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"The new GUI system is so fast that our purchasing professionals retrieve data (from the D&B mainframe system) as quickly as from their local hard drive.."

Betty Hilliard
Senior Purchasing Specialist
PPG Industries

 

MITEM Case Study - PPG Industries

PPG Industries is a $7 billion supplier and manufacturer of speciality and flat glass products, fiber glass, coatings and industrial resins, and speciality chemicals for the automotive, home and industrial markets. In 1989 the PPG Glass Group converted to Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Software's Millennium® financial applications in all 21 North American Glass Division facilities. The new systems were installed to improve many financial aspects of the business which included: accounting, purchasing, storeroom, raw and packaging materials, and glass inventories. PPG staff wrote requisitioning and invoice approval modules and installed the additional Human Resources module from D&B. One theme, however, continues to prevail about D&B Millennium: the system is not user friendly. PPG users who write or approve requisitions, approve invoices, and even so-called "power users" can be heard to say: "In this age of GUI desktop computers, why can't someone make D&B Millennium as easy to use as my other desktop tools?"

Business Problem

The D&B implementation was a success from several aspects - financial, supplier consolidation, one standard database, and major reductions in PPG headcount. There were two major issues, however, challenging the complete success of the Millennium implementation. First, the use of paper requisitions and paper invoices were deemed unacceptable for the implementation because PPG was converting to a regionalized purchasing and accounting strategy. This was a critical operational issue. To correctly implement a regionalized approach and to take full advantage of the new system, approval for all requisitions and invoices from the remote plant sites needed to be processed electronically. Secondly, as previously described, the system was difficult to use and generally unfriendly to the majority of users.


Figure 1

Re-engineering the Business Process

A creative solution was found to these problems by building an intelligent PC front-end which hid the complexities and unfriendliness of Millennium and presented the user community with an intuitive, graphical interface (Figure 1). Plant Managers, with a single mouse click, could approve or redirect requisitions and invoices. Purchasing professionals, who were experts at using the Millennium system eight hours a day in command line mode, greatly benefited from the re-engineered workflow by eliminating many keystrokes and transforming dozens of 3270 mainframe screens. Repetitive steps were converted to simple interactions through the use of buttons, icons and pull-down menus. Several GUI screens were substituted for the numerous mainframe screens. By re-engineering the workflow for both the infrequent and expert users, measurable productivity gains were achieved. "Now purchasing professionals can spend less time working with Millennium and more time on the business of procurement" said Jack Zumwalt, Manager of Regional Purchasing, Glass Business Group.

Implementation

A small 4 person team working together as an adjunct to their normal job responsibilities conceived, defined, modeled, programmed and implemented the final solution over an eight month period. "We started at the beginning, from the user's perspective, to really understand the plant facilities user and purchasing buyer requirements for purchase orders, requisitions, approval of requisitions and invoices" said Zumwalt. Each user group had different workflow requirements. From this initial analysis, PPG was able to design a new electronic workflow and graphical interface that more closely followed their business processes.

PPG selected the Visual Basic programming environment from Microsoft for constructing the graphical representation of the re-engineered workflow. MitemView from MITEM Corporation was used to provide the communications middleware for interacting with the Millennium host system and the additional PPG host modules (see Figure 2).


Figure 2

MitemView is a PC based non-invasive technology. MitemView enabled PPG to collapse several mainframe screens into one graphical screen. Absolutely no software was installed on the PPG mainframe. A patented middleware technology, MitemView provides a number of services in the form of a communications framework which aided PPG in developing their new PC based application. Once the conceptual design was completed, a single programmer using Visual Basic and the MitemView tools created the interface to the Millennium system. The programming began in August and was completed by late November, 1994. The new PC graphical interface is being rolled out to all of the 21 PPG Glass facilities in North America with a total user population in excess of 1,500. Since its introduction in December, the user reception has been very positive. The users are delighted with the new GUI front-end to Millennium. "As we implement, we are removing the only major objection to Millennium - the user unfriendliness," said Zumwalt, "now, Millennium works like a local PC application with local performance."

Results

All text fields now have full word processing and spell check capability.
Real time information is now available on requisitions and purchase orders with a single mouse click.
Requisitioner and purchaser can easily find requisition and cross referenced PO delivery dates and pricing in one graphical screen.
Requisition and invoice approvals are completed with a single mouse click.
Charge Numbers, Ship To and Bill To codes, and Preferred Vendor Selection are all available from pull-down menus.
The new graphical requisition form is visually similar to PPG's old paper requisition form, thereby promoting instant familiarity.
The D&B database files are not duplicated at the desktop.
Frequently used clauses, i.e. sentences, paragraphs and documents are user defined and easily imported into any requisition or purchase order with a single mouse click.
Spending for various accounts is easily retrieved by managers.

"Even though the Millennium system was internally excellent, the part that most of the people see and use is the human interface for requisitioning and the approval of requisitions and invoices."
Jack Zumwalt
Manager, Regional Purchasing

"A function which previously required a user to traverse and interact with 12-15 mainframe screens is now completed in just one or two GUI screens.."
Dan Bonner
Senior Purchasing Agent

"The new GUI system is so fast that our purchasing professionals retrieve data (from the D&B mainframe system) as quickly as from their local hard drive.."
Betty Hilliard
Senior Purchasing Specialist



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