EZ-Agent 2.1

Overview

The EZ-Agent system provides full order entry, dispatch, invoicing, and job history/analysis functions for generalized messenger, local ground courier, regional air courier, or driver/agent operation. The optional inventory control module can manage a warehouse logistics or third-party distribution operation up to 1 million inventory items with nearly unlimited transaction history, and is fully accessible directly from order entry. When run on the UNIX operating system, all functions are multi-user, and all transactions are identified by the user’s login ID for full accountability. Export files can be created during invoicing for import into common accounting systems such as Peachtree Accounting® or QuickBooks Pro®.

EZ-Agent Main Menu

Menu System

The EZ-Agent menu system is designed hierarchically such that all users have access to system functions in a categorized, top-down fashion. Menus are customizable so that programs external to the EZ-Agent system can be accessed readily from one production system. Menus can also be passworded in order to implement system security and separation of duties between employees/departments. There is currently one menu defined that contains ‘manager’ functions, and it is typically passworded.

EZ-Agent Job Management Menu

EZ-Agent File Maintenance Menu

 

EZ-Agent Management Functions Menu

Order Entry

User can invoke new order entry form with a single keystroke from Main Menu or from any dispatch view screen.

Order Number is automatically incremented with function key, or manual Order Number can be entered if using pre-printed forms.

Order Date as well as all date and time fields can be defaulted to current date and time with a single keystroke.

All account information will be automatically populated by entering the account number; if account number is not known, it can be looked up by entering the first few letters of the account name and selecting the desired account from a listbox of matching account names.

Job Type and Service Level are chosen from user-defined allowable values, and determine the priority status and the pricing structure for the job.

Each distinct pickup and/or delivery address for an account need only be entered one time and can be recalled on any future order by entering a unique location code or by selecting from a listbox of addresses searched by firm name.

Up to 99 lines of customer service, dispatch, or tracing notes can be entered on each job, and recalled with a single key.

The user can choose to hardcopy the order after entry for dispatch on paper, or generate a hardcopy or other type of report at any time, including when the order has been invoiced and is in the job history file. Optional fax capabilities can be added to the system for faxing any hardcopy or report directly from the screen.

 

Completed Order Entry Screen

 

Sample Customer Service Notes

 

Reports Menu Available from Order Entry

 

Dispatch

Once an order has been entered into the system, it appears in its respective sequence on each of 5 dispatch summary screens: Jobs by Priority, by Driver, by Job Number, by Account Number, and by Reference Number. Dispatchers will primarily utilize the Jobs by Priority summary browse. This priority summary is also available in a continuously refreshing status monitor function, with each priority categorization appearing in a different color. Jobs behind schedule will appear with their critical date and time in bright, flashing text.

Drivers and airline routings can be assigned to any order by highlighting it on the dispatch summary screen and pressing return. Drivers can be selected by entering the driver number or selecting from a listbox of local drivers. Remote drivers can be selected by entering the airport code and selecting from the list of agents found at that location. Any number of drivers and airline routings can be assigned to a job, and all associated ground and air costs can be collected. Driver charges can be categorized by base, mileage, weight, wait time, and other.

The critical time used to prioritize the job within the dispatch summary screens will automatically change based upon the job type, service level, and amount of routing information entered by the dispatcher. For instance: upon initial order entry the critical time is the pickup ready time, once a driver has been assigned and entered on the job the critical time becomes the delivery deadline, and when the POD has been entered the critical time becomes the callback deadline (typically 15 minutes after POD, or whatever is established for the particular service level.)

 

‘Jobs by Priority’ Dispatch Summary Screen

 

‘Jobs by Driver’ Dispatch Summary Screen

Dispatch/Rating Screen Showing Accumulated Costs and Automatic Rating

Rating and Invoicing

Customer charges can be entered in the order at any time, and if the appropriate rates have been entered for the job type and service level, a single key can be used to auto-rate the order based upon information present at the time. Multiple rate structures can be defined so that orders of like job type and service level can be auto-rated differently depending on the customer account number. One default rate structure and up to 68 custom rate structures can be defined, which is usually more than enough to support the most flexible customer pricing contract policies.

‘Jobs by Priority’ Screen Showing Completed Jobs

Inventory Control

The inventory control module can manage a warehouse logistics or third-party distribution operation of almost unlimited size. Inventory can be managed for multiple accounts and can reside in multiple warehouses. Detailed transaction history is kept for each part and can be kept online as long as desired up to a maximum of 1 million transactions per warehouse. Inventory picking functions are fully accessible directly from order entry. When executing an inventory inquiry/pick for a customer, the account and or part number is entered, and if the item is on hand, the system will show all warehouses and bin locations that the item occupies so it can be pulled from the location that will service the customer most quickly.

Browse Selection of Items from Inventory Control

Inventory Management Item Inquiry/Update Screen

 

Sample Transaction History for Inventory Item

 

Reports Menu Available from Inventory Management

Background

The EZ-Agent system was developed to replace a DOS-based billing system that originated at Front Range Couriers in Denver, was subsequently sold to Hot Shot Services in Albuquerque, and later acquired by Cirrus Air in El Paso. Both Front Range Couriers and Hot Shot Services now use the EZ-Agent system for daily operations. Front Range Couriers began using it January 1, 1995, and Hot Shot Services put it into full operation on November 15, 1996. HSS Logistics in Tempe, AZ (a division of Hot Shot Services) began production use March 1, 1997. It was installed at Kelley Ground-Air Expedite in Muskegon, MI on February 27, 1998, and at Skyline Messenger Service in Atlanta on June 20, 1999. Future installations are slated for Vermont Courier, Burlington, VT, and Yourway Transport, Philadelphia, PA.

The philosophy of this program is to share the development costs of a first-class, custom-tailored application between several local and/or regional courier companies who have noncompetitive or symbiotic business relationships. Each company involved can benefit from a premier order entry, dispatch, billing, and inventory control system without having to pay the exorbitant prices of other well-known courier software development companies.

Future Enhancements

Enhancements currently under development include:

  • Automatic cycle count scheduling for warehouse inventory with discrepancy reporting and reconciliation
    (completed September 1, 1997)

  • Addition of ‘Zoom’ windows on driver dispatch for capture of driver action times (i.e. time paged, time onboard, time attempted, time delivered)
    (completed June 1, 1999)

  • 2-way paging via BellSouth Mobile Data Network to decrease or eliminate the need for radio dispatch

  • Automatic VISA/Mastercard authorization during order entry
  • Addition of Payables Aging and Collections features, batched Cash Receipts, and export of cash receipts data to external accounts receivable packages.

Pricing

The prices below are for software, support, and custom development only. Hardware components meeting the requirements must be purchased separately. Representative prices have been given above in the Hardware Requirements section. The hardware can be purchased from (and supported by) a local vendor, or if desired, I can build a system to suit your needs for what it costs me to build it. I can provide a minimally configured 5-user system for as low as $2170, or a 10-user server configured for maximum performance, reliability, and uptime for around $5050. When integrating into an existing PC environment, any server I build can optionally be configured to act as a Microsoft NTâ -compatible file and print server for an additional $725. Terminals and/or workstation connectivity software are additional.

  • Database License (minimum 1 required) filePro 8-user runtime $495.
  • EZ-Agent License Per User 1-time fee $695.
  • EZ-Agent Monthly Support and Upgrade Fees (Per User License) $25.
  • EZ-Agent Customization Hourly Engineering Rate (firm estimates) $40.

Support

The monthly support fee provides 24-hour phone support for user questions, operating system maintenance and administration (on systems I provide), and configuration and maintenance of all EZ-Agent functions. I have a partner on the East coast who handles support issues as well, and one of us will always be reachable. The support fee also provides for free incremental upgrades so that you will always be running on the latest version of the software with the most up-to-date features. The support fees are paid monthly or quarterly in advance (first month is free), and are subject to change if my costs increase. In the event that an on-site visit is necessary beyond the initial installation and training, any travel expenses I incur (and hotel if required) will need to be reimbursed. I will make any required travel arrangements such that expense is minimized. My goal is to keep support costs as reasonable as possible while still providing 7x24 service availability.

System Requirements

Supported hardware/operating system platforms include Sun SPARC/Solaris, IBM RS6000/AIX, Data General Aviion/DGUX, Motorola  8000  Series/UNIX, Unisys S-series/CTIX, and any IBM-compatible PC running Interactive UNIX, Solaris x86, SCO UNIX, or SCO UnixWare. (Standalone or networked PCs running DOS are possible, but have not been ported to yet.)

A common system configuration is: 200MHz Pentium-based PC, 64MB RAM, (2) 2-GB SCSI2 hard drives, PCI to SCSI host adapter (optional cacheing and/or RAID), 1MB SVGA video, 10 MB/s twisted pair Ethernet, 4-GB SCSI tape backup (QIC or 4mm), SCO OpenServer 5 UNIX operating system. The typical hardware/OS cost for this configuration is $3400-$4200 for a 5-user system.

Users can access the system from a PC or workstation using a terminal emulator and connecting via serial lines or TCP/IP connection, or ASCII/ANSI terminals (such as a Wyse 60) can be used over serial lines.

Currently supported printers include HP LaserJet or DeskJet ® series, IBM ProPrinter® or compatible, Epson, Tandy, and Okidata. Other printers can be supported by simply entering the print codes into a driver table for the printer.