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Designing Niche Database Applications

Ornamental Iron Works is a small, family run iron manufacturer located in Northwest Indiana, providing iron columns and custom iron welding for large construction projects. Much of their daily process is focused on managing the manufacturing and sales of steel columns.

For more than 40 years, OIW managed both inventory and invoicing manually, on paper. This was not optimal for managing production and maintaining accurate inventory of each product. For one, there was no automated log of inventory sales or replenishment, making it a near impossible task to track product stock. This method also made forecasting the ordering of raw materials tedious and inaccurate.

Need for Customization 

Feeling that it was time to move away from managing the business on paper, Paul Halfman of OIW investigated shrink-wrapped, small business management software including QuickBooks and Peachtree but found that these and other available programs were missing key functionality for their needs and were unnecessarily complicated. The company wanted an application that would not only automate their manual processes but would also be easy to use by individuals with little or no computer training. When the available market software failed to meet the requirements, Halfman began looking into custom solutions and met with the consultants at Chicago Software Solutions (CSS).

OIW Steel Columns
Ornamental Iron Works manufactures steel columns for large and small construction projects.


"I had spoken to different companies prior to employing the services of CSS but none of them conveyed an understanding of the business world. CSS really impressed me with their knowledge of business management from their history of working with companies involved in manufacturing," said Halfman.

After reviewing the core software needs, OIW and CSS honed in on the functionality and decided upon a user-friendly interface that was simple and quick to navigate. Within about 30 days thereafter, the developers at CSS created an integrated invoicing, inventory and customer database that maintained ongoing records of inventory. This perpetual inventory management function allows OIW to track what inventory is available on the floor and which pieces are pre-sold, eliminating any possible miscalculations when selling.

CSS was able to incorporate all specific functions that OIW either formerly lacked or had handled on paper. Dynamic notation enables OIW to implement custom notes on invoices and bills, specific to each client. The system allows for multiple invoice types, including batch prints, customer invoices, merchant invoices, shipping slips, packing slips, all documents that are essential to the billing and shipment process. Because of truck weight limits, the weight calculation feature helps them to gauge how many truckloads are necessary for delivery. The application also prints envelopes with OIW letterhead and billing addresses.

Available in Seconds 

"Monthly reports which took hours to compile now take only seconds to print out. Weekly inventory counts that were always inaccurate and time consuming are now done automatically and are correct. Daily tasks such as invoicing, calculating shipping weights, composing merchant receipts, billing copies, packing slips, shipping slips, printing envelops, and inventory adjusting are all now centrally coordinated and available in seconds. Our staff can now focus more on tasks directly related to productivity and less on the ones that don't," said Halfman.

Where a pre-packaged software would have only met part of OIW's needs, CSS was able to tailor an application exactly to their requirements. The refined functionality, coupled with the easy-to-use interface makes it a simple program to master.

About Chicago Software Solutions 

Chicago Software Solutions is a full-service, custom software provider focused on improving business practices through technology. With experience in database applications, office tool customizations, Internet development and PDA applications, Chicago Software Solutions works closely with each client to provide the solutions they need.