Furniture maker embraces rapid apps

Sklar Peppler’s customers and partners were waiting for a paper report to come in the mail, or calling into the furniture manufacturer, everytime they wanted to find information about their orders or business. Margret Allen knew the company had to get with the times.

Allen, IT manager for Whitby, Ont.-based Sklar Peppler, said the company had always prided itself on being the number one furniture company in Canada, and wanted to be number one with technology too.

“We don’t want to be lagging behind,” she said. Sklar Peppler was using an AS/400 system to find information on orders and B2B (business to business) information. They would send out a paper report to customers and partners once a week outlining project and product status, but Allen said people did not necessarily want to wait to get their information that way and were calling the customer service people asking for regular updates.

Instead, Allen wanted a way for them to just go to the Web and check for themelves. Enter Irvine, Calif.-based Magic Software Enterprises and their eDeveloper tool. Lee Sutton, a systems enigineer in charge of Sklar Peppler for Magic, said the eDeveloper platform is a business rules development environment.

Sutton and his team used eDeveloper to build Skalr Peppler a Web-based reporting extranet in three weeks. Allen said they wanted the extranet to be used by sales reps and customers as a tool to access information instead of calling customer service.

Allen originally rolled out a green screen version of an extranet through a VPN to the AS/400 to sales reps, but she said people who regularly use Windows interfaces don’t really get green screen stuff. The Magic Software solution was easy to create in a Windows-type GUI.

“(Magic Software) did a demo right away online and took our data files and showed us how quickly there could be a page for people to use,” she said.

eDeveloper is an application development environment that allows the rapid creation and customization of large-scale and complex distributed applications. In eDeveloper, complete application functionality – including data structures, business rules, program logic and presentation – is developed entirely in a table-driven, point-and-click programming environment. There is never any need for coding or proprietary script.

Sutton said because it is an integrated environment, the technology will marry easily with others. “We don’t want to compete with what you’ve already got.” He said from his Montreal office.

Allen said the three week project time was great in terms of having something tangible, quickly, but it did not allow for a lot of training. She is learning as she goes. “I knew how to do it the old way. Now how do I do that with this language?”

She is in the process of going back and changing some of the basic things to make it better for Sklar Peppler. Although, she is the only user right now, the employees who have tried the system out have liked it. The complete roll out should happen soon.