While the transportation industry has been slow to catch up to other industries in adopting the latest technologies, those first steps toward a web-based footprint are full of difficult choices, especially considering the differences in a business’ current operational structure leading up to the transition.
Perhaps a company wants to flood resources into an in-house development team to build proprietary solutions or use those funds to outsource and partner with vetted solutions that have gained industry credibility. Even if the company already has an IT department or a small team of developers with some coding capabilities, the latest and greatest programming languages change every few years — posing an overwhelming challenge to maintain the team’s professional development.
Model-based low-code or drag-and-drop development platforms are available for amateur or “citizen” programmers who may know little to nothing about coding but are experts in their industry segment and can use this deep insight to design an application to improve the business’ current processes. However attractive this approach, there are several problems with it.
A growth in citizen programmers could open security breaches and strain IT departments. Also, while some simple applications thrive using low-code programming, should a company need a more complex and flexible solution, it falls short and a more complex coding language is required to create a custom solution. This forfeits the time saved and money spent on the low-code solution, causing one to ask: Where is the happy medium?
Only recently, a Washington-based intermodal drayage company, Eagle Systems Inc. (ESI), was using a paper-based dispatch system. The only way for anyone to access information on each load, whether its schedule, destination, driver or status, was to walk into the dispatch terminal and look at the board.
To improve the efficiency and capacity of the dispatch function, ESI wanted to replace the manual system with a graphical drag-and-drop Windows solution that integrated with its Synon 2E iSeries application. While it considered using Java, as well as the 2E follow-on product Coolplex, it landed on Visual LANSA due to its graphical interface, drag-and-drop capability and iSeries integration.
“Our decision to use Visual LANSA Framework saved us a lot of time, especially considering we are new to large Windows-based projects,” said Larry Ronhovde, president of ESI. “The framework acts like an on-site mentor who helps get things done the right way the first time. It gave us a head start on proper coding techniques and standards, instead of starting with a blank page. We can rapidly create intuitive systems that are easy to maintain.”
Visual LANSA — a language-based low-code solution — combines the flexibility and control of traditional programming with the benefits of low-code solutions. One could actually make the case that it’s the best of both worlds — the first enterprise-ready hybrid low-code solution for professional developers interested in creating desktop or web applications.
Ronhovde’s team was able to develop a Windows-based dispatch system called eDray, which directly integrates with the iSeries database of its central Synon 2E logistics and billing system. Believe it or not, the upgraded Windows-based interface mimicked the card-based manual system with containers represented by colored boxes that can be dragged from one location to another.
“The new interface retains all the benefits and flexibility of the manual T-card system, but is more accurate and the information can be accessed electronically. It also eliminates the need to enter data manually into the billing system,” says Chreston Knutson, director of information systems at ESI.
It just took one trained LANSA developer, all the tools the developer will ever need in one IDE and nine months to implement the eDray system at ESI — a system that only needs one developer to be maintained. Without having to worry about the base decisions and coding requirements, ESI’s team could focus on the framework’s default settings for security, forms design and message handling, which saved them a significant amount of time.
Last year, Visual LANSA launched a free online learning platform on which developers can quickly learn the fundamentals of Visual LANSA and receive the necessary online mentoring for their unique enterprise application. To read more about this offering, go to https://learn.lansa.com.
For three decades, LANSA has empowered IT departments and technical teams to build solutions that meet the needs of their businesses. From custom portals to highly flexible modernization projects that can be deployed on the IBM i, Windows server or key cloud platforms like AWS and Azure – its tools give IT the power to enable developers, ops teams and cross-functional groups to get business done faster and cheaper.