It’s not easy moving a mountain, even for Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy equipment and off-road machinery for mining and construction. It’s also not easy to automate a mountain of System i jobs. But when Whayne Supply Company, a Caterpillar dealer in Louisville, Kentucky, and HelpSystems, the world’s largest supplier of IBM System i Operations Automation software got together, the results were impressive. A mountain of costly and difficult-tomanage job scheduling was automated and now runs without human assistance.
The employees of Whayne Supply Company use the System i for file storage, invoices, customer information, and their dealer business system. Years ago, the company switched to the System i platform to support the users of their main business system software, a Caterpillar-developed dealer business system called DBS. As Doug Vaughn, lead Technical Support person for Whayne Supply, explains, “Initially, we were very leery of automation. We’d never been in an automated situation and I just wanted to learn the new batch system. We did—manually. That experience was enough to make us realize that automation was the way to go.”
Deciding to automate their System i, they turned to some of the HelpSystems products—Robot SCHEDULE, Robot ALERT, Robot CONSOLE, and Robot AUTOTUNE. Now, their System i operations are automated and they’re flying. To help speed the transformation, they attended training at HelpSystems. Doug was the first. “I attended a class on Robot SCHEDULE. The things I remember most were that the instructors were extremely knowledgeable about Robot SCHEDULE and the instruction was excellent. After the training, I implemented Robot SCHEDULE, and now I can’t imagine running batch or payroll without it.”
Because of Caterpillar’s specific interface to Robot SCHEDULE, there were some things Caterpillar couldn’t apply using the generic, “off-the-shelf” product. So, HelpSystems and Caterpillar collaborated to provide Caterpillar dealers with specialized Robot SCHEDULE training. This training combined Doug’s earlier training with items specific to the Caterpillar world. Doug explains, “It was all for Caterpillar dealers, which was excellent. To create specific training for Caterpillar dealers illustrated the degree of commitment HelpSystems had—it was cool.”
Caterpillar gives each dealer a version of Robot SCHEDULE with preset jobs and OPAL code. Doug took that version and used his training to build the schedule at Whayne Supply from scratch. “I rebuilt what Caterpillar gave us for two reasons: I didn’t like the limitations of their version, and I really wanted to learn Robot SCHEDULE. The way I learn is ‘hands on.’ In class, I learned how to make jobs reactive, how to make jobs dependent, and how to add OPAL code. I wanted to use all the functionality that Robot SCHEDULE had to offer to build our schedule. That way, I have a working example of everything Robot SCHEDULE is capable of doing. Caterpillar didn’t use all of Robot SCHEDULE’s capabilities in their version. They kept it basic for the practical reason that some shops want it simple. Now, because of all the things we’ve automated at Whayne Supply, a lot of Caterpillar dealers call me and ask how we do our schedule.”
Doug likes the Internet-based education, or e-training from HelpSystems. A trainer works with customers through the Internet and shows them how to use a product. “I thought it was great—a real feel of firsthand, formal training. And, e-training is very reasonable; we can get everyone involved. We’ve tried at least two online offerings and they’re good. You can send questions to the instructors and they either answer live, or get back to you afterwards.
“I really like hearing others describe questions or issues that I’m unaware of. And, this type of training gives other people here a different perspective.”
From their experiences, Doug and Caterpillar have both learned a lot about training. “The emphasis must start at the top of the company. Our top-level management made a commitment to training and technology and they followed through by sending me to as much training as I felt I needed. As a result, we’re very well positioned to use our Robot products. There’s not a lot that Robot SCHEDULE can do that we’re unaware of, or not taking advantage of. Training allowed us to identify what the HelpSystems products are capable of doing and gave us the ability to use them to their fullest capabilities. My number one recommendation for customers buying any software is to get training. It’s to your advantage to fully use the capabilities of a product and the best way to do that is to attend training, prepared with company-related questions. Be able to say, ‘How is this product going to apply to my company?’ That’s the approach I take. Then, when I see new functionality and have it explained to me, I have a much better chance of applying it to our situation.”
So, when you decide to automate your mountain of manual System i processing, take a lesson from Doug and Caterpillar and make sure that the products and training from HelpSystems are part of the process. As Doug sees it, “Caterpillar is a great company, the System i is a great machine, and they’re both better when you add the great products and training that HelpSystems has to offer.”