What Henry David Thoreau has to say about Software Development

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden  

When Walden was written in 1854 life was a little simpler but Henry David Thoreau realized something important… we are better off when we have things in our life that take care of themselves.  One of the main goals and skills that Switchbox has is helping our clients automated their businesses by creating better software systems for them.  Our clients are always better off when we are done because their business runs itself.  

How do we help clients “afford to let [their business] alone?”  Simple, we don’t just write software and build web applications we make sure we understand their business better.  A great example is the meeting I had today at 8:45am with a tier 1 Amazon distributor.  In a one hour meeting we found out that they have 3 employees managing about 1,000 new orders each day from a particular distribution channel.  Here are a few of the manual tasks they do everyday.

  • Download Excel file from distribution channel website.  Open file, replace all Tab characters with Pipe “|” characters. Save file.  Upload file to internal Windows Application to generate shipping labels.
  • Print PDF file (rough 1,000 pages).  Manually resort each page into SKU order (the PDF downloads in order of PO).
  • Manually scan an Excel file for order numbers that shipped yesterday (a clipboard has handwritten order numbers from the loading dock) and move those rows to another Excel file.


I could go on and on but the short version is that they are not able to grow their business because adding more orders means adding even more orders.  I’ll paraphrase Mr Thoreau… “A business will grow rich by automating tasks, not by hiring more people to do manual labor.”  So what is our solution to the three items above?  We are currently supporting their legacy Windows application.  After some brief conversations with their staff the three items above can be automated and save their 3 staff about 4-5 hours each day.

  • Download Excel file in existing format, open with our application which will automatically handle the character replacement and print the shipping labels in one step.
  • Open PDF file in our application which will use OCR (optical character recognition) to find the SKU on each page, automatically reorder the pages prior to printing the file.
  • Get rid of the Excel file completely and allow our application to pull shipping information directly from ShipWorks (their shipping software). 

If you can relate to this article and want a way to let things alone then give us a call.