Cascade Corporation is the world's leading manufacturer of lift truck attachments and related products. Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, they have about 2,000 employees worldwide and are the world's premier supplier of forklift attachments, with revenues of over $450 million a year.
They chose the iSeries hardware platform because of its reputation for reliability, and selected JD Edwards for robust, powerful, easy-to-use manufacturing software: EnterpriseOne (formerly OneWorld), with its graphical user interface (GUI), for sales and accounting; and World, with its green screen interface, for production. With a solid foundation in place, they added a suite of compatible automation software from HelpSystems: Robot SCHEDULE (job and batch scheduling), Robot ALERT (mobile messaging), Robot SAVE (backup and recovery), Robot REPORTS (report management), and Robot CONSOLE (message management).
The information systems department has maintained the OS/400 platform and iSeries hardware for most of the past several years as an automated shop. As David Hinrichs, systems administrator at Cascade explains, "We staff the iSeries machine during the day, and at about 4 p.m. our batch processing starts. With Robot SCHEDULE, it's all automated—we only intervene if Robot ALERT notifies us that there’s a problem. We use Robot SAVE to do two backups a night and it's all integrated into Robot SCHEDULE. It's really nice the way it works—basically it’s lights out."
Before the iSeries arrived on the scene, the IS department used an IBM mainframe with operations coverage 24 hours a day, five days a week, and full system backups on weekends. During the week they ran batch work at night with operators working all three shifts. They thought there had to be a better way—less manual coverage and more automated operations.
Getting started with Robot SCHEDULE went fairly quickly. David says, "From the time we got Robot SCHEDULE until the time we were running a rudimentary automated batch schedule was just a few months. I'm sure there were some who thought it couldn't be done, but everyone was in favor of it. I've been in operations most of my working life. It's nice to not have a swing or midnight shift anymore. All we get now is an occasional page at night because of a failed job. We have someone on call."
The automated workload isn't small. David estimates, "I'd say we have a couple of thousand jobs in Robot SCHEDULE. We have end-of-day, end-of-week, and end-of-month jobs, all automated, as well as some jobs that run quarterly. We have jobs that run only on the first day of the month; jobs that run only on the 15th of the month; even a job that is delayed intentionally if the 15th is a Sunday. Robot SCHEDULE takes care of all that."
Interfacing with Ease
"We use Robot SCHEDULE to its fullest capability—group jobs, reactive jobs, OPAL (OPerator Assistance Language) code, and reserved command variables. We also use Robot SCHEDULE to schedule jobs that react to another job, called dependency processing. These jobs do not run until another job is finished, or a certain condition is satisfied. We have some groups set up for different applications, so we run a number of EnterpriseOne jobs as a group. We can move that group around, stop it, or hold it, and nothing else will run. Robot SCHEDULE is also nice because you can run both EnterpriseOne jobs and other types of jobs in the same process. It's easy to have a non-EnterpriseOne batch job run after an EnterpriseOne job using Robot SCHEDULE."
Cascade uses the EnterpriseOne RUNUBE command to interface with Robot SCHEDULE on the iSeries. They also plan to try the Robot SCHEDULE EnterpriseOne Interface, which would provide more automation options to their EnterpriseOne jobs. The RUNUBE command lets them run an EnterpriseOne batch job through an iSeries batch session. As David explains, "Once you set it up, you can copy and change whatever needs to be changed. We have a JD Edwards process team to deal with JD Edwards issues. If a change needs to be made to a JD Edwards program, they make it. If there is a problem with [an EnterpriseOne] job, the iSeries generates a job log that we can use. We monitor iSeries job logs. I can give one to our JD Edwards experts, and they take it from there."
Restricted State Utility
As for backups, David explains, "Robot SAVE is the key to automated backups. We do an incremental backup every night to save anything that's changed, including any JD Edwards data. If we have any problems, Robot ALERT tells us, automatically. We've set up distribution groups in Robot ALERT to notify three of us if a batch job dies.
"We use Robot SAVE’s Restricted State Utility (RSU) to do an automated, unattended, full-system backup on Sunday mornings. Before we leave Friday, we set up the RSU on the console. I put a note there saying 'Don't touch—the RSU is active. Any questions, give me a call.' We run all sorts of batch jobs on Saturday, and Sunday morning the backup starts, all handled by the RSU with no problems. It's really cool.
That makes it lights out for us—not having to manually kick off a save. If we didn't have that, we probably wouldn't be doing a full save regularly because we'd need an operator. It takes less than six hours to back up our entire system [on an IBM 3583 Automated Media Library]. And, if there's a problem, we get paged."
Stable Software, Reliable Support
Training was no issue for the HelpSystems products as David recalls, "In the beginning, my supervisor worked with Robot SCHEDULE and I learned from him. About six months later, I went to HelpSystems for a week of training. I learned most of what I needed then, and I've been taking it from there. The training was good—it got me thinking about how to do different things. I often use the information when I tweak Robot SCHEDULE periodically. From my experience, it's easy to make changes in Robot SCHEDULE."
As for the technical support from HelpSystems, David is very positive, "I always tell people about HelpSystems Tech Support—I love it. The people are really good. I've never had any problems getting answers. Thankfully, I haven't had to call often—the products work well—but if I do have a question, I call Tech Support and they're very knowledgeable."
So, now everything's automated and running smoothly, and no one's working weekends or three shifts anymore. As a result, when someone says the word Robot, or asks about the HelpSystems family of products, "Nobody here and no manual intervention," is what comes to David's mind. "Robot SCHEDULE, Robot ALERT, Robot SAVE, Robot REPORTS, and Robot CONSOLE let us do that. They're very stable, reliable products, with good support, and they do exactly what we want them to. Lights out with automated operations—a great reality."