SECTION 10 -THE CARGOMANAGER ITEM DATABASE.
(Covers the database program, database size, automatic update and use of end user datafiles, the MAKEIB database utility, Cylindrical Entries)
In order to speed the input of cargo information into the product input screen of CARGOMANAGER (where information on product sizes / orientations are requested), it is possible to set up a database containing information on the most common items encountered. In this release this ‘Itembase’ can hold details of up to 25,000 items (v4.9).
The contents of the Itembase are automatically displayed on Screen 3 (Data Input) when the database contains 2 or more items.
Information can be added to this database in three ways which we will examine in turn:
1. By using the purpose built ‘Itembase’ database program, accessed from the Main Options Menu. This allows database entries to be added, deleted, or modified, as well as providing browsing and printing functions. THE FIRST ENTRY INTO THE DATABASE MUST BE MADE THIS WAY, though subsequent entries can be added using either this method or method 2. described below. If the MAKEIB utility (3. below) is to be used then this will create the complete database. Any new system is distributed with a few sample entries already in the file so that these can be added to immediately.
2. By selecting the Itembase option on the screen providing a summary of the input data - Screen 4. In this mode of operation all those case descriptions and dimensional information input to form the cargo currently being examined will be added to the current Itembase file. Where the description given duplicates that already held in the database, the database entry is NOT updated.
3. By using the MAKEIB utility to create an initial Itembase using data from other sources. Details can be accessed here.
The Database Program.
In order to either initially create, or to subsequently change the database, you should select the Item Database option from the CARGOMANAGER Options Screen. You may also create the initial database by using data from other sources (e.g. via a spreadsheet), and this is described later in this Section.
The database (if any currently exists) is then read in and the number of entries in the database displayed. If no database exists then a new file will be created for you.
The format of the database file is such that it would probably be possible for you IT staff to create a suitable database from information which may already be held on other computer systems within your organisation. However the database program we provide enables you to quickly and easily set up such a file yourself.
Having entered the Itembase module you can then add, delete or modify items in exactly the same manner as with the case details input screen. Obviously no entries for 'number' or 'priority' are requested.
To move through the database next and previous options are available and also ++ and -- entries which jump further through the database. (Their action depends on the size of the database)
Data entries can, of course, be deleted. The database is sorted into alphabetic order on entry / exit. The database can, of course, be output to a printer, and when this is done then additionally a file CMDBOUT.TXT is created in the CARGOMANAGER folder containing the same information.
Database Size and Speed of Operation
A database of up to 25,000 case entries (CARGOMANAGER v4.9) may be created with CARGOMANAGER. As you might expect this is a fairly large volume of information and when entering or leaving the database program all this information has to be read or updated as appropriate. With the largest possible database size this could take several seconds, however this will normally only occur on first use of an unsorted database.
Automatic Database Update.
Whilst may users will be happy to utilise to Item Database program (as accessed from the main Options Menu) to build up a database of case information, the ability to automatically update the information held based on the information just input as part of a CARGOMANAGER examination is clearly a very useful feature.
By selecting the Itembase option on the screen immediately following case detail input, all those case descriptions and dimensional information input to form the cargo currently being examined will be added to the current Itembase file. If there is duplication in terms of Case Code / Description between the database entry and the current data (that just entered) then the database entry will NOT be updated. If there happen to be duplicate Codes / Descriptors within the current input data, then the first entry encountered will be used.
All data held in the database is in UPPER CASE, though data is entered on all screens is not case sensitive. The use of upper case ensures that the alphabetic display of entries follows a logical sequence. Automatic translation to upper case will be made as the entry is added to the database, and details of Case code / Description made on entry screens (where the match with database entries is attempted) will be matched regardless of the case in which they are entered.
A User Generated Itembase File.
As indicated earlier it may be possible for your IT staff to set up a suitable file for use by CARGOMANAGER as an Itembase. Many companies may have case information (e.g. Codes, dimensions and weights) held on other computer systems, and it will usually be possible for this information (together with other default values for valid orientations), to be output to a simple (ACSII) PC file which can be used as an Itembase.
In summary a user who has (say) a spreadsheet containing the following information:
Product Code; Case length; Case width, case height and case weight
should be able to have this information (for up to 25000 products) ready populated into their Itembase for immediate use, using if required the utility program described below.
The Make Itembase (MAKEIB) Utility Program.
As described above most users will be in a position to generate much of the data held in the CARGOMANAGER ITEMBASE.CAR file within other systems. The MAKEIB utility is designed to make the conversion of this data into a suitable database file as simple as possible. The description below is based on a user who is able to provide some basic data in a spreadsheet format.
If we assume that the following information is available:
A product description (the first 40 characters [CARGOMANAGER v4.9] will be used in CARGOMANAGER)
The length of the product (mm.)
The width of the product (mm.)
The height of the product (mm.)
The weight of the product.(kg)
Within a spreadsheet this might look as follows:
Note that we have removed all headings from the columns. The dimensions may be integer or have a decimal point according to the format available to you. Other data could exist in columns F onwards but the content / order of columns A-E must be observed. Up to 25,000 lines of data (CARGOMANAGER v4.9) may be converted to the ITEMBASE format.
This file (named here itembase.xls) can be converted to a comma separated format by selecting File / Save As and saving as ITEMBASE.CSV. This file name MUST be used for the file name that is used as an input to the MAKEIB utility.
Having created the .CSV file ITEMBASE.CSV (which must be saved or copied to the CARGOMANAGER installation folder), the next step is to run the MAKEIB utility to create a suitable database output file. The program MAKEIB.EXE will be found in the CARGOMANAGER installation folder (or may be supplied separately).
If supplied separately it must be copied to the CARGOMANAGER installation folder, as must the ITEMBASE.CSV file. [The utility will only function within the CARGOMANAGER installation folder].
The utility can be run by double-clicking on the MAKEIB file when viewing the folder in Windows Explorer. The following screen is then displayed:
The screen describes the function of the utility and allows you to decide whether the data on product length and width obtained from the .CSV file will have associated with it default orientation values of Yes or No. Thus if most products MUST have their height placed vertical when packing then default entries of 'No' for both questions should be selected. If most items can be placed in any orientation when being packed then yes is appropriate for both.
Naturally any / all values can be edited once the database is set up.
When you select Continue the output file ITEMBASE.OUT will be created. This will normally only take a couple of seconds. If there appear to be any problems at this stage then please refer to Appendix 1.
The file created using the above process is called ITEMBASE.OUT. However this is NOT the correct name for the file used with CARGOMANAGER as we did not want the utility program to overwrite any existing Item Database. To action the new file as the appropriate database RENAME the file ITEMBASE.OUT as ITEMBASE.CAR after making sure that any existing ITEMBASE.CAR file is not required.
Recently we have added the facility within the ITEMBASE to define an entry as a cylinder / drum. All such entries are assumed to be placed in the container with the circular base at the bottom. This obviously means that the length and width of the cargo item (drum) must be equal and that neither the length or width can be placed vertically. If these factors are not met then the drum indicator (a tick box) will not be available.
The MAKEIB utility does NOT include any facility at present to take information on whether an item is a drum and include this is the database, but the ITEMBASE button on the front screen does naturally provide access to the database so that appropriate items can be flagged as cylindrical as appropriate. Should there be a requirement to automate the entry of the cylindrical flag from customer data we will naturally work with them to automate the entry of this parameter.
If there appear to be any problems with the database then please refer to Appendix 1.
If you are creating your own ITEMBASE.CAR file then a test program 'testitembase.exe' is available which will help you in the event that the file fails to work with CARGOMANAGER. This reports to an output file 'errorsinitembase' when a problem is encountered with the validity of any entry in the ITEMBASE.