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Airborne Accesses Stored Airbills within Seconds with DISC

  • June 01 2001, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: Don Zwink, system development manager for Airborne Express.

BACKGROUND: For more than 50 years, Airborne and its subsidiaries have served the shipping needs of business customers around the world. Today, Airborne offers total distribution solutions by providing time-sensitive delivery of documents, letters, small packages and freight to virtually every U.S. ZIP code and more than 200 countries.


PROBLEM SOLVED: As a full-service transportation and logistic provider, Airborne offers a complete menu of logistics services targeted at the needs of the business customer. In order to track each shipment, ensure proper handling, delivery and, if necessary, billing follow-up, Airborne maintains their domestic airbills for two years and international airbills for three years. With more than 115 million shipments per year, archiving manually tendered airbills in paper form would have been a storage nightmare. In an attempt to reduce the cost, time and space requirements associated with paper files, Airborne implemented a microfilm archival solution. The microfilm medium was fairly inexpensive, but the retrieval of documents was costly and changing volumes was difficult to manage. The old rush procedure was basically manual retrieval with same day turnaround. When using an optical storage and retrieval system, it doesn't matter how many requests there are because we can quickly and easily complete them.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Airborne relies solely on the DISC optical library for the storage and retrieval of our airbill documents. We archive 450,000 documents per day, and our retrieval volumes are in the 20,000 document per day range. We haven't had many problems. Both employees and customers appreciate having a whole archive of quickly accessible documents. Our document archive was designed as a batch retrieval system but has become more of an online system over the past three years.

STRENGTHS: Authorized Airborne employees can access stored airbills from anywhere in the world within 2 to 60 seconds (depending on server traffic) using a simple Web browser. This is most valuable to Airborne's field employees. The simplified file sharing across a global network speeds retrieval time, saves on storage costs and improves customer service and satisfaction, ultimately eliminating the instance of lost files due to misfiling. The storage capacity is the main benefit of this library over other companies' products.

WEAKNESSES: Despite a smooth installation process, there were initial configuration problems between how we ordered the solution and how it was wired. We ordered four drives on each side and wanted the small computer systems interface (SCSI) connections to be wired as one SCSI connection to every two drives. It came in slightly different than we had expected, but DISC was able to change it during installation. We had a rough initial six months due to hardware problems; however, DISC worked hard to resolve them and ultimately came out with a new picker design.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We chose DISC because of their fairly high volume application. Most other jukeboxes had limited capacity within a single box. We looked for a system that had a migration solution and discovered that some companies were not able to store all our disks in one library. At that time, software that could manage offline retrieval was unavailable; and we didn't want a system that would be labor intensive and require operator intervention. DISC gave us the only viable option ­ the capacity to store everything we needed in one library.

DELIVERABLES: We have a DISC D1050 with eight drives and 994 slots. It has a two-sided optical library with approximate capacity of 5 terabytes. We are using approximately 3.5 terabytes now, which gives us excess capacity for the future.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Pre- and post-installation support from the vendor was excellent. They have stepped in to help resolve issues despite the fact that they don't provide maintenance. I believe they stand behind their product and want to be sure we are happy with our decision.

DOCUMENTATION: Not applicable. Maintenance support is provided by a third-party vendor.

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