BPEL frees people.
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That is one of the key advantages Patricia Dues, enterprise program manager for the city of Las Vegas, points to when she talks the municipality's application of Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) as a first step in the city's implementation of service-oriented architecture (SOA).
Speaking at this week's Gartner Inc. Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit, which coincidentally opens in Las Vegas today, Dues will talk about the human resources benefits of BPEL as well as increased efficiency in processing routine business tasks.
The first BPEL implementation is now live at the city's Water Pollution Control Facility, which treats wastewater for Las Vegas and North Las Vegas. The application, using the BPEL component of Oracle Corp.'s Fusion Middleware, automated the order management process so when supplies fall below a set level they are automatically re-ordered.
"As inventory is used there's an automatic re-ordering point as soon as the system reaches that point, with BPEL we were able to build a trigger and launch a purchase requisition," Dues said.
That implementation required integrating applications to not only handle the order processing, but also track the costs, Dues explained. This includes applications for the purchase order approval, inventory control, as well as human resources and payroll systems at the city for tracking the time and cost of employees working on the process.
"We had a number of interfaces that needed to be done. We needed the information from the HR system and payroll for people's hourly rates so we built that integration with the plant," Dues said.
While BPEL was relatively new technology in 2004, when the city first began evaluating it, she said the standards based approach made the integration of the applications relatively easy. While the city relied on consultants for the initial implementation, which began a year and a half ago, the city's IT staff, which worked with them, was able to learn BPEL to the point where they are now able to maintain and extend the applications on their own.
"This lowers your costs because you're not having to hire consultants to help you," Dues said. Additional labor savings through the use of BPEL application comes because workers at the water treatment plant who once had to be trained to use a supply ordering application that they might only need once a month, no longer need to be trained or use any ordering application since the process is now automated, she said.
"The application handles replenishment," she explained. "It watches the inventory levels. Instead of an alert coming on a screen and then an inventory manager needing to prepare a requisition for a purchase order, now that automatically takes place. The replenishment levels are set. It's done with triggers so it isn't something someone has to execute and run. It automatically places the order that automatically goes through the approval process. It automatically shoots back a purchase order."
When the order comes in, the invoice is automatically scheduled for payment.
"So it's all behind the scenes," Dues said. "There isn't any human interaction required. The people don't even need to know that is happening."
This frees up the people who work in the plant to concentrate on their primary jobs related to water treatment for the city, rather than spending time doing what used to be bureaucratic paper work. Because the application is new, Dues does not yet have dollar numbers for these cost savings.
Based on the success with the BPEL application at its water treatment plant, additional applications with utilizing SOA and business process management (BPM) are being planed.
The next project will be to use BPEL and BPM to integrate a proprietary application for land management fees with the Oracle financials applications to track payments, late fees and other revenues, she said. Another BPEL application that is now in the works will handle all the collections of various fees within the city.
"We're just getting started with this," Dues said.