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A twenty year old company that retails white water rafting equipment and supplies through direct mail marketing, developed information systems from hand-held paper orders. Their new system involves inventory control, purchasing and receiving, and interfaces with order entry and other sub-modules. This article focuses on time savings in the inventory receiving process.
Northwest River Supplies, NRS, was rounded in the early 1970's. The primary objective of the company is to provide white water rafting equipment and supplies to white water enthusiasts through the direct marketing channel known as "mail order." During the early years at NRS, all of the paperwork was processed by hand. As the volume of orders increased, an outside contractor was hired to computerize some of the manual workload. The "System" evolved from its initial design in PL/I on mainframe hardware available from the outside vendor, to compiled BASIC on a single, inhouse PC, to its present state as a CLIPPER compiled database system running on a Novel network with eighteen terminals.
NRS has made minor modifications and additions to the system to handie increased work loads and unexpected needs. Due to continual increases in sales, the demands placed on the inventory system have outgrown the capabilities of the system's design. As such NRS's current microcomputer based inventory system has become dated and a decision was made to redesign it. This decision was based on three major points. First, management desires a system that is able to efficiently handle the current purchasing and receiving volume; second, management wants to reduce daily labor in the inventory control team by at least eight hours; and third, management wishes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the inventory module with an overall goal of reducing inventory levels.
During the preliminary design stage several specific problem areas were identifled. These include:
Excessive inventory levels
Excessive back order levels
Insufficient integration in existing inventory modules
Too many manual steps & procedure in the overall inventory process
Insufficient information being captured to drive a more complete system
The redesign of the system essentially began in September 1990. A decision was made to enhance part of the customer database to capture more information about two of N'RS's customer groups -- Outfitters and Wholesalers. This request for some minor changes turned into a nine month systems change that encompassed the customer database and the order/entry system with its associated databases. This pan of the systems change has since been called Phase I. Throughout the development of Phase I, many-parts of the existing system were identified as needing modification as were areas where automation would benefit.
ANALYSIS AND DESIGN
Phase II analysis and design did not follow the classical systems development life cycle outlined in most systems textbooks. Instead, a "prototyping" development life cycle, or an "evolutionary development" approach similar to the methodology described …