This week was a busy week for me and the BT department. We were short two out of our five guys, and we had some untimely power outages. Also, my wing didn’t have air conditioning for a few days so my office became a sauna. The positives that came out of this event were that I learned about our back up generators and how to recover lost data when computers shut off unexpectedly.
This week I was given a couple more projects. My first project was to generate a sales report for our top performing items to present to our CEO. We have around 8000 different skus of nails and screws, and he wanted to just look at the ones we deal in high volume and ignore the ones we don’t really sell much of. From this project I learned a few more excel tricks, and I learned about pulling sales statistics from a database. I was able to learn about how we make our money in terms of margin percentage, and areas that we are currently struggling in. He was happy with the sheets I prepared for him, but it was nerve racking process for me. I wanted to make sure it was perfect for him because I didn’t want to disappoint him. I’m a math guy but I’m not a finance guy so a lot of the calculations were brand new to me. I had to google how to calculate some of the figures, and this made me worried I was doing it wrong or missing something obvious to someone who normally deals with finance. I liked learning how to perform under pressure in a business setting because I know I will be faced with more instances like this down the road.
My other project was to automate our label making process. Currently, our marketing department has to manually generate each of the thousands of labels by hand into a TIF file, and then our shipping department lays that image over a template and prints the label. What I’m trying to make is a program that automatically populates a template with the appropriate data when given just the item number. That seems difficult enough, but my boss also wants me to integrate it with our website so our vendors around the world can print labels without needing access to our files or data. I became very familiar with SQL after this project. I needed to set up a database that contained the data needed to populate the labels. I then used label printing software that we had purchased to generate labels that contained objects that pulled from this database. I had to write a few custom functions using Visual Basic Script to correct for color and text font, and this was a useful programming tool to learn. VBA is similar to the language I use in class, but it is higher level meaning that its “easier” to use. During this project I had to call tech support to help resolve issues we encountered along the way. Because of the complexity of this project and our labels in general the project I was developing was a “point of concept”. We just wanted to show that label automation was possible for our company, and be able to learn the system. I was able to integrate the program with our web page after many failures, and now I am working on documentation to help a new user navigate the system. I really enjoyed working on the project because I learned a lot about printers, servers, databases, and how to problem solve a real world issue. Also, this automation is going to save our marketing department a lot of time which turns into dollar savings for the company.