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Warrant Processing Utility

W.F. Whelan Company is a certified, full service Third Party Logistics (3PL) broker with over 35 years of experience in the industry. Their services include Customhouse Brokerage, International and Domestic Freight Forwarding, Foreign Trade Zone Operator, Container Freight Station, Warehousing, Distribution, Light Assembly and Local Cartage.

“The app has impacted fulfillment of orders  from 2 months to down to 20 minutes which has allowed us to increase revenue.” 

Stacey Henich, IT Manager

The Value

WF Whelan went from a painful manual process for tracking metal in the warehouse to an automated system that saw metal coming in before it arrived, automated the building of certificates of authenticity, and managed the process of outbound shipments with very little oversight.  Employees who had been drowning in manual efforts were able to focus on much more meaningful aspects of the business and the need for temp workers to search through thousands of pages of PDFs was eliminated.  OST was able to provide short-term relief to the problem and then quickly architect and implement a long-term solution that sets WF Whelan up as an industry leader in management of raw metal storage.

The Challenge

WF Whelan, an international expert in warehousing and transportation, had a growing problem.  After entering contracts for the storage of millions of pounds of metal alloys, WF Whelan was struggling to get the thousands of aluminum bars coming in each week indexed and verified.  Suppliers had provided certificates of authenticity for all of the metal, indexed by heat codes printed on each piece of metal, but those heat codes were all buried somewhere within tens of thousands of pages of low-quality PDF documents.  The problem was daunting and WF Whelan’s staff was drowning in the effort.

WF Whelan contacted OST in hopes that they could provide a faster and more efficient way to tie the heat codes collected on the warehouse floor to the pages in all the PDFs containing that exact heat code.  Because there were hundreds of codes coming in each day and tens of thousands of pages to be searched, the manual effort was unsustainable.

 

The Solution

OST presented two solutions – a short-term solution to help the team get caught up, and a longer-term solution which would set WF Whelan up for future growth and success.  In the short term, an existing utility was overhauled to automatically collect all the Excel files containing incoming heat codes, search for those heat codes in all existing PDF documents, and create appropriate certificates of authenticity for each warrant (collection of metal pieces) and then provide reports to WF Whelan detailing what was found, what the system thought it found, and what still needed to be tracked down.  This utility provided much needed breathing room and bought some time to start fleshing out the long-term solution.

The next wave was a fully-automated system redesigned from the ground up.  Old Windows Mobile scanners (which were used to scan codes into Excel files) were replaced with more modern Android-based scanners and a web-based application which could be easily accessed from the scanners, tablets, or desktops anywhere in the organization.  Instead of just entering heat codes for metal as it came in the door, shipments were entered ahead of time so WF Whelan had an understanding of what shipments were coming in each week and could verify that everything showed up.  As soon as a warrant of metal was completed, the system automatically kicked off the process to build the certificate of authenticity and reported the results, allowing end-users to go in and verify findings or clarify missing heat codes.  Manual entry was eliminated where possible and validated everywhere else.  This helped to reduce the error rate and gave confidence to the team.

The last piece of the new solution was the outbound shipping.  When pieces of metal were ordered by customers, the system quickly identified where each warrant was located in the warehouse and automatically grouped the warrants together into outbound shipments (rail car or truck).  Outbound certificates of authenticity were packaged with each shipment and ready to send ahead to the customer with the guarantee that every included piece of metal was validated.

Solutions

Business Strategy & Architectural Consulting Web, Mobile, and Desktop Application Development Systems Integration

Tech Specs

Microsoft SQL Server

ASP.NET MVC 4.5 web-based platform

Entity Framework 6.1.1

Twitter Bootstrap for UI

Mobile pages for use on bar code scanner devices

Motorola MC32N0 device