Background and people
Peppler & Associates, Inc. is a privately held company incorporated in 1981. J. Patrick and Martha Peppler each own 50%. Our business model was to develop and market software for the direct marketing industry.
At that time our clients were mail-order companies with some phone orders. We saw that order channel evolve to phone orders with some mail orders. Then to the current mix of web and phone orders with very little mail activity.
Our software has evolved as the industry changed. Many of our customers now get most of their orders from their web sites. Our web site framework and call center order entry integrated with the fulfillment database gives us a significant competitive advantage in the order management systems marketplace.
Our business is the Directions Fulfillment System. We develop and market our own software product. Everyone at Peppler & Associates works with the software every day, either modifying existing applications, developing new applications, or providing client service such as training or help desk support.
- Pat Peppler, the president, is responsible for new client acquisition and getting things started.
- Phillip Hinkley, chief techie, has overall implementation responsibility. Phillip has been with us for over 15 years and is the chief architect for the current version of the system.
- Sharon Dunn is responsible for daily operations monitoring and training. Sharon has been with us for 25 years.
- Josh Radetski specializes in web site and user interface programming.
- Martha Peppler is responsible for marketing and initial new client contact.
- Kris Voss manages the office and accounting.
- We have several programmers that are responsible for client technical projects. They have differing areas of expertise. We want everyone to understand the basics of every client’s business but each person naturally develops a closer working relationship with clients that they work with day-to-day.
Over the next year we will hire a more marketing oriented person to take over some of Pat and Martha’s responsibilities. Phillip will have less actual programming responsibility as we bring more programming help on board. Phillip’s son interned with us this last summer and showed great promise as a future developer.
External Technical outlook
Our single database that supports the entire fulfillment cycle is a competitive advantage. But like the entire software industry, the Directions fulfillment system is specializing. Directions still supports all the normal business functions. But we know we cannot be the best in every area of fulfillment. So we have partnered with other software vendors and service providers to let you use the specialists in every area.
We integrate with UPS, FedEx, and the USPS. We integrate with major payment gateways. We even have integration with an inventory carousel picking system. And we see this trend accelerating.
Years ago we developed the web framework to support upsell and suggested items. This same information was also used in the call center. We developed basic query functions that allowed marketing to attach lists of suggested products to categories or other specific products. The problem with this is the time required to keep the suggestions fresh.
Companies like MyBuys have developed specialized web behavior analysis engines to analyze user web activity to suggest additional items. Other companies like SLI have developed expertise in site search. These services require updates from the product, category, and orders database. We have the web service framework to exchange that information.
Directions integration with outside services extends to address verification, email marketing, shipping, custom reporting, and financial applications.
We have several mobile applications for the warehouse. The standard applications are inventory movement and inquiry. This year we are adding mobile cycle counting and mobile pick ticket status. Cycle counting is the obvious application to go mobile but it is more complicated than we first thought. We worked through the design functions with two current clients. The complications become apparent when multiple users are counting the same item in multiple locations.
Mobile picking status will allow managers to see “who is doing what?” real-time. A picker will scan a pick ticket or batch and those orders will be “checked out” to him. When he is done picking the order(s) or batch is scanned and passed to checking, packing, or shipping.
This past year saw standards emerge for mobile sites. LL Bean, JC Penney, Macy’s and other large retailers have a familiar look and feel now.
This new design methodology is responsive design. Web sites that are designed to be responsive use a single URL and site to serve content to mobile, tablet, and desktop users. The browser window size determines the format of the information sent to the user. Style sheets change how the information looks on each device.
Our single database for fulfillment and the web is a competitive advantage. But it cannot be all things to all people. Power users have used Crystal reports, Sequel Reporting, or IBM Query tools. These tools work well but sometimes transaction data needs to be summarized or pivoted. To address this need we implemented data cubes for two clients.
A data cube is a repository of all transaction information pre-indexed and summarized for ease of reporting. We use Microsoft SQL Server to build and hold the data cube. This moves the power user query functions off the application transaction server onto it’s own server. Current data cube users are using the latest version of Excel to extract data and build drill-down type reports. We are also experimenting with SQL Reporting Services as the query build and distribution system.