Established in 1976, Lamps Plus has brought excellence to the retail lighting industry for more than 35 years. Today, they are the nation’s largest specialty lighting company with more than 40 superstores throughout the western United States. They serve over five million customers a year with functional and decorative lighting products, in-home lighting consultations, in-store lighting seminars, and certified designers who offer lighting recommendations.
John Dunn, the IT Operations Manager for Lamps Plus, has worked in IT for more than 25 years. He describes their current hardware and software setup: “We use Manhattan Associates’ Warehouse Management System (WMS) software, and we’re moving towards their Distribution Management suite. One of our primary goals was to automate nightly processes across both the IBM i platform and our order management system, which is on an AIX platform. For hardware, we have two partitioned IBM i 720 systems: a production system in Chatsworth, CA, and our warehouse and disaster recovery system about 95 miles away.”
Aiming for Complete Automation
John’s goal for Lamps Plus was to automate their evening shift, including cross-platform processing. The point-of-sale (POS) system uses Windows servers and order management uses AIX, but warehouse, financials, and all of their production processing happens on IBM i. So, they use Fortra workload automation and job scheduling software on the Windows servers to alert them when store sales arrive; and they automatically send these files via FTP to the IBM i platform for processing.
As John explains, “We used Fortra products to automate, to reduce overtime, and to monitor the QSYSOPR message queue. The software notifies for both job monitors and message escalation—if a message comes up for a job, somebody knows about it. You don’t want to arrive in the morning, have no alerts or errors, and think everything is fine. Then you find out the reason there were no errors is because nothing ran. The checks and balances in our automated process notify us if something goes wrong, or if something doesn’t run by a certain time.”
Lamps Plus uses an enterprise job scheduling tool from Fortra to take advantage of both enterprise scheduling and cross-system reactivity.
John explains, “We run processes across multiple systems each night automatically. During the nightly process, multiple jobs in the software react to file events and control over one hundred other agents, legacy RPG, WMS, and FTP processes. We use the tool’s date objects and scripting language for operators, as well as the tool’s built-in FTP process. Before, this was a manual process that took hours.
“Now, everything runs in reaction to POS file arrivals. So, even if they arrive a bit late due to heavy online orders, the process still runs in sequence and fully automated. I get status updates when things run and special alerts when they don’t. With automation, Sunday actually becomes a day off, the night shift is unmanned, and the operators only have to work at night if there are errors.”
As for our return on investment (ROI), comparing the six months after we started using the Fortra solution to the six months prior, we reduced overtime by 36 percent—not to mention fewer errors and a better quality of life.
John Dunn, IT Operations Manager, Lamps Plus
Training and Future Goals
John was really impressed with the support they received from Fortra. “I’ve been getting my training from the Fortra support team. I’d never used Fortra job scheduling software before, but I’ve dealt with other scheduling tools and automation, so the concepts weren’t foreign.
“The Fortra support team showed me how to use the products and offered some incredible ideas. They’d often say, ‘Have you thought about trying this?’ I mean, the first couple of months I was in awe. It was like, ‘Wow, this software has a lot more bells and whistles than any other software tool I’ve used.’ In fact, there were so many, I didn’t even know which questions to ask.
“We looked at Fortra enterprise job scheduling software because we wanted to manage all of our systems from a single application. I didn’t want to use multiple schedulers—a Windows scheduler, cron on AIX, and another scheduler on IBM i—have everything time-based, and hope it all comes together. Our Fortra software is perfect because I have Windows jobs, AIX jobs, and IBM i jobs reacting to each other.”
A Great ROI with Fortra
John is also excited about the immediate payoff of their automation efforts. “As for our return on investment (ROI), comparing the six months after we started using the Fortra solution to the six months prior, we reduced overtime by 36 percent—not to mention fewer errors and a better quality of life. Once we’re completely automated, I think we’ll see some real big reductions in errors and overtime.”
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