DOWA Metals & Mining America: Case Study on Creating a Customer Portal Site with Microsoft Power Pages
1. Service Category
- Service Category
- Microsoft Power Platform＞Power Pages
- Client's Industry
- Non-ferrous metal recycling industry
Dowa Metals & Mining America purchases used auto parts from customers as raw, unprocessed recyclable materials, then processes precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium from them for recycling and reuse. Each lot of materials must be sampled and analyzed, the precious metal content calculated, and the purchase price then determined.
Purchase price varies depending on the precious metal content. Content varies depending on the make and age of the vehicle, so the company provides catalogs to assist in the collecting of recycled materials that they regularly manage and update.
The company wanted a solution that solved four challenges:
- Transactions and information-sharing with customers is done over email, making it time-consuming.
- Customer-provided information is often incomplete, necessitating fact checking, which takes more time.
- Internal information sharing with customers had to be secure.
- The company needed to be able to respond to fluctuating prices of financial products.
Dealing with customers via email was complicated internally and externally, and prone to errors. We wanted to increase efficiency and reduce time spent on the process by automating routine tasks. After research, we found an app would be a cost-effective solution, and turned to SYSCOM to help us determine which kind of application and function would fit our needs best.
3. Implemented Solution
The client already had Microsoft 365, so from an installation cost and maintenance perspective, Power Pages’s compatibility with Microsoft 365 made it the most ideal choice.
Power Pages’s ability to create portal pages for sharing data between Microsoft’s cloud-based database, Dataverse, and external parties made it the ideal choice for this project. It also offers vital data sharing controls, restricting sharing destinations and data upload/download permissions to specific users.
Considering the company’s existing Microsoft 365 environment, the short developmental timeframe, and sharing restrictions that kept the client in control, Power Pages was the obvious decision.
We didn’t know about Power Pages or Power Platform, but SYSCOM’s proposal was logical and easy to understand.
Since we had already installed Microsoft 365, there was little resistance to adding Power Pages.
4. Known Issues
There were two known issues that needed to be resolved prior to implementation:
- Price and values of submitted metal materials needed to be displayed according to each customer’s contract
- Time needed to check lots delivered by customers had to be reduced
First, we created a catalog for customers to check data and a portal site to check hedging balances. These values are specific to each customer’s contract, so each had to be able to display figures accordingly. A mechanism for dynamically updating those catalog figures based on the user account logged in was implemented.
Next, we prepared two types of pages for customers. One, to issue a shipping label to be attached to packages of raw materials, and the other to manage the transaction and processing status of the raw materials.
We’ve had many cases where lot names are either not indicated on customer deliveries, or the delivery is entirely different from what was communicated. The products we handle are very valuable, and errors in lot numbers can lead to major claims. A significant amount of checking is required to prevent these errors.
We’ve enabled the customer to create the packing list and issue labels themselves to avoid this problem.
5. Implementation Strategy
The initial plan was to have the app available for use by the end of 2022. However, we found it unfeasible to complete the entire project with multiple features within this timeframe, so we split the development into two phases to ensure the client’s stated high priority features could be finished in time.
|November 4, 2022 (First phase completed)
|Catalog and Hedge Capacity Confirmation Portal Released
|January 27, 2023 (Second phase completed)
|Released a function to automatically generate QR codes for packing lists, etc. on portal site
In the first development phase, we focused on building the site to enable catalog browsing and verifying the hedge inventory by the end of the year. In the second phase focused on the QR generator, we developed and installed applications to ensure the publicly available catalog wasn’t affected.
We worked hand in hand with the client in an agile framework, where their feedback was requested and implemented as it was received during development, keeping the entire project moving toward a full launch.
We needed an app with three functions: a catalog, a hedge balance verification, and a packing list. Hedge balance and the packing list were the two features most requested by our customers, but we found both complicated to implement. We decided to focus on releasing the hedge balance verification by the end of the year due to its convenience and high priority.
Right after the implementation, it took five minutes to create a pack list, but SYSCOM was able to improve efficiency even further, till it took only one minute per sheet.
And while some customers needed a little extra explanation to start using our app, on the whole, we’ve been able to handle rolling it out entirely in-house.
Automating the labeling process, something that used to require email communication with customers, has eliminated this part of the workflow and sped up the workflow.
Reducing the number of processes has also reduced the potential for human error, which has in turn significantly reduced time spent recovering from human error.
Portal site usage rate
We’ve only installed applications for about 5 client companies so far, but these clients account for 70-80% of our total transaction volume. These results are very influential.
While we’re still working on measuring the impact, anecdotally, the new system has improved operational efficiency by upwards of 20%. The opportunity for human error is down and the accuracy of information received has improved dramatically.
The application has been well-received globally across the company, and we’re considering expanding it to other locations in Europe and Asia.
7. Project Members
Engineer: Eugene Wilkinson
Business Application Development, Power Platform Technical Consultant
Eugene joined SYSCOM in 2020 after working for a software development company, where he was in charge of cloud solution proposals and operational support. He provides development/operational support for the digitization of analog operations using Microsoft 365.
Sales: Mamoru Muramatsu & Ryuichiro Yasuda
Mamoru Muramatsu: As a sales engineer and solution architect, Mamoru provides solutions for networks, security, and infrastructure to a wide range of customers from large to medium-sized enterprises. He focuses on making proposals that reflect the detailed requests of the customer’s perspective.
Ryuichiro Yasuda: Engaged in the IT solution business for over 10 years, Ryuichiro has provided comprehensive IT solution proposals and support, including security measures, to more than 200 companies in total. Currently, he is a senior director of SI solution business for manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and logistics.
8. Reasons for choosing SYSCOM
We’ve worked with SYSCOM for 5 years now on our IT infrastructure, and they’ve always been very helpful and courteous. As we have no IT team in the US, we always consult with SYSCOM when we have issues.
SYSCOM was our first choice for this application, and we’re very happy that they helped us develop a solution and solve our problems.
Partnering with SYSCOM means getting engineers who know systems like the backs of their hands and are deeply involved in your projects from the planning stage to post-launch QA and beyond, providing solutions and fielding issues as they arise.
We recommend the Microsoft Power Platform for any company considering application development. It’s fast, easy to build with, and seamlessly integrate with the rest of the Microsoft environment, making it less prone to defects and errors.
SYSCOM has many engineers dedicated to supporting Microsoft Power Platform implementation for data collection, analysis and forecasting, and building new applications.
Please reach out for more information.