Australian Wool Handlers (AWH) — Case Study.

Ed O’Reilly
Jul 3 · 6 min read

How we rebuilt business-critical auctioning software for AWH— the world’s largest wool and independent cotton handler whose software applications process hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Why did AWH approach NONA?

AWH were looking for a software development partner to help them with a core application. They needed to modernise their operating software to create future readiness and reduce reliance on 3rd party software vendors.

“Due to the complexity of our problem, the disjointed legacy systems and the urgency to get a new system in place, it was obvious we needed a world class software organisation. NONA was a clear standout.

Michael Jones, former CEO, AWH

“We were looking to partner with a team that we could rely on to:

Modernise our existing auction software.

Eliminate our reliance on external software vendors.

Completely replace our external facing API’s without our existing partners even being aware of any changes or having to make any modifications to their own systems.

Do the above without any downtime or interruption to our daily business.”

Darryl Drake, CTO, AWH


Key requirements of this project

  • All external facing API’s would need to be replaced without existing partners even being aware of any changes or having to make any modifications to their own systems.
  • Catalogues needed to be imported from a 3rd party over which we had no control.
  • The system needed to be resilient to losses of internet connectivity.
  • All data captured during an auction would need to be recoverable in the event of a crash mid-auction.
  • Results would need to be displayed in real time with or without internet connectivity.
The old AWH auction system

We needed to fully understand the AWH business, their unique situation, culture and their operations to ensure that we achieved success for them.

Outsourcing software projects that are key to your business can be a fear-filled, financially wasteful and stressful process. Kicking the project off in the right way is essential to lowering the risk of failure and increasing the transparency and flow of information.

Three of our directors flew down to spend quality time with the AWH leadership team in Melbourne; working out of the AWH offices for a few weeks, touring their warehouses, visiting their auctions, to get to know the team the culture of the organisation.

We ran in-depth workshops with many stakeholders to unpack the detailed specifications that would be required:

  • Dave, the man behind the Wool Industry’s statistics educated us on the numbers, what they mean and why they matter.
  • Adrian, who would actually be operating the software after launch, explained how the auctions ran, what the risks and constraints were.
  • Darryl, AWH’s CTO and our direct contact worked through what he needed from us to be successful, what mattered and what outcomes were required.
  • Sean, Nick and Nigel the developers behind AWH’s in-house systems detailed the intricacies of this particular industry’s operating model.

Additionally, we got our hands on as much literature as we possibly could in order to get up to speed on existing EDI specifications within the industry.

NONA understood our requirements, came to grips with the legacy systems as well as the difficulty and demands of our specifications and requirements, and understood it so well they were offering really excellent suggestions. What was really impressive was being able to meld all of that with a fantastic UI/UX and also keeping eye to future growth and development. I will definitely seek NONA out for all my future development requirements.”

Michael Jones, former CEO, AWH

Three of our Directors spending the necessary time on site with the AWH team.

Once we were fully immersed in the AWH business and culture, we got to work.

Now that we deeply understood AWH’s needs, we selected the tools, languages and frameworks to build the application with.

The choice was made on the following criteria:

  1. Must be easily updatable and maintainable by anyone with an understanding of modern web technologies.
  2. Must be as familiar to AWH’s team as possible with a view to the future handover.
  3. Must be secure, scalable and have a serverless backend being both cost effective and future proof.
  4. Must result in real time secure data transfer.

Working in different timezones… not a problem.

We ran the project predominantly from our Cape Town office while our client remained in Melbourne. This is a dance we’ve done many times before so we knew the intricacies around how to make it painless. Yes, there were some early mornings and late nights for us, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

We worked very closely with the AWH team — meeting at least weekly to show progress, ask questions, test features and ensure we remained constantly on the same page.

We performed multiple dry runs, demo’d and trained AWH staff on the use of the software and then, after 5 months of close collaboration Dave (NONA’s CTO) flew back to Melbourne to personally oversee the launch — the new Auction software was brought into the world!


The results.

AWH put the new system into production in early May 2019.

On its first morning of the operation, the application processed approximately 16 million AUD worth of sales and without a single glitch.

Only one month after putting the new system into production, AWH felt confident enough in the new system to internally take over both the maintenance and development, a resounding indication of success for us.

We attribute this largely to a dedication to code quality, a near 100% test coverage, our strict standards and clear documentation which we applied to every facet of this project.

Thank‘s AWH for working with us to deliver this great project!

Screen designs of the new software

What struck me about the NONA team was their deep understanding of our business in such a short space of time. The combination of their business insight and obvious technical ability lead to a great experience throughout the build and ultimately to a very high quality application which we now own and maintain. I highly recommend NONA to anyone that wants to work with a world class software development partner.

- Darryl Drake, CTO, AWH


What’s next?

We’re already speaking to AWH about the next project in their suite and hope to begin work on this next year.

The new software in use on launch day

Get in touch and let’s build amazing software together!

hello@nona.digital
+27 021 200 5958

Specific Tech Details for those who are interested:

Electron
Allowed quick development of cross-platform desktop software, easily updatable and maintainable by anyone with an understanding of modern web technologies.

Angular 7
AWH had an in house development capacity with experience with this framework, so this was chosen to ease their takeover of the project on completion.

AWS
RDS (Postgresql), Lambda, API Gateway, SQS, CloudFront, KMS, S3 and Param Store allowed the development of a secure, scalable, and serverless backend both cost effective and future proof.

Web sockets
Real-time updating of information and the need to allow an auction to proceed, even in the absence of internet connectivity, suggested this technology as a way to pipe information between the various in-room components of the system in a real-time, secure manner.

Our approach was largely microservice based with a hybrid of functional programming (ramda and rxjs) and TypeScript, depending on the situation.

NONA

We are a leading software development studio focussing on Fintech, Blockchain and Logistics. Contact: studio@nona.digital

Thanks to Gust Greyvenstein, Jonathan Arnold, and Richard Miles.

Ed O’Reilly

Written by

Co-Founder and head of production at Nona.

NONA

NONA

We are a leading software development studio focussing on Fintech, Blockchain and Logistics. Contact: studio@nona.digital