When Mainfreight went looking for an email-based EDI solution, it was surprised to find what it was looking for in a nameless product costing only a few hundred dollars, after receiving quotes from other companies for thousands.
Trolling through the inevitable faxes pushing new products and services, a sharp-eyed IT employee came across news of a fledgling software tool that hadn't even been named yet. The software, developed by Auckland-developer Computerworks, promised to provide "push and pull" technology over the Internet using email. The fax was well timed, as at the time Mainfreight was receiving quotes from other developers to write a similar program.
"The only trouble was that they had come up with something that would work with NT but not with Windows 95 and 98," says Roger van Dorsten, of Mainfreight's IT support department.
Mainfreight decided to trial the new tool - which was eventually christened MailRules - to exchange documents with customers of its logistics division. The logistics department warehouses products for customers who email Mainfreight orders which then go out to their own clients. The files are emailed as attachments which MailRules strips off and automatically saves. Mainfreight has an interface program that picks the files up and processes them. They can be zipped, and encrypted with 40-bit encryption, before being sent on.
Mainfreight has now been using MailRules for three months, running it on four sites with five customers in Auckland and Christchurch.
Prior to that, the company was using PC Anywhere but was not comfortable with it from a security point of view. "PC Anywhere does have security in it but if they know what they're doing a user can take control of the PC they're dialling into," says Van Dorsten.
He says the nearest quote Mainfreight received for a program to do similar tasks was in the thousands of dollars range. "It's also one of the few out there that can do automated file transfer." He is now trying to get customers to use the system for their internal use.
Other MailRules traillests are Unilever and Pit Stop.
Companies are also using the software for updating prices and stock items on multiple PCs via the Internet, exporting branch office sales figures to head office, creating virtual folders on remote desktops, synchronising work files on office and home PCs, and remote e-commerce solutions.
The product also allows users send files greater than 10Mb via the Internet without being rejected by the ISP, automate file transfers, do automatic backup via the Internet, automate repetitive tasks using the scheduler, launch specific applications on receiving mail or prior to sending mail, and continually check directories for updated files to be transferred. It also integrates with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook.
Computerworks director Mukesh Mohanbai says the company is gearing up to launch the program and intends to sell it overseas. Mailrules costs $185 per licence.