Winning PHP App Pops IBM i Precepts
April 6, 2015 Alex Woodie
IBM i is often portrayed as out-of-date platform for running ancient applications long since placed into maintenance mode. If you want real innovation, the mainstream thinking goes, you’d best look to more “modern” platforms. But if the award that two European companies recently won for a PHP-based logistics application is any indication, that preconception deserves to be popped, posthaste.
In late March, Proximity and Scandinavian House took home the SHD Logistics Award 2015 in the Innovation Technology category. The award was granted for STREAM, the PHP-based application that Proximity developed to provide order, delivery, and transportation management capabilities.
Scandinavian House, a UK distributor of high-end furniture for children, was one of the first companies to adopt STREAM. The company had been struggling with its previous business software and processes, which relied on Sage accounting software and an array of productivity tools running on the desktop and the Web. Integrating the different applications became troublesome, and employees had no real-time insight into inventory. As Scandinavian House’s business grew, so did the troubles.
The company looked to Proximity, which has developed and implemented IBM i-based supply chain solutions for some of Europe’s biggest logistics firms, including DB Schenker, Gebruder Weiss, and Kuehne + Nagel. Three years ago, it spotted a gap in the supply chain software market and decided to fill it with STREAMS. The company knew how powerful the IBM i platform was, so it selected the best architectural components it could find, including PHP, RPG, DB2, Zend Server middleware, and BCD Software‘s reporting tools, and started to build.
Today, STREAM features Web and mobile interfaces, including iOS and Android apps that offer driver an array of powerful capabilities, including GPS integration, signature capture, camera integration, and routing via MapQuest. The application itself can run either on premise or in the cloud, and users can customize the look and feel to match their own branding.
Users can access real-time information about the location of drivers, or pull up historical details about them. Partners and customers can enter, view and manage their own orders through the portal, while email notifications keep everybody in the loop regarding completed and missed deliveries.
The software features can integrate with ERP applications like Sage, avoiding duplication of entry. It also features close integration with IBM i-based ERP systems, particularly Infor ERP LX (BPCS), which Proximity is quite familiar with. Customers can go to the Web-based STREAM portal to answer their own questions about orders and pending deliveries.
Following the deployment of STREAM, Scandinavian House has seen measureable improvements in the efficiency, accuracy and productivity of its operations. Specifically, the company reports having a 60 percent reduction in call volumes cost following the implementation of STREAM, owing to the customer self-service capabilities of the STREAM portal.
“STREAM has become an integral part of our business, enabling us to expand capacity significantly and operate more efficiently,” says Anne Ridgway, a Scandinavian House director. “It has given us the ability to be in complete control of customer orders and ultimately provide a much better customer service.”
“We were working to full capacity, we can now manage three times the volume of orders,” says Martin Greenway, logistics manager for Scandinavian House.
Winning the SHD Logistics Award 2015 validates the bet that Proximity made three years ago to deliver STREAM on IBM i, says the company’s managing director, Dave Pickburn. “The application shows just how flexible, powerful and open the IBM i can be for developing highly innovative and modern software applications,” he says.
In addition to STREAM, Proximity developed Brightpearl, a multi-channel ecommerce solution for retailers and distributors that is closely integrated with STREAM. Both of the applications are available in the U.S.