Software // Information Management
News
6/20/2005
03:43 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Of Barbeques and Business Process Management

Did you enjoy last weekend's barbeque? You probably didn't give much thought to the business of getting that gas from the ground into the tank you picked up at the home center, but it's quite a process.

Did you enjoy last weekend's barbeque? You probably didn't give much thought to the business of getting that gas from the ground into the tank you picked up at the home center, but it's quite a process. Gas distributor Blue Rhino is now using business process management (BPM) software to make it a controlled, compliant and more cost-effective proposition.

Blue Rhino launched its BPM-managed process back in March 2004. Built on Metastorm's eWork platform, the inventory transfer process tracks monthly shipments of full gas tanks, inventories on hand and returns of empty tanks among the company's 200 distributor locations. The process previously involved a hodgepodge of inconsistent Excel spreadsheets and faxes, and the inventory manager had to make countless follow-up telephone calls to reconcile the information.

"With the old process, it usually took two weeks to close inventories each month because there were always data errors and discrepancies," says Keith Reichard, Blue Rhino's systems integration manager.

The new process is accessible to everyone through an intranet, and the company's SQL-based inventory tracking system is continuously updated as inbound and outbound shipments are logged in at distributor locations. Field personnel benefit because there's a simple interface in place of paperwork, and the system also prints out required bills of lading for each shipment that previously had to be prepared by hand.

"Now we give the distributors a two-day deadline for reporting at the end of the month, and it takes half a day to reconcile once we have the final numbers," Reichard says.

As a public company, Blue Rhino has also relied on BPM to support Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. For example, it launched an application change control process last summer that tracks why, how and when changes are made to the company's information systems. Most importantly, there are time stamps and tracking of all user requests, actions and approvals. "No task is completed unless it follows the proper approval workflow," Reichard says.

Blue Rhino is currently rolling out a production planning process to nine regional facilities where tanks are filled, reconditioned and refilled. The process tracks data such as employee hours, overtime hours and production per employee and per shift. Once all nine facilities are using the process, the company will have its finger on the pulse of every production facility, and the goal will be to drive the production cost per cylinder downward.

"The vice president of production will be able to run reports comparing and contrasting what happened in each plant," says Teddy Doohan, Blue Rhino's BPM developer.

For now, available intelligence is served up through a "gigantic HTML report" that can be run at any time, says Doohan. "We've never tracked some of these numbers before, so we're trying to figure out where we need to provide detailed analysis."

If only Blue Rhino could add a report for its consumers so they'd know when their barbeques are about to run out of gas.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Agile Archive
The Agile Archive
When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at InformationWeek.com.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.