Corrective Action System (NCAS) -- Allied
Signal Inc. has successfully leveraged its existing systems and software
-- mostly IBM mainframe and midrange systems that are typical of large
manufacturing organizations -- while adding World Wide Web support that
is saving the organization significant time and money.
The company's Aerospace Equipment Systems/Engine Systems and Accessories Division has developed a Web application
called the Nonconformance Corrective Action System (NCAS). The NCAS system tracks defects and corrective actions
on the shop floor of division manufacturing plants in South Bend, Ind., and Rocky Mount, N.C.
The NCAS system includes: a mainframe tier with a legacy wrapper program that lets the AlliedSignal division
leverage business rules within core business applications; a business logic tier that runs on a Windows NT-based
server; a presentation layer made up of reusable objects that runs on a thin client workstation via the Internet;
and a middleware layer of IBM's MQSeries software for communication between the business layer and the mainframe.
"We could have built the system from the ground up," said Dave Kulakowski, manager of application
development and technology for the AlliedSignal division. "We wanted the business logic to be running on the
mainframe," added Tom Philbin, a software developer on the team. "We're using rules built into CICS programs
years ago. We can access all the business logic on the server. We reduced the risk because we never had to eliminate
the old system."
To date, AlliedSignal estimates that the new system has resulted in savings of $225,000 during its first year
of use, and that additional cost avoidance could increase that total to $425,000. The savings resulted from cutting
data entry time by about 60%, from improving production quality by providing better information to planning engineers
for root cause analysis, and by improving response time by up to 700% by taking advantage of the parallel processing
capabilities of the MQSeries middleware. The team built a routine so that MQSeries can access up to 12 databases
or flat files simultaneously.
The four-person development team used the VisualAge for Java toolset to build the first two tiers of NCAS. The
tool's composition editor enabled rapid prototyping, which in turn helped establish an iterative design process.
The team saved significant time during the process, finishing three prototype cycles in three weeks. The rapid
prototyping allowed users to become more closely involved in the development process. Users critiqued each prototype
in the process, which significantly cut the time needed to build a common and tangible blueprint of the application.
The NCAS system was a key piece in the development of a Web-based development paradigm at AlliedSignal. The
unit plans to quickly expand its Web-based application
portfolio. "From a business perspective, there's no limit to where we go from here with the technology we
now have," said Michael Michele, director of IS.
Though no one on the team had used Java prior to the project, some outside training and use of Smalltalk and
C++ experience kept the learning cycle relatively short. The team also used IBM's VisualAge Smalltalk tool to add
reusability features to the code.
The team followed a formal design phase, as well as informal development and deployment phases. For project
management functions, the team used methodologies included in the Capability Maturity Model of the Pittsburgh-based
Software Engineering Institute.
-- Michael W. Bucken
An improved defect-tracking process, reduced data entry time, improved user
response time, simplified RMI development, up to 75% business object reuse,
significant reduction in development and deployment costs
Development Tools: VisualAge for Java and VisualAge Smalltalk; Databases: IBM DB2; Middleware: IBM MQSeries,
IBM MVS AIX and Microsoft