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Case study: Draper Tools

IBM i modernisation and development

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Founded in 1919, Draper Tools is the brand of choice for auto mechanics, joiners, electricians and DIY enthusiasts. Although the tools are available through dealers throughout the UK, a growing proportion of its tools are sold through its ecommerce websites.

When Draper Tools revamped its business-to-consumer (B2C) website to improve the user experience, they selected WebSmart, the IBM i web development tool developed by BCD Software.

Processing and managing thousands of orders per month with tens of thousands of product lines is a business-critical function required by the organisation.

Using WebSmart, four members of the six strong Draper Tools development team were able to quickly customise WebSmart's existing templates despite having very little HTML or PHP development experience - although they did have between 10 and 20 years plus experience with RPG coding. So quick was the learning curve for the developers, they were able to wrote an entire IBM i-based (previously known as AS400, iSeries or System i) catalogue and shopping cart application in just under five months.

Draper's in-house graphics design team worked on custom buttons and banners that had a look and feel that was consistent with the company's branding. Developers then integrated these graphical components into the WebSmart PDWs. Draper's developers wrote a customised search feature using WebSmart's unique "root word search" functionality. This let them combine several files for searching purposes without having to build a complex SQL string each time a customer wanted to find an item. This search feature is uniquely intelligent as it uses a table of synonyms against a search term to find an item.

They also moved the existing product catalogue containing 15,000 items from the legacy NT machine to the IBM i. This database also serves as the basis of the company's hard-copy mail order print catalogue. Since the existing product catalogue was already written in HTML and had an extensive collection of images for all products, they simply moved it from the NT to the IBM i by importing the product descriptions directly as HTML into the IBM i database. Now, when the WebSmart programme draws a product detail page, it simply pulls the HTML from the product catalogue database on the IBM i into the page. Item availability is always represented in real-time because the shopping cart application also ties into the back-end inventory control system.

The payment process is handled through a WebSmart API that connects with a Web Service that clears credit card transactions. Once the order is complete, Draper's shopping cart application sends an HTML-formatted email to the customer to confirm the details. This is handled by WebSmart's native email functions. After completing the B2C site, Draper's IT team wrote a simple online ordering system for export customers. This has replaced a fax ordering system that required each order to be keyed twice - once by the customer and again by the Draper sales team. Draper also replaced several queries with a simple web page that lets users select options for extracting information from the database to produce an Excel-compatible spreadsheet in CSV format.