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Mobile BI System Helps Customers on the Move at AJ Logistics

Commentary by Greg Johnston, CIO, AJ Logistics

AJ Logistics provides third-party logistics services, including project management; order fulfillment; custom warehousing; and furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) installations. In today’s competitive market, differentiation is achieved through superior client service—keeping customers informed about project status by allowing them to easily monitor deliveries, inventory, and other critical activities.

AJ Logistics distinguishes itself with a WebFOCUS-based operational reporting environment that automates bids, collections, invoicing, payments, and shipments, and provides up-to-the-minute project information. Because many clients spend time at various job sites, advanced mobile business intelligence (BI) capabilities make information available through PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

WebFOCUS improves coordination, collaboration, and visibility into complex logistics scenarios. The customer-facing BI system streamlines workflows, reduces operating expenses, optimizes customer service, and ensures consistent on-time performance, making AJ Logistics a true partner to its clients.

“WebFOCUS lets mobile users both query and update a database via native browser apps,” said Greg Johnston, the company’s CIO. “It also gives real-time access to inventory data, with a complete security architecture that isolates each customer’s proprietary information.”

Building a Flexible Reporting System with OLTP Capabilities

Johnston used WebFOCUS Maintain, an application development environment for building transactional functionality into reports, to create an inventory control system that lets clients both read and write to the underlying database. Customers can now query and update operational information through one cohesive Web-based interface.

WebFOCUS’s multilevel security architecture integrates with the company’s own technology environment. Administrators can define access by groups, departments, and roles, with information controlled at the data-value level to offer maximum protection while accelerating reporting.

In just one click, customers can run activity reports, generate invoices, view inventory, and schedule deliveries. Many queries trigger multistep workflows that dynamically update inventory, schedule deliveries, notify project managers, and direct third-party warehouse activities. Bills of lading, packing lists, inspection forms, delivery tickets, receiving reports, and other documents are presented on demand.

“A customer might have a dozen projects going at once. Instead of dealing with many warehouses and systems separately, WebFOCUS gives them a consolidated view of all pertinent activity,” Johnston said.

WebFOCUS also helps internal staff locate suitable warehouses, negotiate rates, coordinate the receipt and delivery of FF&E, and manage order-to-cash cycles.

Extending BI Functionality to Mobile Workers

To extend flexibility and mobility, AJ Logistics is enhancing the WebFOCUS application to work on smartphones and tablets, such as Droid, iPad, iPhone, and BlackBerry devices.

“Our users don’t sit at desks,” explained Johnston. “They are foremen or general contractors, working at hotels or job sites, overseeing other workers. It’s much easier for them to place an order using their iPhone than to boot up a laptop or return to the office. They are constantly interfacing with plumbers, carpenters, and other tradespeople at the job site. They need to know things like how many rolls of carpet are in the warehouse. Having this information available on the iPad and iPhone is a big time saver for them.”

Initially deployed for Apple devices, the environment is being refined for others as well. Information Builders Professional Services is helping develop a mobile interface that automatically adapts to each device to provide a device-specific user experience, with native menus, controls, and HTML5 charting. By using WebFOCUS Active Technology, the BI app supports the common gestures of each platform and conforms to any browser.

By implementing this automatic device detection, Information Builders has helped eliminate the development effort required when the BI content needs to be built in a special way on each device.

AJ Logistics depends on innovative technology like this to stay competitive. “WebFOCUS brings us more business,” Johnston said. “Our competitors have canned software that is difficult to change and customize. We are constantly working to improve our functionality. Information Builders technology is a big part of that cycle.”

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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