A regional on-demand print shop seeks to attract large, big-box retail business
To expand the firm's capabilities and ramp up the volume of his business, John Von Colln, founder and president of Shortrunposters.com, wanted to migrate from the existing paper-based system, which used Excel documents to capture and track orders, to a fully digital system that would streamline order transmission, eliminate order-entry errors, and provide two-way communication with his firm's enterprise customers.
"To offer a viable system to our clients, we needed to develop an API that would provide a gateway from our clients' e-commerce systems and our backend system. The challenge was that I didn't have the in-house technical skills this would require," says Von Colln. "This daunting technical task—I am not a professional software developer—coupled with the fact that the manual system worked pretty well, meant we never seemed to get around to tackling the project."
Connects the shop floor with two backend services, and automates a manual process
Von Colln and his team were confronted with two challenging technical requirements:
Replace manual systems on the shop floor with a direct connection to an existing in-house MySQL database. Enable the ShipWorks system used by his clients to query the same MySQL database.
As the team assessed the technical project, they became concerned that in-house expertise would be stretched to manage these requirements, especially the development of custom APIs. DreamFactory, which auto-generates REST APIs for a wide range of situations, emerged as a possible solution.
"A developer friend told me about DreamFactory—an open source solution that would handle a lot of the API development for me. While the learning curve is still pretty steep for a novice developer such as myself, the excellent documentation and DreamFactory's technical support gave me the confidence to give it a try," says Von Colln. "DreamFactory enabled me to take on a technical project that I would otherwise have to outsource and pay someone else thousands of dollars to develop for me."
A fast time to market and a clear ROI—with revenue upside
The DreamFactory REST API facilitates connections between the shop floor, a MySQL database, and a local ShipWorks server. JSON is used to transmit tracking numbers from the ShipWorks server as orders are placed by customers, and also provides a method for ensuring production status updates from the backend printing systems are available to shop-floor personnel.
"Now that we have a method to receive orders through an automated system, we can compete for larger and more time-sensitive business. This opens up many new doors of opportunity for us," says Von Colln. "Within just a few months, we've already signed up half-a-dozen large clients, and increased our business by more than 10 percent. This is still in its infancy, but we anticipate this portion of the business to become 30-40 percent of our revenue within 2 years."