Output Automation Cleans Up House of Lloyd

To be competitive in the global market, organizations today are leveraging IT to achieve their business goals. At any given moment, mission-critical reports created on different systems in various sites are being distributed, archived, analyzed, stored and maintained. For Grandview, MO-based retailer House of Lloyd, survival rests on the availability of this business-critical information.

After five decades of satisfying customers, House of Lloyd has grown to be a successful party planning company with a thriving mail order business. Its 40,000-plus sales force relies heavily on the information generated daily within the three-building MO compound. "The survival of our business rests on the ability of our data center to process the literally thousands of orders we receive daily from our customers worldwide," said David Christianson, the company's Operations Manager.

The orders are processed through House of Lloyd's Robo-Pic automated picking line. For example, a customer order is received. The automated picking line scans the order, locates the merchandise, checks pricing and verifies the shipping information. House of Lloyd's automated system also includes scanners used by floor workers to locate and track merchandise within the company's 3 million-square-foot warehouse. "With approximately 75 percent of our business coming in during the holiday season, we needed a system to efficiently manage the production environment," Christianson said. "The solution must also have the capability to produce numerous reports and to distribute these reports immediately to our end users regardless of platform or geographic location."

Business Driven Output Management Solution
In 1994, Christianson began searching for an online viewing solution for its distributed environment that, like many companies, consists of client/server and mainframe systems. The mainframe, which is centrally located in Grandview, acts as a central repository and receives sales and marketing information from AS/400s, Intel and UNIX servers located in different areas. Tapes are stored in an underground location in Kansas City, MO. All sales information is gathered from the different platforms and relayed to the mainframe for processing. "The information needed to be immediately available to our sales force and managers -- order processing reports, inventory reports, daily reports, weekly sales reports, commission reports and so forth," Christianson said. "At the time, we wanted online viewing capabilities which our cumbersome solutions did not have."

Christianson met this challenge by selecting a suite of products from BMC Software. Enterprise Output Management products included CONTROL-D for report distribution and storage, and CONTROL-D/PC for online report viewing. Enterprise Production Management solutions from BMC Software included CONTROL-M for job scheduling, CONTROL-O for automated MVS event management and CONTROL-T for removable media management. Implementing BMC Software's Enterprise Output Management solutions in conjunction with the company's Enterprise Production Management products gave House of Lloyd the capability to more effectively manage its environment. The tight integration between the solutions (made possible by the technology's underlying architecture) and the products' ability to scale across multiple platforms, ultimately influenced House of Lloyd's decision to implement the solutions.

"We found that we were able to complete the transition over a relatively short time frame of four months," Christianson said. "We started by converting the scheduling piece. With two-thirds of the CONTROL-M conversion finished, we began the conversion of the report distribution component." Rather than using a conversion routine, House of Lloyd, with assistance from BMC Software, ported the report distribution piece to CONTROL-D. "We tested the product once and it worked. We were able to convert the rest of the 2,000 jobs in under 60 days." All work was done in-house, including the tape conversion, which took one weekend.

Minimal Learning Curve Reduces Training Time
BMC Software's solutions have the added benefit of having the same look and feel, reducing training time for end users. Screens can be standardized so that the end user can manage a number of applications without needing in-depth knowledge. "Output format, platform origin and physical location are all irrelevant to end users. They want to be able to access information fast and view reports on demand. CONTROL-D/PC meets these time critical needs," Christianson said.

According to Christianson, House of Lloyd's marketing and traffic departments take the inventory reports, download the materials overnight to their PCs and use CONTROL-D/PC to significantly cut the time it takes to access data. Using the ruler function, end users can extract and use the data for trend analysis. "Our end users love CONTROL-D and CONTROL-D/PC. If I were to take it away from them at this point, it would be very detrimental to my health," Christianson said.

Leveraging IT Investments And Maximizing Resources
Report distribution with CONTROL-D and online viewing with CONTROL-D/PC allow House of Lloyd to focus on business information and strategic decisions. "The output management solutions enable House of Lloyd to come closer to having a 'just-in-time' inventory process," Christianson said. "Ninety-five percent of our merchandise comes from Asia. With BMC Software's products, we can track the merchandise at the PC level, we can reduce or increase our supply and have an inventory that more accurately matches the demand."

"The products put the 'what if' process in the users' hands," Christianson said. "For example, we can create a situation (i.e. coffee mug sales increase). We can use the ruler function to extract information. The data analysis and information charting facilities enable us to take the data, analyze business trends and predict the outcome so that we can make the business decision to increase or decrease inventory." In 1997, House of Lloyd used the tools during the UPS strike to find alternate means of shipping, preventing a major backup in deliveries.

The output management tools also resulted in major savings. House of Lloyd's previous report distribution system used 150 to 200 cases of paper per week to process and print the reports needed by each individual. "Once we switched to CONTROL-D and CONTROL-D/PC to manage our documents, we cut printing by 60 percent," Christianson said. "Now all in-house reports are online. With CONTROL-D's automated report breakdown and ownership capabilities, each person receives only the reports that the individual needs and is authorized to see. The only items that we print now are some minimal reports that require hard copies and employee checks. Today, we use 60 cases of paper per month; we hope to cut this in half in the near future. With BMC Software's Enterprise Production Management and Enterprise Output Management solutions, we are able to make better, faster and wiser business decisions."