“Middleware” program understands the diverse formats of existing software and helps exchange information with the National Pork Database.
Moving information from one software program into another has always been a challenge. There is no “standard three-point hitch” that software can plug into to be universally compatible with all other software.
Until recently, the only way for one program to communicate with another was for the software developers to write specific interfaces for those programs with which they chose to interface.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) recognized this as a major barrier to rapid data submission to the Pork National Database. The inability of major production software to communicate with each other was a bottleneck. The industry needed a new program capable of understanding the diverse data formats of existing software programs and capable of electronically matching financial data with production data for accurate transmission to the Pork National Database. The concept of Pork Office was born.
Pork Office operates as middleware — the conduit that links existing production and financial software to the Pork National Database.
The next challenge was to create Pork Office so that the complex tasks were simple to perform. The main menu was designed with only six items (Figure 1.) that fall into two categories — items performed once and items performed monthly.
Items in the performed once category include “Import Org IDs” and “Configure Pork Office.” Both are critical to ensure the user is set up correctly in the Pork National Database, a prerequisite to using Pork Office.
The first step to making Pork Office functional is the program's ability to recognize the organizational IDs created in the Pork National Database. This is accomplished by logging onto the Pork National Database Web site (www.benchmarksonline.com) and clicking the “Org Info” tab. Currently, class participation is necessary before input of actual farm data. You can, however, register for a two-week trial period to become more familiar with the database's potential.
Continuing through the six steps, you will next locate the menu item in the “Org Info” tab called “Download Org IDs.” That menu item starts the process of downloading the organization's information you have created in the Pork National Database.
This download process allows you to specify where on your hard drive you would like to store this information. You will need to know this location when you press the “Import Org IDs” menu item. By telling Pork Office where this information has been stored, you can ensure that your production and financial information will be transferred into your account and your account only.
Once Pork Office knows the organization IDs that you have created, the next step is to configure Pork Office. This process matches each organization ID created in the Pork National Database with the appropriate production and financial software that Pork Office is compatible with.
You must have the name and version number of the production or financial software program that you are using to configure Pork Office correctly. You also will need to know the name and location on the hard drive where your data is stored. A Pork Office support person can help locate your data.
Importing organization IDs and configuring Pork Office are typically performed once and do not change unless you create a new org ID or change your production or financial software.
Transferring the Data
Once configured, users will want to “Import Farm Data” and “Generate Upload” information on a monthly basis.
Importing farm data is the process of transferring your production and financial data into Pork Office. Once Pork Office understands your raw data, it then can compute each data element that the Pork National Database tracks based on the production and financial standards guidelines.
The “Generate Upload” menu item computes the data elements needed and prepares this information for transmitting to the Pork National Database. Pork Office also allows users to generate any of the standard reports defined in the production and financial standards. The “Reports” menu contains five reports to choose (see Figure 2).
When a report is requested, users are asked for the organizational ID and date range.
The program offers several options for printing the five reports: send them to a printer or to other popular formats such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Reports also can be exported into HTML format for posting on the Web.
The last item on the Pork Office main menu is “Data Integrity.” This item identifies areas of concern and alerts users to possible discrepancies in their underlying data, such as the accuracy of data collection or the way data was entered.
The production software programs compatible with Pork Office include: Herdsman (S & S Programming Inc.), PC Pro and PigCHAMP (PigCHAMP Inc.), PigWIN (FarmWise Systems Inc.), Smart Breeder and Smart Feeder (FBS Systems Inc.) and Swine Graphics (Swine Graphics Inc.). PigCare from PIC also has expressed interest.
The financial software programs that are currently making modifications to be compatible with Pork Office include: Ag Manager (Agri-Solutions Inc.), CPA Accounting (S & S Programming Inc.) and Transaction Plus (FBS Systems Inc.). Others that have expressed interest are Perception (FMS/Harvest), Great Plains Accounting (Great Plains Software Inc.), PC Mars (Iowa Farm Business Inc.) and AgCHEK (Red Wing Business Systems Inc.).
Pork Office is the gatekeeper for the accuracy of information flowing into the Pork National Database. It computes the data elements in exactly the same manner, no matter what underlying production or financial software was used.
For more information, contact S & S Programming Inc. at (765) 423-4472, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keith Schuman, S&S Programming Inc., Lafayette, IN