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Gain A Global Edge With Digital Document Management

As manufacturers turn to outsourcing and global supply chains, the management and flow of documents throughout the value chain is critical to getting products to market, reducing manufacturing costs, and improving quality.

By Joan Honig, Product Marketing Manager, Westbrook Technologies

Small- and medium-sized manufacturers continue to face pressure to improve their cycle times, time-to-market, quality processes, and supply chain to compete with their larger counterparts. These demands increase the need for flexibility and speed in decision-making, business processes, and staff deployments. And as more manufacturers turn to outsourcing and global supply chains, the management and flow of documents throughout the value chain is critical to getting products to market, reducing manufacturing costs, and improving quality.

All of these business imperatives involve gaining control over “unstructured” information, moving that information effectively through the business, and mobilizing that information to make more agile decisions. Digital document management can provide that control.

A Digital Solution

Large global manufacturers were among the earliest adopters of enterprise document management. However, document management software can give manufacturers of any size control of paper-based and electronic documents in order to mobilize information across all functional areas of the business -- from improving engineering processes and manufacturing quality to streamlining the supply chain. They can also comply more easily with government regulations and improve customer satisfaction and service. Perhaps just as important, they can improve day-to-day accounting functions, such as procure-to-pay and order-to-cash.

Manufacturers can use a document management solution to:

  • Automate approval processes
  • Integrate with CAD applications to improve workflow
  • Augment accounting, ERP, and other enterprise systems
  • Track the controls and testing associated with quality management requirements such as ISO 9001:2000 and Sarbanes-Oxley

Case Study: Greenheck Fan Corporation

With sales in excess of $500 million annually, Greenheck, based in Schofield, Wisconsin, employs approximately 2,500 people and has over 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing space. Most manufacturing takes place in Schofield, with other plant locations in Minnesota, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, California, Mexico, and China. Employees process an average of 800 orders per day, and the paper surrounding those orders needs to be managed effectively.

When electronic document management was implemented in 2000, most of Greenheck’s orders came in via fax. Today, the majority of the orders arrive electronically via the Internet. An unattended automated workflow called Direct Order Entry (DOE) processes, archives, and indexes orders into Westbrook Fortis, their document management software. In addition to archiving and indexing for future retrieval, the document management solution serves as the primary interface for human interaction with DOE workflow in reviews, processing of exceptions, engineering artifacts, etc. The solution is also used in related processes in Marketing, Engineering, and Finance.

How It Works

DOE sends data to SAP, Greenheck’s business management system, and creates an order in the Fortis document management system. Then, Order Entry and Sales Support use Fortis as their work queue. By using multi-value fields for the order entry status, billing status, and engineering status, different product areas can work on the same order simultaneously. Since a customer can place one order that includes different product lines, the ability to do parallel processing is important.

Greenheck’s order-processing database consists of orders and a number of auxiliary documents related to them. The majority of document types are PDFs, faxes, Word, Excel, e-mails (sent to the document management solution as Word or as an image), and straight text files. If annotations are necessary, PDFs and certain text files are imaged within the solution; otherwise documents are maintained and edited in their native format. Pre-orders and quotes are also processed through the document management system.

Since implementing its document management solution, Greenheck has realized these benefits:

  • Order inquiries answered more quickly
  • Reduced transit time of orders
  • Consistent and fast order review
  • All users access the same information, resulting in more consistent customer communication
  • Instant access to complete orders, including all associated documents
  • Ability for several people to work on an order at the same time
  • Reassignment of document processing personnel to value added services
  • Freed up 25% of sales assistants’ time
  • Eliminated file room and related work
  • Secure backup with document management

Payback on the entire project, of which the document management solution was an integral component, was less than one year. According to Greenheck, they could not have implemented the DOE program -- which resulted in increased revenue and profitability -- without having the document management component in place.

Cross-Functional Benefits

A scalable, flexible, and easy to integrate document management solution can impact and improve virtually every aspect of the manufacturing value chain, including:

  • Collaboration: Transforms knowledge into a searchable, corporate asset for use during the research and design process.
  • Quality Control: Captures vendor documentation, certifications, and testing documents to enforce business processes and to assemble quality packages.
  • Engineering-Manufacturing Handoff: Shares approved design packages and transmits them to vendors and manufacturing organizations to better manage change processes.
  • Service and Maintenance: Manages product documentation, service and repair procedures, and product service histories in a comprehensive repository.
  • Order Management: Tracks standard and custom orders through the manufacturing process, and electronically archives them with related vendor, manufacturing, and shipping documentation.
  • Shipping and Accounts Receivable: Tracks bills of lading, shipping forms, and signed delivery documentation in order to match them with orders and invoices.

Manufacturers need to be innovative to get new products to market faster than the competition, compete in global markets, communicate with customers and suppliers worldwide, become a low-cost producer while retaining the best employees, and deliver superior quality and customer service. And, as manufacturers such as Greenheck illustrate, embracing and integrating document management will not only improve efficiencies, but also contribute to the capacity for growth.

Joan Honig is the Product Marketing Manager for Westbrook Technologies, developers of Fortis™ and FortisBlue™ document management software in use at thousands of customer sites worldwide. For more information e-mail [email protected], or visit