Many companies have enjoyed the efficiencies delivered by barcoding technology for years while others have stayed with 'comfortable' manual processes and are just beginning to understand how barcoding can bolster efficiency and profits. This was the case with Melaleuca. The Wellness Company, who stayed with manual practices that were slow, inefficient, and invited errors - systems that ultimately eroded both customer confidence and the bottom line.
While it was relatively simple to show barcoding technology saves money and delivers a favorable ROI, it was more of a challenge convincing Melaleuca it needed to change. Simply put, they were comfortable with their manual processes. Every aspect of inventory movement depended on paper transactions and manual recording. The paperwork was manually entered into their JD Edwards EnterpriseOne system thus moving the inventory into the system.
The problems with their current processes were significant as were the inefficiencies. With thousands of orders shipped each day, the manual processes resulted in large variances between inventory reflected in EnterpriseOne versus physical inventory in the warehouse. As Melaleuca grew and the volume of customer orders soared, it was difficult to forecast demand and keep a viable production schedule to meet the demand. Management was convinced they had to automate. Now their questions became: How? Which vendor? Which solutions?
RFgen's Paul Hanson, a veteran with years of IT experience including systems design, development, implementation and IT management, was the engineer tasked with identifying and assembling a solution. He reviewed potential vendors according to the following criteria:
Paul was already familiar with solutions from Data Systems International and RF-SMART. Both were deemed too complicated and far too expensive. Fortunately, during the selection process, Melaleuca found the RFgen Mobile Foundations for JD Edwards solution provided what they needed at a much lower cost of ownership. As Hanson investigated further, he found additional benefits:
RFgen easily supports many different data collection requirements including wireless, batch, mobile and RFID operations. It has built-in support for numerous barcode data collection products. The RFgen software series is a Microsoft-based environment for creating, managing and monitoring numerous types of ADC applications. RFgen is moderately priced and works with virtually all modern ERP systems, database management systems, and data collection devices. Legacy IBM and Unix based hosts are supported via RFgen's Legacy Systems Interface. It enables a multi-tiered, thin client approach to ADC applications.
Application changes can be deployed instantly without stopping data collection activities. Administrators can view a mirror of any active client session enabling them to better support their distributed environments. RFgen features built-in support for RFID technology, imaging, and transaction management as well as mobile device data synchronization. RFgen is forms-based design rather than requiring the use of 'C based' programming languages. RFgen's form designer includes embedded support for Microsoft's 'Visual Basic for Applications' language to provide maximum flexibility.
Melaleuca divided each major process into separate tasks. This allowed them to use a phased implementation methodology and apply lessons learned to each subsequent task. RFgen Mobile Foundations for JD Edwards includes a host of commonly used transaction sets specifically created to integrate with EnterpriseOne. Paul, as the supervising engineer, elected to test the pre-written scripts against the installation, the server configuration, and the RFgen software. This provided an opportunity to validate all of the "out of the box" components worked before starting any custom application development. He found many of the open source VBA scripts included in RFgen were viable for Melaleuca's implementation.
RFgen's unique programming model substantially minimized programming, customization efforts, and support costs. Melaleuca chose RFgen because of its straightforward and simple architecture. RFgen drastically reduced the learning curve compared to other vendors they initially considered. The short learning curve, ease of use, and the power of the RFgen Mobile Development Studio combined to enable smooth application development. RFgen's development tool allowed the lead engineer and Melaleuca's management to adapt quickly to changes in their original implementation plan. The go-lives and subsequent uses successfully delivered the functionality required along with the ensuing benefits that included:
Two years after the deployment, Paul Hanson revisited the project to determine whether expectations were met. He found the overall project expectations - with particular regard to the RFgen deployment - were exceeded. "I can't say enough about making sure vendors can deliver on their promises made during the sales cycle," said the Paul. "RFgen was presented as a straightforward and simple deployment model with an easy, yet powerful development tool that allows rapid development and implementation - and that's exactly how it turned out. The capability to connect to any ODBC database as well as EnterpriseOne, World, SAP, Oracle, or Legacy Systems was a huge plus. The software is also extremely scalable and allows for online transacting or store-and-forward technology that can be used to queue transactions in the event that the host is offline. Everything RFgen promised was delivered."