TechSuccess: GTSI's mighty fulfillment machine
- By Joab Jackson
- Apr 17, 2003
Specialized software speeds custom orders at reseller's integration center
Jack Woelfel, GTSI's director of integration services (left) and Scott Decker, GTSI's senior director of distribution and integration services.
When the FBI wanted to speed up installation of software and computers for its Trilogy modernization program after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, reseller GTSI Corp. shifted its delivery schedule into high gear.
As equipment provider for the $132 million Trilogy program, GTSI of Chantilly, Va., was responsible for supplying desktop, server and network products to prime contractor DynCorp, since purchased by Computer Sciences Corp. In response to the FBI's accelerated demand, GTSI compressed the delivery time for all equipment needed at agency offices nationwide from three years to nine months.
GTSI prides itself on these kinds of complex but speedy deliveries. The largest government-dedicated reseller of computer products, the company sold $934.7 million worth of IT products in 2002.
"We can't call our customers and say we have to miss our delivery date because our software doesn't work," said Jack Woelfel, GTSI's director of integration services.
The company relies on a number of tools to do the job. For example, PC-Doctor Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., provides the software for testing hardware components. PowerQuest Corp. of Orem, Utah, supplies the software to help GTSI install applications across multiple computers at once. And Kewill Systems plc of Marlborough, Mass., is providing an application that automates and integrates GTSI's shipping.
Such tools could be used by other resellers or integrators to improve service on large-scale seat management contracts. The tools can help an integrator rapidly test and install software on the equipment that it maintains for clients, streamlining maintenance operations.
GTSI's integration center has the capability to configure and ship up to 2,500 systems per day, said Scott Decker, GTSI's senior director of distribution and integration services, who oversees the center.
Employees can fulfill many orders by pulling items such as toner cartridges off the shelf and shipping them that same day. Other orders, however, such as those that require a computer to be outfitted with more memory or installed with certain software, need to be assembled in the integration center.
Of these orders, more than 99.8 percent of them are configured and assembled correctly, based on a rolling 12-month average, Decker said. While this is an impressive figure, Decker said he wants to do better and go beyond the vaunted "five nines of quality" and achieve six nines, or 99.9999 percent.
"It is very important that the order we get is the same that we ship out to the customer," Decker said.
This is where automated software such as the kind PowerQuest offers comes in handy, Woelfel said. PowerQuest's software copies software onto large numbers of computers at once, he said.
GTSI looked at several image replication solutions. The firm liked PowerQuest's offering because the company had better updates, and engineers could could help install software and train personnel. The company also has 24-hour support, which is vital for GTSI technicians working the late shift.
Woelfel said PowerQuest's software has helped the company achieve a 42 percent increase in productivity in terms of how quickly it can copy software across systems.
To make sure the systems the company builds and ships are working properly, the reseller uses PC-Doctor. A server holding the software is hooked up to a switch box that plugs into the mouse, keyboard and monitor ports of up to 20 computers at once. The software tests all hardware on each machine and records the results, which then can be saved as a text file and given to the customers. It also verifies that requested hardware upgrades have been done.
Before GTSI began using PC-Doctor, three people would roll a testing cart from rack to rack of computers, testing each unit individually. Now testing can be done by one person in one location.
"Overall, it ensures the accuracy of what we're doing," Decker said.
When it comes time to ship, GTSI also has software help. For smaller deliveries, the company uses a variety of commercial package delivery companies, from FedEx Corp. to United Parcel Service Inc. It relies on ClipperShip software from Kewill Systems to pick the best carrier for a particular shipment, based on the order's size and destination. The software can also print labels for international shipments.
Whenever an order is dispatched, the software automatically enters the data into GTSI's back-end distribution system, which allows customers to check a Web site to see the status of their orders, even before they are shipped.
Previously, a lot of the shipping and tracking information had to be entered manually, slowing down the process and introducing the possibility of errors, Decker said.
"It has been a real productivity enhancement for us," he said. *
If you have an innovative solution that you recently installed in a government agency, contact Staff Writer Joab Jackson at email@example.com.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.