Star Lumber is the largest locally owned building materials company in Kansas. Founded over 75 years ago, the company literally helped build the great city of Witchita! Over the last 20 years, their success has resulted in having to produce nearly 10,000 statements and invoices each month. A great problem to have, but a problem that resulted in a labor intensive process.,
The company was using two dot matrix printers that were loaded with preprinted stock - stock for statements, another stock for invoices. The application software would produce two spool files, one containing thousands of statements, the other containing thousands of invoices. Each spool file was sent to the printer loaded with the respective stock. As the forms were printed, users would pull statements from one printer, invoices from the other, and match the statement with its corresponding invoice. The forms were being manually collated.
Star Lumber needed a solution that would eliminate the manual collation process. This sounds simple enough, but with two different forms being preprinted, it would require software that allowed them to completely design the form, and eliminate the need for preprinting. While considering options, Dave Gregory, Director of Information Technology for Star Lumber, saw an advertisement for TLAForms from TL Ashford in a trade magazine.
Mr. Gregory downloaded a 30-day trial of the TLAForms software and another IBM i forms solution for comparison.
Tom Luther, a programmer and main author/modifier of the legacy application software, began working with TLAForms and said, “after about an hour phone conversation with (TL Ashford) tech, and reading the on-line help, I was at what I thought was a pretty advanced state.”
They were able to modify the leading (spacing between lines of text) instead of being stuck with 6 or 8 lines per inch inherent in using the dot matrix printers. They have access to a wide variety of fonts, so they actually made the text smaller to redesign the form to better utilize the space, while making the form easier to read. They have eliminated preprinting, and instead used the tools within TLAForms, including images, to design the entire form in color. Because the forms are no longer preprinted, they have chosen to use standard laser printers. More than a few of their customers have contacted them, unsolicited, to let them know how much “cleaner, and nicer, and easier it is to read the new forms.” To solve the manual collation problem, Tom altered the application software to programmatically collate the invoices and statements in a spool file.
According to Dave and Tom, the TLAForms package was much easier to use than its competitor. “TLAForms is very easy to use for the documents. Piece of cake. It’s a snap,” Dave said. “The cost between the two packages, after projecting costs for the software and maintenance for 5 years, TLAForms was less than one-fifth the cost of the other package” according to Dave.
Staff still have to pull the forms, but having the forms already collated saves a lot of time. “When she [one of Star Lumber’s owners] realized the improvement made with this application, she was so thrilled that she started hugging the people involved!” Tom said.