Kress Corporation, in Brimfield, IL, is the world’s leading manufacturer of specialty transport carriers. They build massive machines like their 90-foot-long coal hauler that cost millions of dollars, and their machines operate worldwide in the metals and materials handling industry. What they do is big! Saving three thousand dollars a year to generate bar code labels and forms may not seem big by coal hauler comparison, but being more productive and saving the company money, now and in the future, makes good sense!
Albert Pierre, Application Development Manager at Kress, inherited a system used to print bar code labels to Zebra printers and generate forms from the IBM i. The software he used worked pretty well - no serious complaints - except for the yearly maintenance bill. “The maintenance cost was outrageous!” Albert said. The maintenance cost for the software - $4,100.00! Like all cost-conscious managers, he thought there might be a better, more cost-effective way.
Albert saw an advertisement for TLAForms from TL Ashford, and he remembered back to the early 1990’s when he worked with TL Ashford’s Barcode400 Labeling Software. He remembered being very happy with it, and decided to download TLAForms and Barcode400 to test.
The criteria were simple. Find a software solution to meet or exceed the functionality of his current system at a price low enough to justify the conversion from one solution to another. Since the maintenance cost for his current solution was so “outrageous,” getting a solution with low on-going costs was a must. Being the one person at Kress who operates their IBM i, Albert reasoned that an acceptable time frame to convert would be about six months.
Albert used the Barcode400 graphical design interface to design 5 labels used by the company for inventory tracking and finished goods – including a label required by Caterpillar Corp (Caterpillar offers Kress machinery from their stores). He used the Merge Data feature to place data from his IBM i files onto the label formats.
Kress uses a popular ERP system, and they have in-house written code surrounding the ERP package to perform custom functions. Call statements are inserted into the in-house programs to call the Barcode400 software and generate the labels. He passes several parameters on the call including the name of the label to print and what file contains the data to be printed on the label. The users click a button on their screen, and select a record to print. The program directs the labels to the appropriate output queue and printer, and the quantity is determined by a field in the file. “The labeling is as automated as I can make it, and implementation was a piece of cake,” Albert said.
For forms, Albert converted several checks and forms including payroll checks, accounts payable checks, invoices with backside terms and conditions, purchase orders, and others. One of his biggest gripes with previous solution was working with IBM i overlays “…because overlays are just a pain to deal with,” he said. Instead of using overlays, he used the simple tools within the TLA Forms graphical designer to create full-color forms.
TLAForms eliminates a lot of user intervention inherent with the old solution. With the previous solution, users had to start the software, perform data merges, pick and choose spool files, then initiate the print. TLAForms automatically recognizes when a spool file becomes ready and immediately prints the form. TLAForms also archives the form to a specific network location as a PDF file. This was not possible with the previous solution.
The 7 different check designs used in the previous solution have been consolidated into a single design within TLAForms. TLAForms generates the single design to look 7 different ways using the conditioning feature within the software. The check is generated differently based on data within the spool file.
Further, spool files, some containing hundreds of checks within a single spool file, are now burst to break each check into its own PDF file. The checks are now printed and archived individually as a PDF file to a network location.
Engineering Change Forms and Design Engineering Request forms will be designed next, and all forms going forward will be designed in TLAForms.
“The experience [of converting to the TL Ashford products] was enjoyable. I learned a lot, but it was not so different that I was pulling my hair out. I expected the process to convert over to take 6 or more months, but it took only about 2 1/2 months, and I’m the only IBM i guy in the shop. So I had to do this conversion along with all my other work,” Albert said.
In total, Kress converted 5 labels, 7 checks and 3 forms from their old solution to Barcode400 and TLAForms, and added some ease of use and functionality that makes their processes more streamlined. The primary goal, which was to save the company money, nets Kress Corporation a yearly savings of nearly $3000.00!