In 72 years in business, comprehensive agricultural company The Wenger Group has grown to where it operates seven mills meeting the needs of much of the mid-Atlantic’s poultry and pork producing region. Last year as the family-owned company decided to diversify its three areas of operation into distinct subsidiaries, it focused on feed production, nutrient solutions, and poultry services but included improved record keeping as a must-have for success.
The company assessed its business processes and found many were too time-intensive and costly due to their dependence on paper documents. According to Michelle Lombardo Smith, The Wenger Group’s document management coordinator, continuing with these legacy paper-based processes—that required printing, mailing, filing and digging through boxes and filing cabinets—would be highly inefficient and limit planned growth opportunities. This led The Wenger Group IT Manager Nick Szmyd to consider implementing electronic records and enterprise content management (ECM) software.
From an administrative perspective, electronic documentation is much easier to manage than paper on many levels, says Smith. First, electronic records enable a company to dramatically improve access to company records, producing immediate and extensive time savings.
The ECM software allows for more efficient handling of those electronic records by providing managers with a comprehensive overview of operational workflows. ECM also makes it much easier for managers to identify costly inefficiencies while enhancing oversight so business leaders understand what improvements need to be made to what tasks in what business process.
Despite the presence of many electronic records and ECM products on the market, Szmyd and the selection team felt that the Laserfiche ECM system was the best purchase option. The system’s Windows-based platform made it easy for employees to learn, and, equally important, according to Szmyd, is the system’s comprehensive suite of ECM products that allow the company to diagram and automate workflows that enhance administrative efficiency while providing ever-expanding opportunity for business process optimization.
“Laserfiche’s business process management, workflow and electronic forms components stood out as solid tools for helping us manage the complexity of our work processes,” says Smith. “As an ISO-certified organization, we must carefully maintain the documentation on our processes and use many forms to capture daily work outputs that support this documentation. With such a large amount of paper and emails being routed to multiple people for information, we immediately recognized how the ECM software, and electronic workflow and forms specifically, could help us streamline so many operations at The Wenger Group.”
Though still early in the implementation of ECM, The Wenger Group has great expectations. Within the next two years, Smith expects to report a six-figure savings from reduced printing and paper handling costs. The organization will also free up space in an offsite storage facility that was previously occupied by file cabinets and other forms of paper storage.
Beyond these savings, The Wenger Group’s ECM deployment streamlined critical business operations, such as the company’s safety data sheets management process. Federally mandated safety data sheets “provide comprehensive information about a substance or mixture for use in workplace chemical management.” Safety data sheets provide a readily available list of what chemicals are in the mills for local public safety officials in the event of an emergency. The high availability of safety data sheets helps The Wenger Group mitigate the risk of expensive fines for failing to meet local, state and federal regulatory obligations.
In early 2016, The Wenger Group implemented Laserfiche’s workflow and electronic forms functionality to facilitate inspection, authorizing and filing of the safety data sheets in a remotely accessible central electronic repository. The software enables The Wenger Group to digitally capture safety data sheets, including key product identifiers automatically route it to the mills and electronically file it.
The digitization and automation of the process not only streamlines the tasks involved, but it also makes the information instantly searchable and standardizes the way it is filed, making retrieval of information even easier. This meant less headaches when managing the regulatory demands placed on the various mills The Wenger Group operates. The savings have been immediate and significant.
“With our safety data sheet project, we went from a total time, in working days, from 27 to nine (projected over the course of a year) to compile and maintain these documents,” Smith says. “We look at these time savings as key metrics in estimating our overall success. We have seen this project as giving us a new way to work within our larger community—particularly the local fire departments, for which we will be providing access to our safety data sheets for emergency response at any of our mills or offices.”
The safety data sheets are just the first step in what Wenger management expect to be a very lucrative, long-term embrace of ECM technology. Just in the training session to use workflow solution, Smith saw that the exercise sparked discussion and theorization about how similar uses of electronic forms and automation could be deployed throughout The Wenger Group’s three new divisions to eliminate paper processes and enhance operational efficiency.
“We see this as a way to completely redesign our documentation library and better support our production environment with more timely flow of information,” Smith says.
Although The Wenger Group is only six months into its deployment of ECM, Smith says the company has only unlocked less than 10 percent of the potential. The IT department continues to delve deeper into what the technology can do. As team members are being brought up to speed on the basics of the new system, they are excited about the potential of eliminating the hours each week spent burrowing through filing cabinets.
“We are still familiarizing our team members with the new processes and all of the capabilities and efficiencies,” Smith says. “We have streamlined the process of updating local, offline copies for disaster recovery using Laserfiche Workflow. This enables us to make safety data sheet records instantly available at mills and remote sites to address any emergency situation that arises anywhere.”
The same benefits apply for the many non-emergency situations that arise. When audits are conducted, there can be so many forms and documents required that it becomes a labor-intensive process to ensure all forms are filled out properly, are legible and are readily available—hence Laserfiche ensures regulatory compliance. Securing and maintaining that information in electronic forms is a much more efficient process that ensures legibility, accuracy and ease of access. This has enabled The Wenger Group to greatly reduce the complexity of information handling among departments and different geographic locations.
Smith shared that “My list of projects for Laserfiche is quite long!” In the next year, The Wenger Group expects to apply these technologies to the company’s invoicing, accounts payable and human resources departments, and Smith predicts extensive use of Laserfiche throughout the enterprise.