Standard Textile is a leading global provider of end-to-end solutions for the institutional textile and apparel markets, serving customers in healthcare, hospitality, decorative products, and industrial apparel. With more than 70 patents, 24 manufacturing and distribution facilities in 12 countries, and over 4,000 associates, Standard Textile focuses on innovation, quality, and service.
Brian Michael manages electronic data interchange (EDI) for Standard Textile. A crucial go-between for the business, he is responsible for communicating purchase orders to Customer Service and invoices to customers via a variety of mediums, including VAN, FTP, and AS2.
Deciding on Robot
Before Brian arrived, Standard Textile had been using an EDI package on IBM iSeries. The translator boasted a built-in job scheduler, but could not perform the newer file mapping required for Standard Textile initiatives. When the company decided to move to an EDI translator on a different server, Brian knew he'd need an enterprise job scheduler to find those files.
“Before I came along,” says Brian, “they were using the EDI job scheduler for EDI and non-EDI jobs, plus the iSeries native scheduler and schedulers on other platforms. Our translator, now Windows-based, needs to interact with jobs on the iSeries. That’s where Robot Schedule Enterprise came in. I needed something simple to go across platforms and automate trigger jobs that would kick off a downstream job once the data translation occurred.”
Brian had previous experience working with Robot products. To persuade decisionmakers, he built a checklist of everything current job schedulers did and showed he could do it better, for less, by consolidating to a single, enterprise-wide scheduler.
Implementing in a Construction Zone
On top of their EDI switch, Standard Textile is also transitioning to the Oracle EnterpriseOne ERP application, placing high demand on time and resources. “The job schedule has to feed our current production environment, our going-to environment, and our development environment despite these constraints,” explains Brian. “We have 700+ users on the iSeries, including operations, JD Edwards, and web systems. Plus, EDI accounts for 80 percent of our orders so those communications cannot be down.”
Despite having many other responsibilities, Brian was pleased with how easy it was to get going with Robot and start seeing results. Standard Textile had a training and services consultant onsite to help with setup. “She helped us tie three remote agents to Robot Schedule Enterprise so it would know when the server was up and look back at the iSeries to see that files were populated. She also led training using the Robot Schedule GUI—it’s much easier and you’re not tied to the legacy green screen, which really helps non-IBM iSeries folks get into it more; it’s more inviting.”
Communicating with ERP
During training, Brian first discovered OPAL (OPerator Assistance Language). “When our trainer told us, my eyes lit up,” he says. “I’m not a programmer, so having the ability to write custom code without relying on a programmer—and process EDI data only when appropriate—is great. This way, EDI jobs don’t take up processing cycles.”
When JD Edwards jobs produce purchase orders, acknowledgements, and invoices, it triggers an EDI job. The OPAL code Brian added monitors for data in the physical files. If Robot Schedule finds data, it triggers the corresponding EDI job. “It’s been very helpful,” Brian adds. “I’m not missing things.”
Brian also appreciated the ease of emailing alerts to different individuals or groups when jobs terminated. “Before Robot, the kind of notification I was getting wasn’t very helpful. With Robot, I can find the spooled files myself and Robot Alert emails me directly so I’m not tying up the operations manager. When there is an issue, I’ve even automated a couple reactive steps to correct it.”
Looking to the Future
Brian is confident that the business will look for ways to leverage Robot in other areas thanks to its proven track record, superior support, and cross-platform scalability. “I’m working with the JD Edwards folks for this transition and already there is a lot of chatter about how we can use Robot Schedule Enterprise agents to make the systems talk,” he says.
When the dust settles, Brian looks forward to showing others how easy it was to get EDI working great with Robot automation. “Robot is simple to set up, easy to use, and very powerful, especially compared to other schedulers on the iSeries, which are kind of clunky and repetitive,” he says. “It’s critical to the business that EDI works, and I’ve got it humming with Robot.”
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