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    Gemstone’s CTO Dr. Jianfei Xu on Why Most Business Systems Aren’t Putting Data to Use (& Why They Should)

    Gemstone’s CTO Dr. Jianfei Xu on Why Most Business Systems Aren’t Putting Data to Use (& Why They Should)

    Gemstone’s CTO Dr. Jianfei Xu on Why Most Business Systems Aren’t Putting Data to Use (& Why They Should)

    Dr. Jianfei Xu is Gemstone Logistics’ Chief Technology Officer. He came to Gemstone with 15 years of experience as a design engineer, field engineer, software architect, and senior software developer. He was driven to find full-fit solutions to common data management challenges faced by businesses across the globe. His goal to create a fully configurable system has become the framework and driving force behind ILLUMYS and Gemstone’s flagship application CIRYS.

    Before forming a partnership with Gemstone Logistics, Dr. Xu completed his Ph.D. in Construction Engineering and Management from the University of Alberta. He worked closely with a construction company for several years and began to notice the challenges they faced – challenges that were not unique to this particular company.

    Why a 90% Fit for Data Management Software is Not Enough

    The main issue was an overload of data being captured but not used effectively (or at all). Amidst a mess of documents, forms, spreadsheets, and small data capture programs, the company struggled to capture and analyze the correct data in a meaningful way. There were also major inefficiencies in the capture and use of data, leading to hundreds of extra hours of labour.

    Most systems available on the market provided an 80-90% fit for the needs of the company. The 10% of the data that wasn’t covered by the system was still a major obstacle. It resulted in duplications of data entry, multiple solutions that didn’t integrate, and other administrative challenges.

    After spending many hours in the field with them, Dr. Xu knew that to solve this problem, the construction company needed to apply a new methodology. They needed to take a systemic approach to data collection and analysis. He helped them implement a streamlined and inexpensive solution for data management.

    After his initial experiences with data management systems, Dr. Xu was left with one question: If everything in a business is driven by the data, why isn’t the system driven by the data?

    His vision was simple: Create systems that start and end with data.

    The Uni-Engine

    Dr. Xu imagined a configurable system called the Uni-Engine. In this design, all of a company’s data would be collected and stored in a single “hub,” which would also complete all of the functions they needed to put the data to use.

    The “uni” aspect of the Uni-Engine describes several of its ultimate goals:
    • To unify data in a single location and make it “come alive” in that it is both the end goal of the system and part of creating the system.
    • To fit with the unique needs and methods of the companies using the system by making the system configurable rather than customizable.
    • To be a universal solution that can work for all businesses because it is driven by the data, not features.

    How the Uni-Engine Solves Traditional Challenges in Data Management Software

    The Uni-Engine provides a single, unified solution to several of the largest challenges facing companies today. We’ll take a closer look at these challenges and how the Uni-Engine takes an uncommon approach to resolving them.

    Challenge: Data is Valued as “Transactional”

    Dr. Xu understands data differently than many people do. He views it much like the cells in an organism, alive and contributing to the whole of the organism (or, in the case of businesses, the whole of the organization). One of the greatest issues with many current data management systems is that they take a transactional approach to data. Instead of using the data to inform the system and define business processes, the collection and use of data is only the end goal of the system.

    Let’s look at an example of this in Gemstone Logistics’ travel and room management software for workforces, CIRYS. In a typical situation, a company will employ multiple travel coordinators to manage commercial and charter flight schedules, itinerary changes, and the availability of accommodation at the final destination. It’s often messy and time-consuming.

    Meanwhile, CIRYS takes a unifying approach to this data. It translates data from multiple other systems (such as airlines and hotels) and brings it together so that it can be read from a single, intuitive interface. Instead of approaching multiple systems that weren’t designed for them, but for the service provider, CIRYS allows companies to integrate those systems into their own operational tool.

    Challenge: Companies Don’t Own Their Data

    Intellectual property was another challenge faced by many companies, which often have a unique business process and don’t want to share those values with other companies or solution providers.

    The Uni-Engine solves this process by providing the infrastructure for customers to manage their own data internally. All in all, Gemstone Logistics’ goal is to provide the tools and infrastructure businesses need to manage, own, and use their own data with less effort and fewer obstacles.

    Challenge: There is Not a Single, Up-to-Date Record

    Many companies rely on multiple systems for the features they need to run their operations. This “patchwork” approach to data management often leaves a company without a single, intuitive dashboard where they can view a single, complete record of all data. The Uni-Engine approaches this challenge by merging all of the data into a single dashboard that has multiple access points but remains fully up to date at all times.

    One important result of this is that the reconciliation of data is completed automatically. For example, in the ILLUMYS project control management system, job costing for LEM happens instantaneously as values are added.

    Challenge: Generating Forms that Collect Data and Work with the System is a Challenge

    Data collection is another area where inefficiencies are common. Companies spend millions of dollars per year on inefficiencies in data collection and data entry. This is mainly because most solutions do not allow companies to create custom forms that input data where it’s needed. In the Uni-Engine, data flows into, through, and out of the system efficiently because custom forms with well-defined fields are linked to other functions and features.

    An example of this concept is group bookings for travel and accommodation. CIRYS allows specific data to be grouped together and treated as one unit, making booking as simple as a few clicks. A company can use a form to enter employees, group them together in specific ways (for example, according to their regular shifts), and then allow that group to be booked simultaneously for flights and accommodations. This eliminates repetitive work for travel coordinators and eliminates human error.

    Challenge: There is Not Enough Flexibility

    Business moves quickly, and when it doesn’t, it’s often data management that’s holding up the process. In the Uni-Engine, changing one value leads to changes in the related values. Rules can be easily added to the system to guide this systemic change.

    Let’s look at Gemstone Logistics’ CIRYS flight and accommodation software again. Changes happen often in travel management, and companies need to adapt their travel coordination to fit perfectly with their operations. Let’s say that a company using CIRYS wants to ensure that their employees only travel with a specific airline. Instead of implementing training and procedures for travel coordinators to achieve this, a new “rule” can be configured instantly within CIRYS that automatically filters the airlines.

    Data-Centred Solutions for Business

    Dr. Xu’s expertise in engineering unique software solutions has allowed Gemstone Logistics to create software that is configurable for specific business operations. In doing this, we’ve been able to eliminate that frustrating 10-20% grey area.

    If you’d like to learn more about Gemstone Logistics’ products, get in touch with our team for a personalized demonstration and consultation.

    Ross Purdie Elevated to Lead Gem

    Ross Purdie Elevated to Lead Gem

    Ross Purdie Elevated to Lead Gem

    Gemstone Logistics Inc., a leader in transportation and lodging software for remote industrial projects, is proud to announce the promotion of Ross Purdie to President. Founder Tom McHale will continue as CEO, providing strategic vision and guidance for the future, as well as leading the search for accretive acquisitions. In his new position as President, Ross will take on a larger role leading software, operations, sales and corporate functions for the Gemstone team.

    An accountant by trade, Ross brings a wealth of international management experience to his role as President. With rigorous attention to detail and a relentless approach to achieving objectives, Ross was the ideal choice to take on the challenge of leading Gemstone in a time of strong growth and expansion.

    CEO Tom McHale explained, “Ross has been a leader in our company for many years and I am glad to recognize his strong contribution to our continued growth. As Gemstone evolves into a global player, I can think of no one who I would rather have steering the ship than Ross.”

    Ross added, “in my 6 years at Gemstone, I’ve been involved in every part of our business to some degree and have learned from the very best in the industry – I’m thrilled to be given the chance to lead the team and take Gemstone to the next level.”

    Also, as a part of this new structure Stephen Taylor has been promoted to VP, Software for Gemstone. Stephen brings 25 years of software experience to this key team, and creating this new position will ensure that Gemstone executes effectively on its coherent software strategy and continues to drive collaborative innovation.

    “I take a lot of lot of pride in the knowledge that I have the support of such an incredible group of people which we get to show off to our customers through demos and day-to-day client relations. This team is by far Gemstone’s greatest asset and why we deliver the best customer experience in the industry,” stated McHale.

    Meet Rachelle, Gemstone’s Adventurous Support Desk Analyst

    Meet Rachelle, Gemstone’s Adventurous Support Desk Analyst

    Meet Rachelle, Gemstone’s Adventurous Support Desk Analyst

    Support Desk Analyst might not be the best description for what Rachelle does, since she’s rarely at her own desk. More often than not, you’ll find her behind the front desk at a remote camp, helping the staff there learn how to use Gemstone Logistics’ software tools to manage rooms and travel for workers.

    Rolling Up Her Sleeves On-Site

    Like most people on the Gemstone Logistics team, Rachelle is a self-described “jack of all trades.” In an office this busy with a team this strong, there’s always more to learn. It’s part of what keeps Rachelle motivated and inspired.

    Rachelle’s role has grown in the three years she’s been at Gemstone Logistics. As the software has grown, the team has grown in size, collective strength, and individual skills. At first, Rachelle mostly provided light remote support for clients. Today, she often ends up rolling up her sleeves at remote workforce locations to provide clients with training and integration for their software solutions.

    She mostly works with CIRYS, Gemstone Logistics’ travel and room management software, which is a web-based tool that helps remote camps manage travel and accommodation for workers. It provides commercial flight booking, room booking, an easy access app for travellers, and options for booking virtually any type of charter transport, particularly for large groups.

    Never a Dull Moment

    Pre-COVID, Rachelle travelled to camps across Western Canada and the Northern United States, often venturing deep into uncharted territory. Every camp is a little different, she says. At one mining operation, she was assigned a security detail that followed her everywhere she went. At other camps, she has no time to eat or rest after a long trip; she jumps in to answer phones and create bookings alongside her trainees.

    Rachelle often gets pulled in a million directions at once when she’s on-site. She’s training people, answering questions, helping with operations, and communicating with the development team back in Sherwood Park– all at the same time. She handles all of this with her typical cheeriness and energy, remarking that there’s a lot of laughter and good times amidst the craziness.

    Rachelle recalls a specific trip to Alaska in which she and Gemstone’s VP of Operations, Danica, found themselves in a little shack in the middle of nowhere, waiting for a bus to pick them up. For this trip, they had to take a flight, a shuttle, another shuttle, a bus, a ferry, and another shuttle just to get there! Despite the lengthy journey, both of them were awed by the spectacular beauty of the Alaskan mountains all around them.

    This particular type of travelling is adventurous and not for everyone, but it suits Rachelle’s personality well. At home in Edmonton, her family of five spends a lot of time outdoors, whether it’s in the backyard, camping somewhere remote, or heading out on a bike trip.

    Keeping the Clients in Mind

    It’s easy to forget who’s on the other side of the software when you aren’t out in the field with them face to face (or videoconferencing, as she has been during the pandemic). Rachelle is essentially the translator that works between Gemstone’s clients and developers, ensuring that there’s a shared agreement about what’s needed, what works, and what doesn’t. She’s a self-proclaimed “people pleaser,” talented in offering personalized support that aims to strengthen and improve the relationship between the people using the technology and those creating it.

    Rachelle has a creative background, which she applies to challenges that come up while she’s away for work. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and in her spare time she creates unique paintings with beeswax.

    Rachelle understands that what clients need most is for her to act as a support system and keen listener for the software users. Dialogue and conversation are about 90% of the workload, including explaining why things look and function a certain way. She also actively listens to their challenges, helping bridge the gaps between technology, operations, and people wherever she can. Although the CIRYS program is built for end-users and easy to follow, there’s always an adjustment period. During this time, she provides guidance and a sense of security.

    Rachelle hasn’t travelled much since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Canada in early March, but she’s eager to get back on the road when circumstances allow. “The software is as easy as possible, but nothing beats in-person training,” she says. She’s looking forward to a potential  deployment in Australia, which would be the furthest she’s travelled yet.

    Working with Clients – Old & New!

    It’s not always brand-new software implementations that require support. Rachelle also provides ongoing support for clients as changes and updates are made to the software. Usually, the clients themselves have had a hand in these changes by making specific requests. Once the updates are there, Rachelle can be on-site to make it a smooth transition.

    In other cases, there are configuration needs for specific clients. The idea behind Gemstone Logistics’ software is to make it easier to book travel and manage rooms, even for the most complex clients. This means integrating current business practices with the technology. In some cases, that means tweaks to current processes. In others, it may mean tweaks to the technology, which is why Rachelle always has her laptop with her; she communicates continuously with the development team in Sherwood Park. It’s also a great two-way street: as she supports clients, she also has a strong support system backing her up from the Gemstone offices.

    Rachelle’s Success at Gemstone Logistics

    In previous articles, we’ve talked about why we hire people instead of skillsets. Rachelle is a perfect example of this. When she came in for her interview, her background was in estimating in commercial construction. Despite that, the Gemstone Logistics’ management team recognized that her energy, optimism, and drive to learn were unique and couldn’t be passed up in the tech industry. Although the job she interviewed for had already been filled, we created a position specifically for her. She’s been with the team for three years now, and we look forward to many more with her at the helm of our on-site support!

    To see more of Rachelle’s artwork, please visit https://www.rachellerita.com/

    What’s New in the Gemstone Logistics Education Program in 2020 

    What’s New in the Gemstone Logistics Education Program in 2020 

    What’s New in the Gemstone Logistics Education Program in 2020

    Although we tend to think of technology as self-sufficient, it relies heavily on the people creating, maintaining, and operating it.

    People are the driving force behind technology. They’re also (arguably) the most essential resource in any business. That’s why investments in people are just as important as our investments in technology. At Gemstone Logistics, we invest in our team regularly through our education program.

    Why Investing in People is Important to Us

    The human resources philosophy at Gemstone Logistics has always been based on opportunity and potential. Skills are important, but skills can be learned. We believe in giving people the tools and knowledge they need for success, rather than simply expecting it. We choose to hire based on traits like motivation, teamwork, and an openness to learning.

    This is where the Gemstone Logistics Education Program comes into play. We invest in training for our employees and managers on a regular basis by offering them financial assistance for their educational pursuits. There aren’t any hard and fast rules in the program; requests are approved on a case-by-case basis. Any employee can put in a request for a course, seminar, conference, or even to continue their post-secondary education. Or, if we spot a course or conference we think someone on the team could benefit from, we let them know and make it happen.

    It’s not all about technology-based learning, either. Leadership, communication, sales, marketing, and other essential skills are all considered under the education program.

    We credit the education program as one of the top reasons for our employee retention rates, which are especially high for the tech industry. According to many studies, career development is one of the best ways to keep great employees working hard in your business. Although we invest in a person’s abilities so they can achieve more (even elsewhere in the industry), they tend to want to stay because they know we’re committed to their personal and professional success.

    A few Gemstone Logistics team members have already used the education program in 2020 to expand their skills.

    Justin – Angular Conference for Front-End Web Development

    Gemstone Logistics was fortunate to add Justin to the team when we acquired Orissa Software, the company that originally developed our CampWare product. Over the past year, he’s been leading the team responsible for bringing CampWare from its original desktop version to an online application. In particular, Justin handles the user experience portion of the software. His educational background in video game design and programming helps him create intuitive interfaces that require less training and support for end-users of CampWare.

    It’s no surprise that the ng-conf conference was on Justin’s radar for April 2020. He submitted the idea and was given the green light. Gemstone Logistics committed to covering the cost of the ticket, as well as his travel expenses. He was excited to attend his first-ever conference and grateful because he knew his managers thought he was worth the investment.

    At the conference, Justin expanded his knowledge about Angular coding. In Angular, you break down code into smaller components, rather than coding in one big line. This results in numerous benefits. It makes editing the code easier and ensures better readability for team members and other coders who are involved in the project. It can also lead to a better overall front-end user experience.

    Of course, ng-conf didn’t go exactly as planned this year. Physical distancing due to COVID-19 meant the in-person conference in Salt Lake City was cancelled. Instead, it was held virtually. Justin says the speakers were extremely creative, theming their presentations around everything from Disney’s Frozen to the wonderful world of wizardry. One presentation that stood out was led by an 11-year-old who uses a particular framework and application for Angular. Justin says his knowledge base was impressive, especially for his age.

    Although the conference moved online this year, the good news for Justin is that he’ll still get the chance to attend in-person in 2021.

    Rhys – Continuing Education at NAIT

    Rhys is a business analyst with Gemstone Logistics. He facilitates product development framework, bridging communications and data analysis between project owners and development teams to make sure we’re creating the best possible solutions. Rhys took a short break from Gemstone a few years ago to work as a consultant, but found it wasn’t as hands-on or people-focused as he preferred, so he rejoined the team and has been with us ever since.

    Before landing at Gemstone Logistics, Rhys came out of NAIT with his CST diploma (now known as DMIT). He always intended to go back to complete a full Bachelor of Technology degree, but he was eager to get some field experience under his belt after the initial two-year program. Unfortunately, once you’re locked into a full-time position you don’t want to leave, it’s hard to return to school.

    Luckily, Rhys didn’t have to make that choice. He’s been able to go back to NAIT to finish his degree, starting in the January 2020 semester, with the help of Gemstone’s education program.

    It’s no walk in the park: Rhys balances full-time school with full-time work at Gemstone Logistics. But he says it will be worth it to achieve the full degree because he’ll be in a better place to develop his career – especially for someone who’s still so young in the industry.

    Rhys’ classes and work at Gemstone have moved online for now to help everyone stay healthy, but he’s glad to be busy during this unusual time.

    Learn More About Employee Programs at Gemstone Logistics

    Gemstone Logistics’ software solutions help our clients take care of the people they depend on to get things done. It only makes sense that we’d be doing the same behind the scenes. In addition to our education program, we also offer other perks and resources to our staff to make sure they’re set up for success.

    If you’d like to learn more about our employee programs or apply for a position with Gemstone Logistics, get in touch with our management team.

    Adapting to a New Normal; Starting a New Career during a Global Pandemic 

    Adapting to a New Normal; Starting a New Career during a Global Pandemic 

    Adapting to a New Normal; Starting a New Career during a Global Pandemic

    Like many companies, Gemstone Logistics is currently focused on adapting operations during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as the World Health Organization upgraded the status of COVID-19 Gemstone was ready to help our most important assets, our Gems.

    Gemstone is no stranger to having employees spread across multiple offices and locations and have used tools like Glip, FreshService and Ring Central to allow our teams to communicate, share screens, and host web conferences for quite some time. The biggest difference now, is every employee is working from their own home.

    For our VP of Corporate Development & Finance, Ross, and Air Transportation Manager, Jillian, this was a normal work day as they are based outside of our corporate offices in Sherwood Park Alberta. For some, like Travel Manager, Michael, or Product Director, Jerry, this meant setting up shop in their home office – already equipped for them to work away.

    For others, like myself and Support Desk Analyst, Rachelle, that meant setting up at the kitchen table. No matter what the setup, Gemstone set to work to ensure everyone had the tools required to get the job done. Whether this meant reimbursing staff for headset purchases, sending monitors, chairs and keyboards home, or supplementing our Gems’ coffee supply, we were ready to do what it took to keep our staff comfortable in their new work environment.

    While a transition like this is never easy, one thing that can help everyone is an increased level of communication. Our Leadership continues to maintain open communication with all levels of employees and have made a concerted effort to share more than usual – anything from business updates to the latest viral video or meme. Many of our team have young children that are now out of school and are facing the double challenge of working from home and taking care of their little ones. Our cohesive team has brainstormed, collaborated and come together to allow flexibility within the workloads required while continuing to sustain exceptional representation to our clients. We have found sharing articles, jokes, and pictures has helped keep our spirits up as well as we navigate this dynamic situation.

    Our newest Gem, Woren, joined the organization after most staff began working remotely and more extreme social distancing measuring were in place. Read about her first week below!

    Starting a new job during COVID-19…

    The impact social distancing has had on every aspect of life is almost surreal. How apocalyptically prepared you are probably runs regularly through your thoughts. However, it didn’t quite hit me until I started at Gemstone Logistics Inc. on March 18th, 2020, right at the beginning of a global pandemic!

    I was working for WestJet, loved my job, but craved less time away from home and more diverse work. After years and years of “Pretzels or cookies?”, problem solving and using that muscle between my ears sounded really good. I was fortunate enough to listen to my cravings with work before any COVID-19 news really hit. I was even more fortunate that I was able to be selective in avenues I wanted to pursue. And I was the most fortunate when I landed a job with Gemstone Logistics Inc.

    In the time it took to give proper notice to WestJet, and then finally get into the Gemstone office for my first day……everyone was gone!

    Well sort of. The Senior Director, Software, was there to greet me on my first day. I was shown around, while remaining socially distanced from Stephen, I learned as much as I could, and off I went with my new laptop to home. Remember how I started: “craved less time away from home”?!

    It’s been a whirlwind! From learning about the compelling history of the company and all of its branches, to getting acquainted with multiple new programs and software, and learning all of it remotely via video chat, to trying to understand the dynamic of my new office and get acquainted with everyone that works there without ever shaking their hand  – IT’S MY NEW “NEW”. I just thank everyone at Gemstone who has taken the time to show me my new position.

    But isn’t everyone experiencing their new “new”? How lucky and grateful I feel to have joined the Gemstone family before COVID was a problem! That’s a whole different avenue of “new” I don’t even want to entertain. I just hope everyone is adjusting to their new “new”, enjoying spending more time with loved ones and grateful they can reminisce about those glorious handshakes they once exchanged in the office. I’ll get there soon enough, and there will be high fives for everyone!