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Metro GlassTech

by SilverStripe

When choosing a vendor for their redesign, Metro GlassTech had a tough decision to make. Other vendors offered cheaper out-of-the-box solutions that would have met around 70-80% of their needs. However, by choosing SilverStripe, Metro GlassTech received a specific bespoke system that was guaranteed to meet 100% of their requirements.

Metro GlassTech (SilverStripe)

Site purpose

Metro GlassTech is New Zealand’s largest glass manufacturing company. They use an inhouse system called ClearCut to process orders. Prior to our work with them, Metro GlassTech received orders through order placement software called Metlink. Metlink was cutting-edge technology when it was developed in the 1980s, but as other technology evolved, it became increasingly problematic. Metro GlassTech needed a modern web-based order placement and tracking interface to replace their outdated system.

The main project goals in redeveloping Metlink were:

  • regain industry leadership in electronic glass-ordering technology
  • improve current user satisfaction with the electronic submission process
  • expand electronic submission capabilities to cover the majority of customers who currently submit orders manually
  • continue to seamlessly support the inhouse ClearCut system, including orders entered using that system
  • reduce the maintenance burden to Metro GlassTech by replacing the old client interface that needed to be installed on customers’ machines with a streamlined and easy to upgrade web client
  • make it easier to create an order and submit online.

What we did

When choosing a vendor for their redesign, Metro GlassTech had a tough decision to make. Other vendors offered cheaper out-of-the-box solutions that would have met around 70-80% of their needs. However, by choosing SilverStripe, Metro GlassTech received a specific bespoke system that was guaranteed to meet 100% of their requirements.

When initially introduced, Metro GlassTech's original electronic ordering system was leading technology. However it had proven difficult to keep up to date - being a piece of software installed on every client's machine each update had a significant support burden, and changing client computing environments were adding to their difficulties. As a result many orders had to be placed manually due to limits with the system, and new customers were scared off by its intimidating interface, which expected all users to have detailed knowledge of glass standards and terminology.

We used modern browser standards, user experience testing, a rich client interface and a fresh design to develop a replacement electronic ordering application called Metro Direct which greatly expanded both the abilities and user friendliness of the interface. By converting to a web application-based solution their future upgrade burden was effectively eliminated, and the display of the glass in graphical form allowed customers to visualise their orders without in-depth industry experience. Additional tools and informational wizards provided access to Metro GlassTech's domain knowledge and technical experience. Despite this, because Metro Direct was built around open standards, the environments they were able to support expanded greatly.

Metro Direct was built on a platform of SilverStripe, CouchDB, JavaScript and HTML5 standards such as SVG. This provided a damage-resistant system which was easily integrated with Metro GlassTech's internal systems, but which continues to function when their internal systems are unreachable.

We knew Metro Direct would work because development was prefaced by a prototyping phase that proved the technical feasibility of the architecture. Several rounds of UX testing during development ensured a customer-focused solution.

SilverStripe continues to work with Metro GlassTech to expand Metro Direct, leveraging rich media capabilities to grow their marketing and customer product knowledge pathways, adding additional order placement features, and providing their clients with focused tools to both reduce order handling overhead and increase customer retention.

What users can do now

In moving from a DOS-based system to a graphical interface, Metro GlassTech are once again setting the global standard. Metro Direct provides an easy-to-use graphical web interface incorporating computer-assisted design (CAD) systems so users can create whatever they need. Simply put, there is no other glass-ordering software that compares, because Metro Direct is jam-packed with all kinds of useful goodness:

  • Beginners can use a wizard to guide them through all aspects of the glass in an easy-to-understand way, but advanced users can do it themselves.
  • If users don’t want to use CAD to create their designs, they can upload images instead.
  • There are preset options for glass panels that incorporate cat doors in the cutting. Of course, dog lovers can change the dimensions of precut holes in order to accommodate their canine companions instead.
  • In the ordering process, clients can specify exactly what kind of glass they want, what it's faced with, how it's edged, what it's coated in, if any decorative features are needed, or if they want single, double, or triple glazing. The system is smart enough to pick up on any contradictions as well, such as how decorative features might not be able to be coated.
  • Costs of glass orders are calculated on the fly.
  • Incorporated into Metro Direct are checks for wind-load specified settings to ensure that orders meet New Zealand safety standards.
  • Metro Direct knows the size restraints of the various manufacturing plants of Metro GlassTech, and can tell clients "sorry, that order is too big for our Wellington office, but we can make it in Christchurch for an extra shipping cost for you".
  • Customers who are using Aluminium Packages are able to submit their designs to the Metro Direct web server using an API built by SilverStripe. They are also able to import files using a Direct File Access library that uses browser-specific privilege escalation techniques. This is the fastest method of importing part lists, and requires the least effort to import in bulk.

Measures of success

Metro Direct is the solution to Metro GlassTech's problem of how to have a system that all their customers could use to order glass. It makes the process much more efficient for the original Metlink clients, and is easy enough for anyone else to use as well. By incorporating CAD, customers can create their own orders, and the system can automatically ensure that those orders are compliant with safety standards, and possible to create. There is a huge market for glass, and having such an efficient system for ordering gives Metro GlassTech a huge advantage in the marketplace. It sets a global benchmark for excellence.

The soft launch of the site has been very successful. Users say it is a vast improvement on the old system, and Metro Direct is being rolled out to 300 users around the country.

  • Launched
  • 1 January 2008
  • Sector
  • Corporate
  • Work
  • Web Development

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