ADES provides importers to enter the details of their Authorization Documents (inspection orders) via an Internet-based system.
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The Foreign Trade Standards (FTS) division of the client helps government bodies, and customs departments to check that import duty is properly declared and paid, and that imports comply with their safety and other standard.
The FTS division has full access to all the resources Of the clients group, which operates in 94 countries directly and in a further 16 countries through agents. FTS has 9500 employees and about 7000 subcontractor specialists, working in 243 laboratories and 479 offices around the world. Based on the Internet-based Status Information System the client’s Foreign Trade Standards (FTS) division that was developed, there was a new requirement to provide a facility for importers to enter the details Of their Authorization Documents (inspection orders) via an Internet-based document management system.
Internally, the the FTS division had developed business application, running on an Oracle 7 database on Compaq servers using the SCO OpenServer V Unix operating system, which provided all of the elements of functionality required for their Pre -Shipment Inspection (PSI) business. The intention was to allow importers to alter the details of their documents via an Internet-based facility, which then populates the internal databases.
FTS performs its Pre -Shipment Inspection (PSI) service on behalf of 11 Governments. For each, country or Liaison Office, providing a point of reception of the Authorization Documents (AD), interface to both importers and the client government, and production of the final certificate used for the clearance of goods.
Supporting these 11 offices are a further 20 Issuing offices worldwide, where the activities Of physical inspection, pricing and coding, documentary analysis are performed or controlled.
One Liaison Office will deal with many Issuing Offices, one Issuing Office will deal with many Liaison Offices. There was little or no interaction between Liaison Offices, and not much more between the Issuing Offices.
The FTS Pre -Shipment Inspection (PSI) system encompasses such functional elements as data entry, physical inspection co-ordination, pricing and coding, certificate production, data interchange, report production and invoicing.
The process always starts with the receipt in the Liaison Office of a series of documents, generically called the Authorization Documents (AD), which include the inspection order form and normally a copy of the exporters pro forma invoice. The inspection order form can be a form dictated by the client or a form which client themselves have designed.
Upon receipt, the AD sets of documents are visually checked for completeness, before being used as data entry forms from which data is keyed into the Liaison Office system. The AD entry programs perform numerous checks on the data as it is entered, and automatically assign a unique reference to the transaction, the REI number, which is used as the primary means of accessing both data and documents thereafter.
Once AD entry is complete, this data will be extracted and sent to the relevant Issuing Office, where the physical inspection and pricing activities take place. Each FTS PSI office, whether Liaison or Issuing, operates its own implementation of the business application. There is no WAN, and access to each office when required for support purposes, is performed via dial-up connection. Data, including status information, is moved from office to office by first extracting it from a local database into ASCII files, attaching these ASCII files to an e -mail message, sending to the receiving office, which upon receipt, loads the data into their version of the database.
Some of the challenges, which the ADES system proposed to address, are as follows:
To provide a secure Internet-based Authorization Document Entry facility for importers and exporters.
The document management system must be written in such a way to ensure that the addition of future contracts, which will use a lot of the same data elements, is achieved with a minimum of development effort Screen design should be made to look like the original Authorization Document. The solution must support multiple simultaneous connections Access is to be by special, secure, logon procedures, which ensure only registered parties access the AD entry system due to the truly global nature of the business, the solution will be available 24 hrs a day, and must be capable Of receiving updates and extracts of new data, and archives of old data, even whilst end-users are logged on the database will be required to deal with up to 1000 new transactions or transaction updates per day. A facility for archiving data is to be provided.
The document management system must include a secure payment mechanism. The document management system should have multi-language support to the extent that the user will be able to select from a number of languages
Kumaran’s team took time to understand the client’s requirements to deliver a solution that meet their needs. Coupled with the clients perspective that Oracle 8i database, using HTML and Java Applets were a perfect combination of developing the proposed document management system (referred to as ADES), Kumaran quickly emerged as FTS’s Development partner of choice.
Kumaran’s solution concentrated on making the application user-friendly. The success of the application is based not only upon its technical merit but also on how useful it is. An application is a failure if the end user cannot figure out how it works, regardless of its stability. Apart from the functionality of the application, the user interface was a key issue that was considered for the proposed solution.
Firstly, the requirements specifications of the proposed document management system were gathered and compiled, based on Kumaran team’s study of the business processes of FTS. The requirements that may arise in future, due to change in business processes or expansion of it’s business, were also gathered and documented.
Second, the design of the document management system was reviewed and finalized. The database design was made flexible to accommodate the future requirements also. Kumaran team ensured that the features of Oracle 8i and Java applets are being capitalized, to ensure better system performance and data security.
ADES has been developed to speed up the Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI) process. The following are the various modules involved in the project.
AD entry was the first step in PSI process. The user (Exporter/lmporter) logs into the document management system and enters the necessary AD details. The details entered are validated for correctness. This validation depends on the contract (Country). At the end Of the process the user is given a unique ID (called RFI Number) for any future correspondence.
The entry made has to be intimated to the corresponding Liaison and Issuing office. This was done by extracting the data into a text file and sending it as an e -mail attachment to the LOS/IOS office. The LOS/IOS personnel would update their local database with the data received.
The LOS/IOS personnel check for the data that was sent as attachment. Making necessary changes to the data and resending the data to the ADES system. The daemon process running at the server continuously checks for new data file and update the database if one is found.
Various admin related activities like ADES User registration, user maintenance, ADES options settings, archive, restore and multilingual support.
ADES was a 3-tier architecture application. The HTML and DHTML were used at the presentation layer. The middle tier comprises Of the OAS 4.0 where the business logic rules are applied in the form Of Java Classes. Oracle 8i was used to store all the data at the database layer. HTTP protocol acts as an interface between presentation and middle tier. SQL Net protocol acts as an interface between middle tier and database layer. The above diagram depicts the overall view as the ADES system.
Kumaran, with it’s competency in Oracle technologies, and a strong focus on Oracle-based solutions, provided FTS with the kind of software service and support, it could rely on.
Kumaran is a specialist in developing, implementing and managing custom software solutions, in the client-server environment, as well as in the web environment. Kumaran has done it for many companies. FTS now counts on Kumaran’s experts to serve as its IT department for maintaining and supporting its ADES system. Not only do Kumaran’s people understand FTS business processes, but Kumaran also serves ITS on multiple levels. This document management system solution has enabled ITS to increase the speed of operations of its business and focus more on their core competencies.
Subsequent to the implementation, Kumaran also provides reliable application maintenance services to ensure that the ADES system supports FTS operations in the future.
Kumaran provided the document management system solutions the client wanted and a roadmap for them as their company grew and their needs expanded. FTS may go further and has evinced interest in Kumaran, claiming that the services Kumaran provides may be adopted across the corporate landscape. The cost benefits, implementation speed, and service reliability provided by Kumaran’s team have been highly appreciated.