Automation Allows WEHCO Media to Keep Pace in a Fast-Moving Industry


Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, WEHCO Media is a big business. WEHCO operates seven daily newspapers, thirteen cable television systems, and provides high-speed internet service to subscribers in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. WEHCO also employs over 2,000 full-time employees in those states.

As the company grew, its operations naturally became more complex, eventually spawning an unwieldy and manual IBM i job schedule. Faced with an accelerated rate of operator turnover and an increasingly complex job schedule, Judy Nethercutt, Director of IT, began looking for a solution that would give her better control of the job schedule. Specifically, she wanted to eliminate many of WEHCO’s manual processes, minimize the daunting six-month training curve for new operators, and reduce the recurring errors in their job schedule.

To help her reach these business goals, Judy chose Robot systems management solutions from Fortra. WEHCO uses Robot Schedule and Robot Replay batch management and automating interactive processes, as well as Robot Console and Robot Alert for message management, resource monitoring, and event notifications.

WEHCO Rapidly Automates 3,800 Jobs

Once Robot Schedule was installed, Judy and Operations Manager, Ninette Morse, wasted no time before digging in. They were able to accomplish all their scheduling goals—and much more—in a short time. Judy explains, “Ninette, our lead operator, and I used Robot Schedule to automate 1,200 jobs in roughly a two-month period.” Robot also positioned WEHCO's IBM i to manage further growth in their business. As Judy reports, “Now, Robot runs 3,800 jobs per day."

Having an automated job schedule is making the rest of the company more efficient. Critical reports, such as credit card journals, are much more punctual than before Robot Schedule was installed. Reports run on time, every night, and the credit card journals are on a web server first thing in the morning—when users at WEHCO need them the most.

Automating the “Unautomatable”

Robot Replay is the plug-in to Robot Schedule that automates job scheduling for interactive iSeries applications that require input before batch processing can begin. Before automation, many of WEHCO’s jobs required an operator to reference a checklist and plug in different parameters to run the same job for each of WEHCO’s ten cable sites. 

WEHCO uses Robot Replay objects and Robot Schedule reserved command variables to automate these jobs; required parameters—the current date, Yes or No answers, and more—are entered automatically by Robot Replay. The jobs run error-free in the correct order every time. 

Robot Replay jobs now constitute 30% of our job schedule,” Judy says, proving that Robot Replay has allowed WEHCO to automate jobs they once thought were “unautomatable.” As for the operators at WEHCO, they’re happy to be rid of their checklists and can now concentrate on their other IT tasks. If the iSeries does need attention, Robot Alert sends them an email.

Message Management & Resource Monitoring

WEHCO uses Robot Console to monitor their critical network devices and applications. Judy explains, “We use Robot Console to monitor things like the ICOMS interface from NetCracker (formerly Convergys) that controls cable TV subscriber requests, modem provisioning, credit card processing, and other third-party vendor interfaces. If a subscriber wants to add HBO or ShowTime, we can immediately activate the new service through ICOMS. Obviously, these interfaces are high priority. They need to be up and working.”

“I used Robot Schedule to automate 1,200 jobs in roughly a two-month period. Now, Robot runs 3,800 jobs per day.”

If any of these monitored interfaces suddenly display an unexpected status (for example, inactive), the resource monitor in Robot Console uses Robot Alert to notify Judy and her staff. Immediate notification means the IT department at WEHCO can respond before users—and customers—notice an interruption.

As WEHCO Media embarks on new ventures and continues to expand its current business, the company has found that automating its operations using Robot systems management solutions allows it to grow without increasing its operations staff. And, the IT department knows it can handle—and automate—any new processes that come its way.

The Robot Difference

Robot’s roots run deep. We’ve been part of the IBM i community for 35+ years. We know the platform inside and out. More importantly, we understand the people who manage it and the organizations who run on it. When you need a partner on IBM i—not just a vendor—you need Robot.