, which maps the DB2 records into a text file and FTPs the document to the partner company. The company later returns a text file verifying that the order is valid. LANSA Composer retrieves this text file via FTP, maps the data to a DB2 file and a legacy program processes the data accordingly. The company sets up its system to add the Terminix fees to the monthly statements, collects these fees and remits the monies to Terminix, then sends a text file with the remittance information. LANSA Composer picks up this new text file, maps the data to a DB2 file and a legacy program updates A/R with these cash receipts.
"We had to create only one set of legacy programs to handle the data processing for all the companies," says Baxter. "To set up additional companies, only the unique information for that new trading partner needs to be defined to LANSA Composer. In our process flow, LANSA Composer is a ‘black box’ that layers our legacy application away from the tedious EDI details."
Baxter also explains that by using the LANSA Composer tutorials, Terminix was able to get LANSA Composer working with its legacy system without any training from LANSA. "Once we installed LANSA Composer and completed the tutorials, which are very good, I was able to set up a test environment and complete a cycle just by going through them. It was a painless effort."
LANSA Composer is easy to use, easy to learn and very intuitive, especially the mapping and transformation part as it’s all GUI. For us, LANSA Composer has filled a need.
Company and System Information
- The Terminix International Company L.P., based in Memphis, Tennessee and the largest termite is pest control company in the world safeguarding over 3 million homes and businesses against all types of pests in 45 U.S. states and 14 other countries.
- In 1986, Terminix joined The ServiceMaster Company, one of the largest service companies in the USA with system-wide revenue in excess of $3.2 billion. Companies in the ServiceMaster family include TruGreen ChemLawn, TruGreen LandCare, American Home Shield, American Residential Services, ServiceMaster Clean, Merry Maids, AmeriSpec and Furniture Medic.
- For more details visit: www.terminix.com
- Terminix has a development team of 70 as well as 50 support staff that report to the ServiceMaster shared services group.
- Terminix uses an iSeries model 595 (24 way with .5 terabytes of memory and 20 terabytes of disk space). Over 12,000 devices at 400 locations connect to the system via a frame-relay network as well as 5,500 service specialists via wireless hand-held devices.
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