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 Obtaining material database items
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Posted - October 05 2005 :  1:01:37 PM  Show Profile Send a private message to admin
In Apex, dbItem is the name for your material information. For electrical contractors it is a database of roughly 1.2 million items. The full material database for electrical contractors available from i2 (Trade Service) approaches 2 million items.

In 2003 Apex renamed PFMS (Price File Management Service) to dbItem because of Apex’s affiliation with Accubid. (Apex, under the name of the Accubid Purchasing Expeditor, was being marketed by Accubid.) dbItem was the name that Accubid used for their material database, although in the estimating program a much smaller subset of around 15,000 items is used.

There are four ways that Apex can load dbItem data:

  1. Through a “TRA-SER Link” program from i2 or a compatible database vendor (like Material Express).
  2. By doing a “Link Refresh” from the TRA-SER program.
  3. Using the dbItem Load selection from the Apex Item menu.
  4. By copying an item from TRA-SER (or similar program) and pasting it into an Apex purchase order.

Apex is a “TRA-SER Link” program, which means that it can load material items provided by i2 and interact with the TRA-SER program via Windows cut and paste. Other companies, like Material Express, offer similar capabilities which Apex can also use.

Once Apex is set up and running, the dbItem database is typically updated through a subscription service to i2 or Epic. This FAQ addresses how you can build the initial dbItem database of over 1 million items.

Method 1: The “free” way

If you have a full year’s worth of TRA-SER Full Load CDs, you can build the Apex dbItem database yourself for free.

First, set up a workstation that can run both Apex and TRA-SER. Set the Apex issue number to one less than the first issue that you will be loading from your year-old CD.

For example, today is 9/26/2005. Let’s suppose that I have CDs that I want to load into Apex going back to issue 04-24, or roughly mid way through last year. I would set up the TRA-SER link to show that Apex has been updated through issue 04-23.

For information on setting up the Apex TRA-SER link see this FAQ.

Run TRA-SER’s “Update Electrical” program and verify that Apex is listed as a TRA-SER link program in the list at the bottom of the screen. Check the box on the Update Electrical screen so that you can load issues that TRA-SER thinks have already been updated. (Otherwise, the Update Electrical program won't show you issues that have already been loaded into TRA-SER.) Load every issue up to the current one, being careful not to run any of the issues. (TRA-SER will ask you if you want to run the loaded issues at the end of each CD, and you can say NO.)

Note that you can obtain all of the TRA-SER issues by using the CDs from the end of each quarter, which recaps all of the issues for that quarter.

Once all of the issues have been loaded you need to select each one. In the TRA-SER Update Electrical program you do this by holding down the Shift key on the keyboard while you click on each issue. Once they are all selected you can press “Run” and one-by-one each issue will be processed. Apex will load over 100 records per second, but with the 1.2 million items you are loading you may want to just schedule this to run overnight.

After you have loaded all of the data from CD, run the TRA-SER program itself and do a "Link Refresh", selecting Apex as the link system to refresh. This will ensure that you have current data for all of the most commonly used items.

The theory behind Method 1 is that virtually every item that is interesting will have had some change from i2 during the course of a year, whether it be a price change or a description change or whatever. By loading all of the data that has changed for a year you will essentially build up the whole database of useful items. Of course, the more CDs that you go back and load the better. In my experience about a year’s worth is good, and much beyond that you get diminishing returns.

The Apex programming that updates the dbItem database does not require a license, but you must run it from a workstation that is set up and has run Apex at least once. Also, it does not matter if other users are using Apex while the update runs.

Method 2: The “easy” way

If you do not have a year’s worth of TRA-SER Full Load CDs, or if you decide that you don’t want to go through the process of loading dbItem data via Method 1 above, you can simply buy a Full Load for Apex directly from i2. Call your i2 (Trade Service) representative and ask them for an Apex Full Load CD. Trade Service has graciously offered a special price to Apex users to obtain this data. You can contact your Trade Service representative directly at 800-854-1527 (then press #2 for sales). Be sure to specify that you are buying this data for Apex to obtain the special price.

Once you have received your Full Load CD from i2, run Apex and select Item / Load dbItem from the menu. Press Begin and open the file named Trade.dat on the CD. Apex will then load the full dbItem database.

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