Plus Systems Logo Newsletter 1999-07       Go Back
October 26, 1999

  • Y2K Loose Ends

We've recently completed the first IDW (Industry Data Warehouse) interface program. This is program IN/721. What it does is take the EDI 832 product information records that you'd receive from IDW and reformat them into the Trade Service PFMS format. You would then use your same IN/421 and 521 programs for updating your item file and Trade Service price reference file, respectively. This program is a standard enhancement available to all users.

The other part of IDW is a separately charged, optional module for housing the IDW warehouse itself on a dedicated SQL server. We will be putting together a flyer on this as soon as everything is in place. We will basically be packaging the various third party components needed for IDW.

As of the beginning of October, there were reportedly only about 15,000 items with full information on them in IDW. It would appear that some of the manufacturers have been sidetracked by Y2K and other issues. Trade Service is helping to populate the IDW database by temporarily donating the information they have on over 800,000 electrical items. However, since this is primarily the same data that's already available in PFMS for $300 or so per month, it seems a bit questionable to jump into the SQL Server environment right now.

We've also completed a new series of reports for helping you analyze your price matrix. Most of our users realized major improvements in gross margin percentages after they automated pricing with the POWER Plus system. However, after a number of years, it may be time for some of our users to re-assess where they're at with their price matrix. To assist in this effort, we've created the following:
  • A new report program that sorts down items within product price class (and optionally by branch), showing those with the most activity ("A" items) first, just like on the ABC Report. A popular way of categorizing items for discounting is based on their popularity. However, you may have items that were hot sellers several years ago that are no longer popular and vice versa. This report is intended to make it easier to find such items and determine whether items should be reclassified into a different price class.

  • Another way to fine tune the price matrix is to adjust the multipliers in the cells. The second report we've developed totals up sales, gross profit, demand and hits by customer price class by product price class. In other words, it is not showing individual customers or items. Rather, it's giving you the totals for each product price class within a given customer price class. For example, you may find that you have a cell in your matrix with a very high discount that is not justified by the level of activity in that cell. This report should help you find such situations.

  • The third program we've developed helps you analyze the customer activity within a given price class. In other words, just as there are some items that should be reclassified into a new price class, there are probably some customers who should also be reclassified into a different customer price class.

Each of the above programs allows you to select individual customer and/or product price classes. This enables you to tackle one project, a product line or customer category at a time. The reports also show you the description of the price matrix cell, as well as it's column and multiplier values. This should reduce the need to switch back and forth from the report to your screen.

Lastly but not least we are also offering consulting services to help analyze your pricing structures. Often times, places talk about revamping the price matrix, but find it hard to dedicate enough time or find the ability to focus on the task. If you want us to come in and just concentrate on this for a few days, we probably should be able to find a g.p. point or so.

Y2K Loose Ends:

  • We've been asked whether WFL/SYS/SCHEDULER, the automated end of day, end of month job streamer, is Y2K compliant. The answer is yes, it already was. We advanced our system date to 12/31/99 and then to mid-January 2000, and the SCHEDULER ran fine both nights.

  • The Fax Module programs had not been made Y2K compliant by Advent. We just recently went through and did this, and again tested with our system advanced to the year 2000. This fix is not available in patch form. Part of the task involved changing these programs to use the standard copy libraries. In the process, we also removed govs of superfluous code from these programs. We will send out tapes of the new version of the fax programs. Any existing patch files would need to be merged in to these new versions. Also, if you have not already combined the OCDB database into the PLUSDB database, this would be the time to do so. This step will simplify your database backups, etc. It is also necessary for future releases of POWER Plus. If you need help installing the new fax programs or combining your OCDB and PLUSDB databases, please contact us.

  • Execusense. Y2K compliant. We'll e-mail you the patches so you can check to make sure they are installed on your system.

  • Paperless Warehouse. Minor patches will be e-mailed. Should be easy to install.

We've recently learned how to install and use the Infoaccess ODBC link that's provided with most Clear/Paths. ODBC stands for Open Data Base Connectivity, and is a Microsoft standard.

This link allows you to easily import data from the PLUS database into Excel, Access and other ODBC compliant PC software (such as Crystal Reports, Goldmine, etc.). It's really pretty neat. And, whereas historically there's only been one or two people at a site that knew IMPULSE, a lot of people are comfortable with Excel, for example.

Another feature of Infoaccess is the ability to do standalone SQL commands (don't have to be in Excel, etc.) SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It's an IBM standard that has some similarities to DMS/INQUIRY or ERGO. From our experience, it appears to be a very feasible alternative to DMINQ or ERGO. Like it's Unisys counterparts, SQL allows you to examine the contents of a selected record, do updates (for quick fixes) as well as report.

BJ Electric and Hornung Pro Golf are using Infoaccess ODBC. You have to use a TCP/IP connection to your PC for Infoaccess to work. Let's repeat that so that everyone is clear: you have to use a TCP/IP connection. Regular poll/select will not do.

Please contact us if you'd like us to come in and set up ODBC and show you how to use it in real life situations.

Springfield Electric recently began processing orders electronically from Caterpillar. It's like EDI, but a goofier format. The data is reformatted and processed through the standard Batch Order Entry program that's part of the POWER Plus system.

With all the revisions to area codes going on, don't forget you have a couple of utility programs for mass changing of area codes. These are run with WFL/FM/UPDATE/AREACODES and WFL/FM/UPDATE/AREACODES/OCDB (for the fax datasets). You give it parameters telling it the range of prefixes within an area code to change to a new area code. Saves a lot of maintenance time and protects against missing some. Lincoln Patrick at Brock-McVey said it saved him a bunch of time when a big chunk of Kentucky recently changed.