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AirDye approached us with one of the biggest technical challenges we had ever seen: migrate the company's entire business and manufacturing systems from a collection of aging, unsupported platforms onto a modern web-enabled infrastructure, make thousands of design assets browsable by customers and salespeople, and finally take its proprietary color matching technologies from the desktop to the cloud. The client wanted to completely transform the global textile printing business with a networked global supply chain and web-based coloration, previewing, and ordering. This would represent a radical departure from business as usual in textile printing where the majority of business is done with phone calls, emails, and the shipping of physical samples.
At the time of engagement, AirDye's manufacturing and ERP systems were running Paradox, a file-based database installed at the company in the 1990s. Their design assets were hosted on a NAS in North Carolina, stored in a proprietary third-party format called AVA. Its proprietary color matching and printing software was running on Windows desktop computers. To fulfill the vision, we would need to develop methods for data extraction from their legacy systems, integrate with a modern ERP, and wrap core functions of the desktop software and deploy to the cloud.
And we would need to do it with no more than four (4) human resources, devs and product management.
To unlock access to the business data stored in Paradox, we collaborated with the engineering team at AirDye to leverage existing synchronization processes that read data from Paradox and write it to a MSSQL 2000 database. We took this on-site process and moved it to Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform. We chose Microsoft's Azure platform to deploy the majority of the core manufacturing and technical infrastructure of AirDye based on the Windows-centric software that ran the company.
With the company's business data now available outside of the manufacturing location, we then authored an HTTP API using Microsoft's Entity Framework and Web API technologies to allow for data access from nearly any language. With an HTTP API now exposing the data, we wrote processes to fully populate a cloud-hosted MySQL database that would later be used to build the customer and sales portals and integrate them with a new ERP.
Design files were copied from the on-site NAS to Azure Blob Storage allowing for secure, url-based access from the customer portals, ERP, color management software, and manufacturing processes.
We then began the task of extracting the algorithms from their proprietary color management desktop software for use in online color-accurate design previews - a first in the textile printing industry. The C++ code underlying the software was very well factored - the product of 15 years of engineering - but needed work to make it available as a Web Service. Rather than rewriting this valuable code, Giant Machines authored C# wrappers to expose the needed C++ functions. These wrappers now form the foundation of not only the Web Services, but also of the next generation of development for this specialized manufacturing software that will link these services directly to the printers.
NetSuite was chosen by the client as an ERP to manage their customers, orders, inventory, and aspects of the manufacturing process. Giant Machines collaborated with a NetSuite vendor to integrate this new ERP implementation with the new customer and sales portals providing a seamless flow of data from web through to back office and manufacturing.
The systems developed by Giant Machines were the background for the tremendous business moves the company made in 2014 and 2015 including a merger with its largest customer and the expansion of its manufacturing globally. The development process is ongoing and we look forward to continuing to provide exceptional value to AirDye's new market presence, IMBU, in 2016.