TENAQUIP Accelerates with StarJet
TENAQUIP Established in 1968, Tenaquip became the first company in Canada to distribute industrial product through a catalogue. Thirty years later Tenaquip continue to be a leader in the Canadian industrial marketplace. More than 110,000 products are available, from abrasives to bug zappers. Today, Tenaquip boasts more than 10,000 loyal customers … and the list keeps growing! Tenaquip uses an ERP solution designed for the distribution industry called Sx.enterprise, manufactured by NxTrend. NxTrend is a company that creates market-leading enterprise-wide software solutions for supply-chain management. Their technology was created by wholesale distributors for wholesale distributors. Sx.enterprise is the NxTrend application that Tenaquip uses to automate the mission-critical functions within the supply chain. It includes financial, logistics, inventory, sales management, and business-critical applications that make communications and information flow among suppliers, customers, and vendors efficient and productive. Situation Tenaquip wanted a more full-featured solution, and sought out Binatek, which offered StarJet as a solution. Binatek, Inc is an APPIC Authorized Distributor in North America, one of many worldwide. Binatek provides with document solution sales & support and is located in Montreal, Canada. Normand Brault, Information Technology Manager at Tenaquip, initially visited Binatek looking for a cheque solution. Normand knew about electronic document solutions and the cost savings that they provided over traditional pre-printed forms. However, he required a secure solution – these were cheques he wanted to produce, after all. As discussions between Normand & Binatek progressed, the opportunity to not only image the complete cheque on blank security paper was presented, but to replace all of the pre-printed documents that NxTrend outputs! There was also an opportunity to automate the folding of printed documents and the insertion into envelopes. Finally, the ability to distribute documents via fax & e-mail were also benefits of electronic document management. Normand searched for a document solution that would allow Tenaquip to control & design their own documents. However, « Tenaquip is a distributor, not a software company. » Normand Brault wants solutions that are flexible, powerful, but also easy to use. A provider is allied with NxTrend and it designs the documents for its customer according to their specifications. This incurs a fee if the document is ever changed. The resulting form sits in a flash memory module installed on a printer.With StarJet, the document design is on the server, and any modern laser printer can be used, regardless of make or model, without flash memory or drivers! Instead of running on Windows only, unlike StarJet, which sits on a UNIX or Windows server and is invoked by the NxTrend application automatically behind the scenes. Normand considered two competiting products. However, both of them were Windows-based only. Printer drivers are also involved, so the printing process is slower. On the network, the transfer from such solutions to the printer takes a lot of bandwidth, unlike StarJet, which sends small, optimized-PCL print jobs to the printer. Logo sizes due to use of bit-maps is quite large. The competitor must reprocess each copy of data and form each time multiple copies are desired. If a user needs to change something on the form (for example, telephone number) — and they are lucky if the change is in only one form — the user must change and recompile because they are in binary code (machine code). StarJet stores its document definitions in plain-text ASCII so that changes can be made on the fly.
- StarJet-Design, the document design application, was installed on the document designer’s PC. It allows users to create document designs quickly, easily & graphically.
- StarPage, the document production application, was installed on the NxTrend’s Unix computer so that NxTrend automatic invokes it for seamless production of documents to a laser printer or PDF documents. StarPage produces the lines, boxes, shading, graphics, barcodes, etc – in short, the entire document can be imaged on to paper.
- StarCheck, the secure signature & MICR font application, was installed on the financial supervisor’s PC. Upon insertion of a SmartCard into a reader, this Windows application securely uploads MICR font into volatile printer memory, for use by StarPage. When the cheques are finished printing, the signatures & MICR font are removed.
- The Formax FD630 folder-inserter machine with OMR. This post-printing equipment folds & inserts documents into envelopes, and with optical marking of documents via StarPage, the OMR option allows selective insertion of other documents along with the original document.
Installation Normand indicated that it was his experience that most software solutions require tweaking or workarounds to get them functioning properly. He was pleasantly surprised with StarPage’s installation on Unix and connecting it to NxTrend. Normand: « It was surprising that there were no modifications required to make it work. » StarJet-Design was a simple installation on Windows, as was StarCheck. StarPage was easily installed on Unix. Total time to install, including connecting StarPage to NxTrend: 45 minutes. How is NxTrend Connected to StarJet ?
This window is the printer definition that connects NxTrend to StarPage. A printer was defined in NxTrend, but instead of pointing it at a printer, it was set to invoke a Unix shell « tenchq.sh » script which runs the StarPage command with the document design and the output from NxTrend Supported printers Tenaquip currently uses standard HP laser printers (2100, 4000, 4050, 4100) with StarJet. StarJet can work with any laser printer that supports at least PCL version 5 – which most printers use today – regardless of make. This is because StarJet does not use printer drivers, but sends optimized PCL itself to the printer, providing real printing performance, and less maintenance ! How easy was designing the Documents ? For most documents, designing graphically with StarJet is as easy as 1-2-3. One, design the form. Two, map data from a sample data file to the form – just drag & drop. Third, add any simple conditional logic – for example, print « credit note » instead of « invoice » if the total is negative. What Types of Documents were Designed & Now Produced ?
|Type of Document|
Printed per month
Faxed per month
Emailed per month
|Cheques (8 types, including Canadian & US)|
|Packing Slips (with barcode)|
|Quotes & Acknowledgements|
These documents are output by NxTrend and processed automatically by StarJet. What about More Sophisticated Document Needs ? If a user has requirements that cannot be addressed by the graphic user interface, then StarJet also provides a simple, powerful programming language to meet those user requirements. At first, Chris Hamilton began to create document designs for each of the Tenaquip documents. However, he noticed that many of the Tenaquip documents had the same design elements, so he cleverly combined all six types of documents into one single document design! Using conditional logic, his design detects the type of data that is being processed, and output the correct elements of the document! Granted, his design was more sophisticated that the average user, but Chris marvelled that the design had no impact on performance. Chris Hamilton: « Anybody with minimal experience with programming will have no problem [if they use the StarJet programming language]. » How Easy were Barcodes Implemented ? Tenaquip’s Chris Hamilton was quite pleased to be able to « use [barcodes] with any printer » on packing slips. Unlike other document solutions, StarJet does not require any special printer memory modules or options to include barcodes or special fonts or graphics. This is because not only does it permit use of printer-resident fonts, but StarJet can also upload fonts, graphics, & barcodes to printer memory for a print job. Tenaquip took full advantage of this functionality by purchasing a barcode font, using StarJet-Design to design their documents with the barcodes, and then StarPage uploads the barcode font as part of the print job. This converts any supported laser printer into a barcode printer! And the barcodes are only uploaded once per print job – not per each document! How were Fax & Email Implemented ? Tenaquip has taken StarJet output and used it with Unix-based fax server software to be able to send their documents via fax. The beauty of StarJet is that the faxed & emailed documents look the same as the printed document, yet the entire process is completely automated! Tenaquip has now automated 100% of purchase orders via fax. Tenaquip has not yet communicated the ability to receive emailed documents to its clients & suppliers, although a few documents are e-mailed. How was Secure Printing of Cheques Implemented ? StarJet allows Tenaquip to produce 8 different types of cheques on the same completely blank security paper, including both CAD & USD cheques. The StarCheck application contains encrypted signatures & a MICR font that is found at the bottom of cheques. When cheques are ready to be printed, the financial supervisor inserts their SmartCard into a small reader that is attached to their PC – the same PC where StarCheck is installed. StarCheck uploads the signatures & font to printer memory, and then the cheques are securely printed – fully encoded & signed! The signatures could have been printed – or not printed – according to some logic, such as not signing cheques over a certain value. At the end of the cheque printing, the financial supervisor clicks a button to remove the signatures & fonts from printer memory. How was the Folder-Inserter with OMR Implemented ? Before the folder-inserter appeared at Tenaquip, staff manually folded & inserted the thousands of documents that were produced daily, spending 10 man-hours each day across the company, just to fold & insert the 1500 invoice produced daily. The folder-inserter’s appearance at Tenaquip HQ prompted the company to consolidate folding & inserting there. The folder-inserter reduced the 10 man-hours to just an incredible 30 minutes of operator time! Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) is also used by Tenaquip to selectively insert English & French glossy marketing material with the statements into envelopes. StarJet marks the invoices with small black bars that the folder-inserter can recognize, based on the language preference in the NxTrend output. Tenaquip uses OMR to mark the invoices according to the language preference of its customers. The invoices are then loaded into the first tray of the folder-inserter, and English & French glossy marketing sheets are loaded into the second & third trays. The folder-inserter inserts one of the marketing sheets with the correct language into the envelope along with the invoice and seals it! Tenaquip is considering using OMR for regional insertion of material. The Conclusion How has StarJet impacted Tenaquip ? According to Normand, StarJet paid for itself within a year, based on reduction of paper costs alone. Printing on plain white paper eliminated printed forms for Tenaquip! This is one of the major paybacks of StarJet. The ability to fax & e-mail has also provided major payback for Tenaquip in terms of eliminating handling, paper & postage costs of purchase orders, as well as speeding up delivery. Changes to documents are quickly implemented without the traditional loss of pre-printed forms made obsolete by the change. For example, the changing of a telephone number that appears on all documents did not result in the trashing of the now-obsolete pre-printed forms How has the Folder-Inserter with OMR impacted Tenaquip ? According to Normand, the folder-inserter paid for itself within a year, based on the daily reduction of 10 man-hours to 30 equipment-minutes! Normand is also considering a higher-capacity folder-inserter for Tenaquip! The Final Word During the interview for this success story, Normand summed it up best: « We really use any product to its fullest. The performance [of StarJet] is there » « StarPage is way too easy. It just works. » Special Thank You to Normand Brault and Chris Hamilton from Tenaquip who accepted to give us a chance to build this case study, and to Phil van Schijndel from Binatek who wrote this document.