Converter Reporting System for Comcast
Comcast (formerly TCI, TeleCommunications Inc.) is one of the largest cable television companies in the Maryland area. This large and dynamic organization came to us for help in managing their cable equipment inventory.
We assessed their existing processes and found three areas in need of improvement:
1) Each time a piece of cable equipment was received or shipped from the warehouse, information on the equipment, such as its serial number, was entered into their database by physically taking it to a stationary computer terminal to be scanned.
2) Written forms based on the items’ serial numbers were required each time a technician picked up or dropped off a piece of equipment.
3) A process was needed for performing physical inventories of the equipment housed in Comcast warehouses.
In addressing all of these needs, we developed specialized software and outfitted Comcast with Intermec’s Antares T2420 handheld terminals featuring built-in laser scanners. We called the new system CARS.
First, we carefully mapped the keystroke sequence required by Comcast’s software to make a complete transaction for the entry and removal of equipment into their database. We then programmed that keystroke sequence into the handheld terminals as part of the CARS software. In doing it this way, we were able to avoid making any changes to Comcast’s existing computer software.
Comcast warehouse personnel were then able to use the handheld terminals to scan all of the equipment’s serial number bar codes while they were still on the shelves.
We then used the CARS software and a communications dock attached to a PC keyboard wedge to transfer each serial number to the computer terminal, using the keystroke sequence required by their main terminal.
Now their warehouse personnel may track inventory simply by scanning the bar code on a piece of equipment with the handheld terminal, dock the handheld terminal and press a key to begin the transfer of all transactions into the main computer terminal.
In order to keep tabs on equipment leaving and entering their warehouse, we created a PC program that is used to enter and maintain the numbers and names of Comcast’s technicians. We programmed this information into the handheld terminals so they can now print Converter Activity Report Forms for each technician to be used as a signed receipt for issuing and receiving equipment.
As technicians pick up or return equipment, warehouse personnel scan each serial number from the equipment with a handheld terminal. The handheld terminal is then placed into a communications dock that is attached to a text printer. The CARS software in the handheld terminal prints the form with all of the relevant serial numbers.
Developing an automated inventory process was easy once the above processes were in place. The CARS software on the handheld terminals allows warehouse personnel the option of scanning the serial numbers from equipment for a physical inventory. A counter on the handheld terminal’s display shows the number of pieces of equipment scanned.
When the scanning process is complete, the handheld terminal is placed in a communication dock that is attached to the main PC’s serial port. A CARS program on the PC receives each serial number and creates an ASCII file containing all of the relevant serial numbers. This file is then input to Comcast’s existing physical inventory programs. Afterwards, warehouse personnel can then easily clear the serial number transactions from the handheld terminals.
This case study demonstrates the many levels of service Bar Code Software can provide each and every client. To solve the first problem, we created a system that allowed a handheld terminal to communicate directly with a data entry program designed to interact with a computer operator. The second problem was resolved with machinery that can print reports directly from handheld terminals without the use of a PC. The third solution shows how easily data can be converted into an ASCII file to be used in any way required by our clients.