InterForm400 at AGCO
AGCO, one of the world's largest manufacturers, designers, and distributors of agricultural equipment had recently moved from a mainframe environment to an IBM System i one. They needed a solution to speed up their print management when running across Europe.
The speed of their original application although fine for the UK was too slow when extended out across Europe. This meant that the European operations could not operate to the same standards as the UK.
AGCO needed a print workflow application which would run on the IBM System i without any requirement for re-programming their print applications. The application would need to produce forms overlays which are transparent to the end user. There were also other considerations to take into account as AGCO had no need or budget to replace their existing infrastructure such as the Lan/Wan Networks and attached PCL printers.
Formatted print would require the ability to be sent as email attachments, it was also necessary to include an archiving tool in order to ensure older documents could be reprinted in their original form if required. All this together with the need for an application which would run at comparable speeds across the UK and Europe meant AGCO had their work cut out investigating different solutions.
Peter Graham, Technical development Project Manager for AGCO said:
“Although we knew it would take some time to investigate a number of solutions it was very important to us that we selected not only a product to fulfil our current requirements but also one that we could expand if the need arose at a later stage. We are committed to moving forward with only the very best product and not a quick fix solution.”
AGCO investigated a number of alternative solutions, all of which performed adequately but lacked, in one way or another, the ability to future proof against changing business requirements. One solution worked as a centralised print application but was not flexible enough for local print solutions. Another could successfully handle locally attached printers and produced the PDF documents for archiving and email but lacked functionality when outputting to remote locations and re-directing prints to other printers, it also worked only with postscript printers that were IP attached. The third solution needed to run on a separate LPAR with a windows Print Server again this solution provided good functionality for a local environment but users found it difficult to re-direct prints and all printers needed to be connected to the Server, requiring Postscript IP attached printers.
AGCO started discussions with SpaceTec a leading supplier of IBM System i products and services. SpaceTec supply a number of integrating products for the IBM System i designed for Print, Fax and Email Management. SpaceTec provided AGCO with a trial of the InterForm400 software. InterForm400 handles the entire print workflow of an IBM System i without any requirement for re-programming print applications. Forms are automatically selected based on print data or spool attributes, and distributed to any PCL5 compatible printer in their network. Interform400 also offers the ability to create the documents in PDF format and includes a zip feature so these documents can be emailed to external users.
In order for AGCO to ensure the software matched all their specifications they ran the trial for 2 months.
“We found that Interform400 fitted all our requirements and offered additional benefits. The main reasons for AGCO choosing InterForm400 is because of the following functionality.” Comments Peter.
Existing spool files could be mapped requiring no change to the applications.
All software is centrally stored on the AS400, did not require a PC client.
PCL viewer on the AS400 allows the developer to check as he is designing.
Spoolfile edit facility, no coding necessary to create or change spool file.
Can use PCL printers, with AS/400 output connected via SNA or IP.
Merges the spoolfile automatically with the form overlay with the AFC function.
No loss of visibility from the AS400, viewed as a merged or an unmerged spool file.
Acceptable print speed to remote printers.
AGCO made the decision to move forward with the InterForm400 product at the end of the 2 month trial. AGCO have used two days training provided by SpaceTec for 3 developers, one day for the AFC and PDF functions and the second for the ZPL Zebra print tools. At the end of both of these days they were able to develop the applications. Some training was given to remote IT operations, in restarting prints if they have a printer problem, other than that the end users did not require any training and as a whole are unaware of any difference to the applications as there have been no changes to the look and feel of the forms.
Interform400 is used on a daily basis – currently they have approx 30 forms which have gone live, a number of forms are in development including the new ZPL applications. AGCO have made the decision to convert existing forms only when they or the application require modification. All new forms and applications are designed so that all of InterForm400 features can be utilised.
Once AGCO was running with InterForm400 they were then able to investigate some of the additional functionality offered by this product. Including the email facility which is soon to be migrated through InterForm400. AGCO were interested in the ZPL printing functionality and took a days training with SpaceTec to learn more about this option. Since then they have started to use the ZPL print option to produce warehouse labels.
“ Deployment of InterForm400 has been a very easy and painless procedure for us. We selected the product for its abilities to meet our requirements now and in the future. We were very pleased at the ease with which we could produce the warehouse labels using the ZPL print option."
SpaceTec and AGCO have formed a very good relationship. Any problems or questions have been handled promptly, the facility to send and receive data (spool files, designs, PTFs) via e-mail to be downloaded to the AS400 is very useful.” Says Peter.
AGCO Corporation, headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, is a global designer, manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and related replacement parts. AGCO products are distributed in more than 140 countries. AGCO offers a full product line including tractors, combines, hay tools, sprayers, forage, tillage equipment and implements through more than 8900 independent dealers and distributors around the world. AGCO products are distributed under the brand names AGCO, Agco Allis, AgcoStar, Challenger, Farmhand, Fendt, Fieldstar, Gleaner, Glencoe, Hesston, LOR*AL, Massey Ferguson, New Idea, RoGator, SisuDiesel, Soilteq, Spra Coupe, Sunflower, TerraGator, Tye, Valtra, White, and Willmar.