How the right software can optimize the processes of the big manufacturer
Imagine a huge factory producing construction materials. Though the production process is fully optimized, the administration department is still overwhelmed with the routine work.
Daily calls, handwritten reports, repeated mistakes and unnecessary wastes of time and money. This is how we saw the processes inside of UDK Gazbeton - the Ukrainian construction materials manufacturer. The situation wasn’t critical. But it was important to admit that a lot of things could be significantly improved with the help of customized software. The company was ready for changes and partnered with Clockwise Software to change the situation for the better.
We decided not to build the massive system at once, since we couldn’t predict how it will integrate in the existing processes. To minimize the risks for both sides, we’ve chosen the agile approach. We started with developing one module, building all the next features on the top of that. This was one of the reasons the software successfully complemented the working process.
We started with defining the most critical problems - the processes, that involved the most manual work and could be optimized in the shortest time. At this stage our main task was to prove that the software can indeed save the company’s money.
Order placement and order management module
After analyzing the processes of UDK Gazbeton, we decided to start with order processing. This segment needed optimization most of all.
- Lack of tools for online order placement
- Lack of tools for automated order processing and invoicing
- No order accounting
- Limited usage of 1C Enterprise - the accounting and management software for businesses
As a result, the order processing looked as follows:
The website of UDK Gazbeton displayed the products the company was shipping as well as the calling number. The potential clients had to call the company to ask about the availability of the products, the terms of shipment or to make an order.
To answer the calls of the clients, the company had to employ several managers. They were responsible for taking the orders, entering the details into 1C Enterprise, sending the invoices to the clients, controlling the warehouse, arranging delivery, etc.
Besides permanent time loss, such an approach caused repeated mistakes. Our aim was to reduce the number of managers replacing their manual work with automated software, which is always exact.
The first module of the complex software, which we called UDK WebOffice, was dedicated to order placement and order management.
As the company was already using 1C Enterprise, we decided to keep it as the backend for our future software. This allowed us to save plenty of time and to reduce the price of the development.
Our initial task was to minimize the number of calls the client has to make to place an order. We created the client interface in the web app, where he can go through the whole process of order placement. The software also syncs with the warehouse, showing the quantities that are currently available for shipment. The interface also enables the client to exchange messages with the supplier. Direct phone calls are not necessary anymore.
After the order is placed, the information is transferred to 1C Enterprise, which generates the invoice and sends the report when the money is transferred. This is the sign that the order is ready to move to the warehouse.
After the module was finished, it was immediately implemented in the company. Our assumption was proved: the software made the work faster, reduced the number of mistakes, enabled exact accounting and finally, allowed the company to reduce the number of employees working on the phone, reducing expenses.
Clear profit from deploying the module inspired us to move on.
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Transportation module: tenders
The transportation management was chaotic and required a lot of manual work, which often resulted in mistakes and money loss. We separated the main problems of the company’s transportation management department to exactly understand what we had to face.
- Routine calling of the transportation contractors
- Not clear model of choosing the contractor
- The inability to compare the offers and to choose the most profitable one
- Lack of software solution for delivery management
It was clear that the system needed optimization. The first thing we started with was the implementation of the tender system.
Previously, the UDK managers were calling all the transportation contractors to find out their prices for the particular delivery. Now, the contractors were granted access to the transportation module of UDK WebOffice, where they have to leave their bids for every shipment. The clear system allows them to choose the most profitable offer, which saves the company a lot of money.
The transportation module also enabled UDK Gazbeton to manage the shipments on the computer screen instead of in the old school notebooks. The software allows the company to schedule the loading, to change the delivery time, and to track the orders that are in delivery. All the previous shipments are also available for review. The delivery management tool enables the company to optimize the process and reduce the number of recurring mistakes, which were hard to avoid when everything was processed manually.
Transportation module: route planning
As the tender and delivery management systems were implemented, we discovered another possibility to improve the transportation process. It was route planning and route combination.
Previously, the routes were planned by the transportation contractors or the managers of UDK. We assigned this task to the computer, which automatically generated the most convenient route for every shipment.
Google Maps seemed to be the best and most reliable solution for this purpose. The integration with this service allowed us to create optimal routes considering the current traffic situation.
Moreover, the system could automatically place several destinations in one route, so that several orders could be delivered with one truck. Google Maps integration was responsible for finding the most convenient route for the combined delivery. This allowed the company to significantly decrease the costs of delivery since several orders could be delivered within one shipment.
In addition to that, the automatic route planning saves the company managers’ time. They don’t have to manually create the routes - everything is done by our system. And this is the model that evolved:
Technologies and integrations
The corporate software UDK Weboffice required a complex approach. To make the system powerful and robust, we had to work with the following technologies:
CodeIgniter 2 to cut the development time and cost
This powerful PHP backend framework offers a bunch of ready components, which allowed us to make the development process fast and reliable. Important for this project was CRUD, the acronym for create, read, update and delete - the basic component for corporate software. The ready to use Grocery CRUD for CodeIgniter was a good choice that allowed us to save a lot of time and reduce the development cost.
MySQL as a reliable free database
At the time of UDK Weboffice development, there were just a few databases that could be used for free. After some research we chose MySQL as the most robust and reliable one
JQuery - frontend library with ready components
Today, the choice of frontend technologies is enormous. But four years ago, when we were just starting to build UDK Weboffice, there were not so many stable frontend libraries. JQuery was a good choice, as it had a lot of ready components available.
Integration with 1C
This point was especially important for our client, since this software is already embedded in all the business processes of UDK Gazbeton. The integration with 1C allowed us to expand the functionality of the corporate software we were working on without the need to force the employees to learn the new software.
Integration with Google Maps
Google Maps was an essential tool to enable automatic route planning and compilation. We chose this mapping service due to high frequency of updates and trustworthiness.
It was important to choose the right development model to create a software that would fit the needs of the company. Agile seemed to be an optimal solution, since it allowed us to create feature by feature, constantly implementing the software into the company’s processes and testing its efficiency.
The first stage included the integration with 1C Enterprise and the development of the customized order placing and order management system.
At the second stage, we started to work on the logistics module. The key feature of this module was the tender system, where the transportation contractors could give their bids for every single delivery order. Besides, we enabled the managers to fully control the process of loading and shipment in the app.
The third stage included the work on the automated order allocation and route combination using the integration with Google Maps.
The UDK WebOffice software still has the potential to grow. We already have the ideas for the new features which will optimize the processes of the company even more!
Currently, the entire development process took around one year and involved one to three programmers on different development stages.
The world is changing and modern technologies are here to replace the manual work of the employees and to optimize the processes of the company.
It is sometimes difficult for big manufacturers to discover the possibilities the customized software gives to them. But finding the right advisor can change the business processes forever.
The results UDK Gazbeton achieved with the help of Clockwise Software are quite impressive.
- Reducing the number of employees busy with routine calling by 3 times
- Minimizing the chance of minor and major mistakes
- Implementing a clear and fair system of choosing the transportation contractor
- Optimizing the delivery by automatic route planning and combined shipment
- Keeping track of all the previous and current orders
We are quite sure that any kind of business can win with the appropriate software.
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