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TRI Air Testing: LIMS Integration and Order Subscriptions with Acumatica

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

TRI Air was founded in 1975 and created patented air/gas sampling equipment originally for the U.S. Navy Divers. They are currently using a system called Symix that has been heavily customized over many decades to support their intricate and highly automated business processes. Since then, they have expanded their air testing capabilities to multiple industries including dive, fire, medical, pharmaceutical, and the food industry. All of these industries used compressed air in different ways and have different regulations that they must comply with from different regulatory associations.

One of the important value propositions of TRI Air is that they automate the entire testing process, making sure that every customer has the necessary equipment so that they can test their air sources regularly on a desired schedule. When you place an order with TRI Air, you are signing up for an automated service that is unique to your air sources, your industry, the equipment you have, and how often you need to test. At any point in time, TRI Air knows exactly what air testing equipment you have and they know exactly when to re-order and ship additional equipment to you at exactly the right time based upon your testing frequency, and even send you testing reminders to make sure you test on your desired schedule.

TRI International (the parent company of TRI Air) adopted Acumatica in 2016 to manage the finances for all fourteen (14) TRI companies. Although Acumatica started managing TRI's finances, Symix was still responsible for managing the subscriptions, customer inventory, lab reports, and reminders. Given the size of TRI and the vast number of companies, the first phase was to switch financials over to Acumatica and then integrate Symix using file imports and exports. The second phase was then to replace Symix and all its current automations with Acumatica and revisit existing processes to improve upon and streamline operations.

The replacement of Symix was a big undertaking. Many of their processes had limitations imposed by Symix and TRI Air wanted to improve, and most of these processes were not well documented and required a large amount of reverse engineering. This took many months and iterations to get right. In addition, TRI Air selected a application called Lockbox LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System), which was to be integrated with Acumatica. Lockbox would take on the responsibility of shipping equipment, tracking inventory, analyzing air samples, and generating lab reports, and Acumatica would take on the responsibility of quoting and taking orders, invoicing customers, and managing the recurring order process.

Some of TRI Air's goals in replacing Symix were:

  • Restructure bill of materials: Customers can loan or purchase their testing equipment. In Symix, different SKUs were created for the same exact equipment depending if it was loaned or purchased. While this simplified order processing, it caused issues with inventory tracking. The BOMs needed to be restructured in a way that keeps the order process simple but also allows inventory to be tracked efficiently.

  • Simplify online orders: Customers can place orders online, but the process is not well integrated with Symix. In the current portal, there is little error checking when orders are placed, so customers can easily order the wrong items. And after placing an order online, someone still has to manually review and import the order into Symix and fix the customer's errors. The order process needs to be automated through the portal so that customers can place orders correctly and they automatically flow into Acumatica.

  • Consolidate customer portals: There are currently two portals (one for commercial customers and one for military customers) and they work differently. Over the years, this has resulted in different processes for these different types of customers and different features offered in the different portals. By consolidating the portals and offering access to features based upon role-based permissions, commercial and military orders could be streamlined into a single order fulfillment process.

  • Simplify billing: Many of the Symix invoicing processes require manual workarounds. This results in the billing process taking several hours to run which is very time-consuming. For example, Symix cannot email invoices, so all invoices must be printed and then the ones that are emailed are pulled out so they can be emailed individually. This not only wastes paper, but requires someone to manually sort through the printed invoices and separate out the ones to be emailed. Another example, customers on contract cannot have budgetary requirements that need to be managed. There is no way to track the budget in Symix, so this is tracked manually in a spreadsheet and then manually reviewed before sending out invoices. By automating these processes, TRI Air can reduce manual labor and eliminate human error.

This was a very large project and required many customizations to Acumatica. TRI Air is a great example of a company taking full advantage of everything an ERP has to offer, configuring and customizing Acumatica to the way that TRI Air does business. Switching to a new ERP provided TRI Air with an opportunity to re-examine all existing business processes and automations, find inefficiencies, and make changes to improve upon existing automations to solve current pain points. By taking this approach, TRI Air maximizes their return on their ERP investment.

TRI Air has future plans for additional business process changes and automations, such as automating the process of billing and collecting late fees for unreturned testing equipment, but will save these additional requirements for after launch. We have already started building and prioritizing a backlog for TRI Air, and we expect it to continue to change and be re-prioritized once they start using Acumatica. TRI Air will most likely discover additional things that they would like to do with Acumatica that they have not thought of yet. This is the advantage of our Continuous Engagement Model, allowing the ERP to evolve with the business over time.

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