Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Job Tracking System

It was time to put my new SBASIC tool to good use. Bob wanted a new tracking system to replace the old TRS-80 one. We decided to use one of the Kaypro II machines for this. I'm a little fuzzy on whether Bob started this one and handed it off to me, or if I was the developer from the get-go.

This was a pretty easy application to build. There were a dozen or so departments on the factory floor. Each time a new job was ordered there were some essentials entered like job #, customer name, board type, due date, etc. and these were just stored in a simple random access file. Several times a day a young lady from Brazil named Danusa would make rounds collecting information about jobs and where they were in factory. Then she would come back and enter this information. Status reports would get printed out.

C.F.C. specialized in quick turnaround orders. Anything we could do to improve information about important rush orders was critical. A more timely tracking system was in our sights. We took one of the Tandy Model 100 portables and bought a barcode wand for it. This would be used to collect the locations of all the jobs. I wrote a program in the tracking application for printing 3 of 9 bar code on label stock using an Epson compatible dot matrix printer. These had job numbers on them and we stuck them on the job bill of materials sheets that went with each order. Then we printed large bar codes for each department.

So now all Danusa had to do was go to a department, scan the bar code on the department sign, and then go to each bill of materials sheet and scan in the job number bar code. Then she would repeat this with each department. When this was done (and it was a lot faster than using a pen and clipboard) all she had to do was come back and we would read the information into the Kaypro II using an RS-232 cable and we would just suck that information into the tracking system and print the reports.

It really stands out to me that this sort of very useful application programming was easily achievable by a high school graduate with a knowledge of BASIC. End users used to do this kind of thing a lot more back then and I'm sure that Bob could easily have written this himself if he were so inclined and it he weren't so busy running the company. People should take more interest in programming because it's fun, it teaches important thinking skills and even untrained programmers can accomplish real productivity enhancements.

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