Emhart Glass Case Study

Emhart Glass delivers a variety of web applications with m-Power


Case Study Summary

Emhart Glass's president wanted an e-commerce presence, and specifically a one-stop portal where all of his customers could come for all service and support needs.

Application Development Manager, Alan Batchelor, was excited about this project, and what it would mean. But, to his way of thinking, this e-commerce project was really just the tip of the iceberg. Java applications or Java-based portlets (portal applications) running on WebSphere Portal could mean so many more possibilities and improvements for Emhart Glass, and he wanted to start building those solutions too.

Challenge

The only sticking point was no one at Emhart Glass knew Java...including Alan.

Solution

But, Alan, exploring his options, downloaded and installed m-Power and within a few hours he began generating Java-servlet applications that could run on WebSphere Portal. Then again, that's not the focus of this story.

Value

The exceptional part of this story is the volume and breadth of myriad applications that Alan thought of, and then created to give Emhart Glass much more comprehensive Java Web solutions than they could have imagined.

Alan has even moved into the wireless realm, with some creative (and incredibly useful) applications that can run on cell phones and Blackberry devices.


Full Case Study

Overview

Emhart Glass's president issued an edict. As his legacy, he wanted Emhart Glass to have a Web e-commerce presence by the end of the year. Specifically he wanted to offer a one-stop portal where all of his customers could come to one spot for all of their service and support, and have an intuitive easy place to place and track their orders online.

A portal is a site on the Web that typically provides personalized capabilities to its visitors. Portals are designed to use distributed applications, different numbers and types of middleware and hardware to provide services from a number of different sources.

But to Application Development Manager, Alan Batchelor's thinking, this first e-commerce presence was just the tip of the iceberg.

Alan wanted to take advantage of the new WebSphere Portal technology, they were investing in, and immediately build on it, "I am completely sold on Portal solutions. They just make sense. The idea of having self-contained applications residing on the same page, some collaborating with each other, some standalone. The portal functionality of being able to place these portlets on a page and allowing users to configure their portals just like they would configure their desktop."

Business portals are designed to share collaboration in workplaces, and a requirement of portals in business is that the content be able to work on multiple platforms such as personal computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and cell phones. But, for the portability necessary these applications are typically Java-based.

Challenge

There was just one sticking point...Alan didn't know Java...So, he was lacking the ability to actually create the applications he was going to need to run on the Portal. So, he turned to other solutions, "I tried a screen scraper application. I tried a JDBC tool. I even tried to write Java code myself, which was a really bad idea."

Alan had heard, however, that the mrc-Productivity Series had expanded into the Web world, and had portal capabilities. He just didn't know to what extent...and he was pleasantly surprised, "I downloaded and installed m-Power and within a few hours I was generating Java-servlet based Web applications that could work on our portal."

Now, in most cases, this would be the end of the story, the entire focus being on the amazing speed-to-market turnaround, or the amazing ROI involved when a traditional developer can start building in Java instantly, rather than investing in 6 months to 2 years of training to build the same level of application...and there would be a nice screen shot of the product, with perhaps a smiling picture of Alan.

But...that's not the focus of this story.

The real story is what Alan did after that and the sheer volume, complexity, and variety of Alan's creations, and what they will come to mean to Emhart Glass. For Alan, it's 90% inspiration with 10% perspiration, and that's not to say that he doesn't work hard. It just means he's always thinking, and he's found the tools to make those visions of his a reality.

Solution

His concoctions are a menagerie of business applications for many different departments, different users, and with many different individual needs. But, what they all have in common is Alan's distinct blend of inspired creativity and business know-how created with the one tool at his fingertips that was capable of bringing his visions into focus: m-Power.

He laughs about the variety of his projects, and says that Emhart Glass's Vice President of IT says that he's been creating "Solutions waiting for problems."

But, you can judge that for yourself. Here's just a sampling of some of his solutions.

Supplier Portal
Emhart's supplier portal

"Every month our users were sending emails, faxes, and various other methods of communication to let suppliers know how they were doing, and what their current ratings were. In the screen below, you'll see one application that displays Emhart Glass's ratings. Emhart Glass determines these ratings through a formula of order records, on-time deliveries, prices, etc. But, now that this rating communication is provided online, it additionally now gives suppliers a forum and instant opportunity to defend reports.

They can explain late deliveries, settle disputes, change purchase orders, and as a benefit to Emhart Glass, this new, more accurate rating system takes all of the guesswork out of applying supplier ratings and provides a dialogue from which pricing negotiations and dispute resolutions can begin," explains Batchelor.

This new system provides benefits to both suppliers and Emhart Glass in another way. Suppliers no longer need to fax prices over, and Emhart Glass no longer needs to have a person enter and re-enter the data into their ERP. With this system suppliers can update the pricing right into the system.

Emhart's supplier portal
Customer Care Portal

This application screen provides users with an at-a-glance dashboard of warranties, and a breakdown of warranties by reason codes in graph for 2006, and by cost for 2006. But note all of the applications he also built, along the left side navigation: Dashboard, Logic Manual, Details Inquiry, Breakdown by Facility, etc.

Emhart's Customer Care Portal
Wireless Applications

These applications allow Emhart Glass's mobile staff, such as sales representatives to perform a number of different functions, including a customer search, pulling a report, searching for contacts, tracking shipments, etc via their mobile phone or other devices such as a Blackberry or other PDA device. Additionally, Alan even built in a convenient capability with m-Power to allow users to access legacy applications via the Web if they need to.

An additional consideration that Alan brought up for Web-based wireless is also a matter of security, "If you lose your PDA or cell phone, you don't want to lose the crucial business information that you may have stored on their, and particularly if you are loading programs to sync with your backend, such as order-entries, etc...where if you lose the hardware (your phone) before you have time to sync it to your system, you lose critical business information...or worse, private contact information. With a Web-based wireless application, if you lose your phone, it's no big deal. You just get a new phone. No data is lost, no critical information can be downloaded. It's all secure."

Below are just a few of the wireless Web applications Alan built including an advanced data search, a customer search/look-up, and the main menu options of Emhart Glass's portal running on a mobile phone.

Value

There are many different ways to measure a successful rollout of business solutions in dollar signs, but they are not always easy to formulate. There is the productivity increase by having your users be working on mission-critical tasks, there is cost-reduction of operations by eliminating certain steps such as faxing, and data-entry. There is an increase in sales when businesses can place standing orders, and it's easy for them to update, add, and delete their own orders, account, and shipping information.

And then there are the cases where his foresight has clearly paid off, "I created our supplier portal, and then I got wind that someone in another department was preparing to hire a consulting company to create a similar system from scratch. I contacted them, and they took a look at what I had already built, and with just a few minor tweaks, it was exactly what they had been looking for. The difference was, I built mine in days. I shudder to think at how much we saved by avoiding a start-to-finish outside consulting project."

Alan adds, "I feel sure it has paid for itself many times over."

To learn more about ERMCO, you can visit their Web site at: http://www.emhartglass.com/

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