Growth Drives Automation
Synclaire Brands is the premier children’s footwear provider in the U.S. The company designs, sources and sells fashion footwear for kids, and works with a prestigious portfolio of brands and retailers.
For almost a decade, Synclaire has relied on Navisite as its managed service provider partner. Initially, Navisite was brought on to support Synclaire’s IT environment with database administration (DBA) and business intelligence (BI) services. But soon after, CEO Evan Cagner realized that Navisite’s data analytics experts could provide value beyond the initial scope. To streamline his growing business, he engaged Navisite for two data integration and automation projects tied to core business processes—customer invoicing and image catalog management.
Invoicing Made Easy
With an exponential increase in customer shipments, the company’s manual approach to invoicing was no longer a sound business strategy. As Cagner noted, “Manually keeping up with the growing volume of invoices would have required additional headcount. It made sense from both a financial and business perspective to automate the process.”
Since Synclaire was already a Microsoft® SQL Server® customer, Navisite leveraged Microsoft’s SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) tool to create an automated workflow that would eliminate the need for manual invoicing. This resulted in a new automated schedule where every 30 minutes the automation process scans for new shipping confirmations produced by the shoe warehouse. When confirmations are detected, the process extracts the data within each file and integrates it with business logic to generate and send customized invoices to Synclaire’s retail partners.
“With Navisite’s help, we’ve been able to dramatically cut down our invoice delivery time,” said Cagner. “What used to take us up to three days is now completed in a matter of hours. Additionally, by automating the process, we’ve reduced the risk of human error and freed up our resources to focus on other initiatives.”
Automating Image Catalog Management
Cagner then turned his attention to automating the company’s image catalog. Any time a retailer purchases a new shoe style, the associated image (often featuring multiple views) needs to be featured on the retailer’s e-commerce site. Synclaire supplies thousands of shoe styles to hundreds of retail partners—each with their own set of image sizes and naming conventions. Maintaining this image catalog and sending and logging the appropriate images to each retailer became too complex to manage as a manual process.
“Similar to the invoicing issue, maintaining our image database and style requests would have required us to hire more people or pull employees away from other tasks, and we didn’t want to go down that road,” said Cagner. “We needed to automate the full image lifecycle, and I had confidence that the Navisite team could handle this project—and they did.”
Picture Perfect Process
Once again, using Microsoft process automation tools, Navisite developed two automated workflows: one to catalog the images by style, and another to deliver the images to retailers.
First, Navisite addressed the collection of images. Once new style images are taken by a photographer, they are then “cleaned” by a third-party provider before being downloaded, named and stored in Synclaire’s image catalog. Navisite automated the multiple steps in this process, eliminating all the back and forth emails and manual effort involved in uploading raw images to an FTP site for the third-party provider, and then downloading, naming and storing cleaned images when they are ready.
Navisite then built a scheduled process for retailer requests. Every night, an automated workflow analyzes all shoe purchases made that day and identifies cases where retailers will require images of new shoe styles. In these instances, the process:
– Matches the shoe style ordered to the appropriate image in the Synclaire image catalog.
– Copies the correct source image locally, and then resizes and renames it to match the retailer’s requirements.
– Uploads the new image to the retailer’s FTP directory, where it can be downloaded to the retailer’s e-commerce site.
Because the process was built in a scalable way, it’s now easy for Synclaire to add new retailers or handle any changes in requirements to existing retailers.
“Beyond the ongoing support of our IT environment, Navisite’s experts have continuously proven that their knowledge and experience in data integration and automation can support our most complex IT projects,” said Cagner. “With the automation of our image catalog process, we can maintain high service levels as our business grows, while effectively managing operational efficiencies and costs.”