REVIEWER: Bob Lambrecht, CTO of XTRA Lease.

BACKGROUND: With more than 80 locations and a fleet of 100,000 trailers, XTRA Lease is one of the largest over-the-road trailer rental and leasing companies in North America.

PLATFORMS: Operating across a Windows/HP-UX environment, XTRA Lease runs 1.3 million jobs a year via ActiveBatch V7 to the tune of a 99.1 percent success rate.

PROBLEM SOLVED: XTRA Lease required a solution to centralize its job scheduling processes to improve service levels and build flexibility into its IT environment. The answer was ActiveBatch, an enterprise job scheduling and workload automation solution by Advanced Systems Concepts.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ActiveBatch’s daily activity view provides the IT operations team with a dashboard to monitor, in real time, all jobs that run during the day, while ActiveBatch alerts allow us to receive email alerts based on job failures when they happen. We run batch-oriented jobs that move data between critical business applications, including XTRA Lease’s branch rental and lease system, PeopleSoft, Microsoft BI solutions and other core systems. XTRA Lease leverages Qualcomm wireless communications software for trailer tracking, which provides the location of trailers. XTRA Lease’s website, along with Qualcomm’s capabilities, allows customers to better manage their fleet of XTRA Lease trailers. At the opposite end of the spectrum, our transaction system contains the rental and lease agreements with customers. With more than 80,000 trailers in the XTRA Lease fleet, data can fall out of sync between the two systems. An ActiveBatch workflow ensures Qualcomm data and the data in their transaction system match up. The ActiveBatch workflow compares the data, makes any necessary corrections and then pushes this information to XTRA Lease’s website. It ensures that their customers have access to the correct trailer information. ActiveBatch also serves as the “quarterback” that coordinates a series of customer-facing activities. To keep customers informed of impending upkeep, XTRA Lease proactively sends monthly preventive maintenance reports to customers currently renting a trailer. To automate the process, XTRA Lease leverages ActiveBatch to draw the information via database reporting services, creates a PDF file and emails the corresponding information to the correct customers. Along the same lines, expiring insurance reports are also issued to customers. ActiveBatch runs a workflow via a database reporting service to draw those customers whose insurance will expire in a set amount of time and then email notifications to those customers. They’re both proactive approaches to helping XTRA Lease customers maintain their equipment and keep their insurance up to date. By automating these processes via ActiveBatch, it allows XTRA Lease to provide better customer service and streamline work in our branches.

STRENGTHS: ActiveBatch orchestrates some very complex and difficult business processes that involve multiple steps and technologies. The product’s ability to act as a single automation solution through a simple, easy-to-use interface is without question its biggest strength.

WEAKNESSES: During the initial implementation, we uncovered some bugs. ASCI support created patches to resolve the problems.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected ActiveBatch for its ease of use and implementation, rich functionality, cross-platform capabilities, integration points with mission-critical technologies and favorable price point.

DELIVERABLES: Important outputs from ActiveBatch are data from operational dashboards and notifications. These dashboards provide real-time monitoring of business processes (pass, fail, etc.) while notifications allow us to receive emails 24x7 that direct us to correct issues immediately instead of waiting until the next day to resolve them.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Advanced Systems Concepts is more than accommodating, both in terms of getting started with the product and ongoing support. XTRA Lease launched with an initial pilot and implementation with only training materials and phone support. It speaks to the ability to use the product, leveraging just the online documentation and the ability to bring up help information. We found ASCI’s knowledge base very helpful for post-implementation assistance. The knowledge base gave us the ability to look up answers on the fly. Phone support was also present for any bugs discovered. The company has been very open to feedback and has based future enhancements on our input.

DOCUMENTATION: We did the initial plot and implementation with only training materials and some phone support. We received no formal training until after we were in production with all machines. I believe this speaks to the ease of use and implementation of the product, in addition to the ability to operate the product based on the online documentation.