[ .03 ] IFCO Systems

launched: 12/2004
Ushering a paper-based company into a digital era for data exchange.

[ b a c k g r o u n d ]

IFCO Systems is a global transport packaging logistics company, operating a pool of more than 75 million RPC’s (Reusable Plastic Containers) globally, which are used primarily to transport fresh produce from producers to leading grocery retailers, as well as pallet management services within the United States.

An industry still mired in triplicate paperwork and isolated information resources, IFCO’s United States division wanted to lead the international corporation into a new era of online information sharing and tracking.

[ p r o b l e m ]

The biggest hurdle facing IFCO’s I.T. department was its limited resources. The Vice President of I.T., David Willis, had a small core development team who had their hands full maintaining and supporting the current system.

His goal was to use contract resources to begin this massive overhaul in technology, developing prototype applications that could be demonstrated to high-level executives within the organization and utilized by a limited user-base to test and fine tune functionality. By introducing radically new technology solutions in this manner, Mr. Willis hoped to unequivocally prove their usefulness and eventually receive funding to expand his department and develop full-scale versions of the prototype applications.

He knew his success hinged on two things: creating a professional, user-friendly online environment for all IFCO U.S. ventures and putting careful thought and planning into the initial development concepts. These prototypes would make or break the I.T. department’s future development plans.

[ a p p r o a c h ]

I began my work with IFCO redesigning their U.S. website, offering them a clean, professional interface for potential customers, as well as a “portal” login to access the online tools for both partners and IFCO divisions.

Once we had a new look established, we moved into application development. I was confident in my ability to provide UI design, and I brought a developer to the project who could take on the architecture and implementation of the prototype applications.

As a two-person team, we took a proactive role in interviewing I.T. staff and leveraging their knowledge of division needs and technology limitations. Based on initial meetings, I would create mockups for each prototype, and upon revision and approval, the developer would implement the build-out of each application.

To effectively build these prototypes, it was essential to obtain both a high-level and detailed understanding of their systems. Working both onsite and offsite, we had the freedom to choose approaches and work environments that were most conductive to our current phase of development.

[ s o l u t i o n ]

By keeping our development team small and utilizing the knowledge and resources of the full-time team, we were able to create a suite of online applications with a consistent UI design without distracting the I.T. department from their day-to-day demands.

Applications were all accessed through a My Applications portal, with each user granted role-specific access. I created logos for each application, tying together the suite and keeping corporate branding intact.

[ r e s u l t ]

Within 18 months, we had redesigned the website, developed 6 prototype applications and overhauled the UI for 2 existing applications. IFCO’s U.S. divisions were utilizing the new system with great success, and Mr. Willis received approval for expanding his department for further development of these projects. With a 6-month wrap-up and knowledge transfer to newly hired staff, the developer and I completed our contract project with IFCO.

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