Cintas Publishes AS/400 Reports With NT Solution

The dream of a paperless office is moving closer to reality as corporations look to the Internet and Web-based publishing solutions. Such solutions provide relief from both the high costs of paper and printing as well as the difficulties in disseminating that information to those who need it the most. The Cintas Corp. (Cincinnati), the largest publicly held U.S. manufacturer of corporate identity uniforms to the industrial market, decided to pursue just such a dream. The AS/400-based company selected a Windows NT Web tool from Network Software Associates Inc. (NSA, Arlington, Va.) to do it.

"We had been searching for a Web-based solution which would reduce or eliminate our printing related costs as well as offer remote distribution capabilities for our 150 remote offices," explains Thomas Thornlet, Cintas VP of management of information systems. Cintas found NSA's Report.Web up to the task. "Our employees can now access their reports instantly, which substantially increases the efficiency of our data flow."

Report.Web is a host-independent report publishing and distribution solution that runs on Windows NT server. The product converts existing host reports into HTML documents that can be viewed by standard Web browsers.

Additionally, reports can be published as proprietary Portable Report Format (PRF) files that can be viewed with NSA's Report.Web Explorer, a plug-in for Web browsers. PRF enables reports to be compressed at a 30:1 ration to optimize storage resources.

Report data manipulation is facilitated by using the Report.Web Modeling tool, which enables users to build their own data extraction templates. Once data is extracted, it can be sorted, filtered and combined with other calculated report data before being sent to various desktop applications (such as Microsoft Excel). These templates can be applied to future reports.

To protect reports and data from falling into the hands of the wrong users, Report.Web features mechanisms for the secure transfer of data. Access control is based on IP address, and the software supports the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol for secure transmission between the Web server and the browser. In addition, the PRF file format can be encrypted using a 32-character password.

Because Cintas is continually growing (currently at a 20 percent annual growth rate) keeping new field offices in touch with corporate data stores is a difficult task - especially when each field office operates as a separate business entity. As a result, the company is planning to roll out Report.Web to all of its 150 field offices to facilitate remote report distribution.

Each of Cintas' field offices has at least one AS/400 machine, but according to Mike Kosegi, Cintas systems development manager, the AS/400 is not the best platform on which to view reports. "There's no easy way to view report outputs at the AS/400 level," he explains. "We decided that the best way around this was to provide browser-based access to the AS/400."

According to Kosegi, Cintas chose Report.Web over competing Web-based publishing solutions for several reasons. "We wanted a low-end, low-cost mechanism for accessing AS/400 reports quickly, and Report.Web fit the bill. It's been nice, because it's so easy to set up."

Cintas will use Report.Web to enable general managers from each of its field offices to access centralized corporate financial and inventory information and reports.