Luxury fiber apparel marketer, Peruvian Connection, was founded in 1976 by Biddy and Annie Hurlbut. It was Annie's anthropological research on women in the Andean marketplaces of Peru that inspired their internationally known clothing collections.
To stay successful in the ultra-competitive direct-marketing industry, Peruvian Connection has had to stay on top of its paperwork. According to the Chief Operating Officer, Diane Toby, this has been challenging, given that, between the operational facilities in Kansas and the UK, the company processes approximately 1,200 worldwide orders per day. Additionally, Peruvian Connection mails out thousands of postcards each week that include FTC notifications, return acknowledgements, sold-out notifications, and other customer service correspondence.
Solving the Paper Problem
To handle this document-heavy workload, Peruvian Connection previously worked with a fairly restrictive management system that required employees to pre-print base forms and feed them through a dot-matrix printer that only then printed data onto the forms. This process proved to be difficult and expensive. Additionally, the company had problems utilizing and formatting its own data. "It was a software/database combination that did not easily allow end users to get their hands on a lot of the data," says Toby.
To help fix these problems, Peruvian Connection decided to install an iSeries 400 and upgrade its core business order processing and data management application to CommercialWare. The company also began searching for highly-functional solutions that would address all its operational needs. This included the ability to customize output, create professional and flexible forms, print different versions of invoices on different sizes of paper, and print multiple currency symbols and address formats. Additionally, given Peruvian Connection's lack of IT employees, the design solution needed to be user-friendly for non-technical staff. CommercialWare promptly pointed toward Quadrant Software's Formtastic solution for designing and producing electronic forms.
"[Quadrant Software's] product was presented to us basically as 'You're going to need to use this to make the appearance of your output more professional and personalized after you convert to CommercialWare,'" says Toby. "Our options were either to find out how to use the dot-matrix solution and find someone to create the necessary forms or purchase Formtastic with the ability to customize a lot of output. To be very, very honest, I don't think I understood the flexibility Formtastic would bring to the organization at the time."
The challenge of implementing a new business application and switching over to electronic forms could have been disastrous for Peruvian Connection. Fortunately, Quadrant Software's electronic forms integrated seamlessly with CommercialWare spool file data. This made life much easier on Suzie Israel, Peruvian Connection's graphic designer.
"Installing Formtastic was very easy," says Israel. "[Quadrant Software's] sales staff made sure we had all the information we needed ahead of time." She adds, "I think the most surprising and unique thing about Formtastic is that I can do what a programmer would do without having to be one."
Peruvian Connection also took advantage of Quadrant Software's extensive training options and 24x7 technical support. "Tech support was excellent," says Israel. "They not only helped with Formtastic, but they also helped bridge the gap with the AS/400 knowledge."
Reformatting Spool File to Reduce Page Count
Afterward, in an attempt to reduce paper costs and to have more dynamic control over how data was presented, Peruvian Connection additionally purchased the Formatter spool file pre-processor that cuts document page counts by 50–75% and concatenates spool file data. The result is shorter and more legible forms.
"Using [Formatter] to consolidate pages for our invoice was perfect," says Israel. "For instance, if there were 10 lines of content, then the total would always go on the second page. There would be no content on the second page, just the total. So, those kinds of things were awkward. I thought Formatter would be a worthwhile investment, and I really recommended it to my team."
Formatter has also been helpful in formatting international addresses. Israel states, "We also use it to concatenate address lines using nested tables, which is something that we can do in conjunction with concatenating the body lines and consolidating pages. So, in the same template, we format our European addresses so that they're correct for European postal system protocols, and consolidate the pages, and make sure that the information we're giving is what we want the recipient to see."
The Peruvian Connection team was quick to see the benefits of using Formatter and Formtastic together. From a design or editing perspective, for example, any changes can be made and implemented immediately without wasting time or physical resources. This has allowed them to make qualitative improvements to almost every piece of customer and vendor correspondence.
"We can take CommercialWare's output, put it on any size paper, and distill it down to only those pieces we want. We don't have to take all the spool data. It's extremely flexible. We use note card-sized paper through a laser printer, and that's been great," Israel adds.
Formatter and Formtastic have also helped eliminate numerous inefficient processes and expensive hardware. With its old system, Peruvian Connection needed about four hours to print and prepare 500 invoices. With the integration of Formatter and Formtastic, that task takes only 10 minutes.
The switch also saved Peruvian Connection money. Producing 1,000 U.S. version continuous-feed invoices used to cost $108.20; the company now spends just $69.42 to produce 1,000 8.5 x 11 invoices. That yields an annual savings of over $6,000, based on production of 600 invoices per day. The savings on the European versions of the invoice are similar.
Peruvian Connection's use of Formatter and Formtastic illustrates perfectly how easy it is to implement electronic forms even without a large IT staff. Additionally, it illustrates how finding a flexible and efficient solution can help a company achieve significant cost and time savings while improving the appearance and flexibility of mission-critical correspondence.
Israel best sums it up when she states, "I'm not even sure that Quadrant Software is aware of how flexible their tools can be."
Gary Langton is the CEO and Co-Founder of Quadrant Software, a leading technology company specializing in Paperless Process Management (PPM) solutions for the iSeries 400 enterprise. Quadrant Software, an IBM Business Partner, has won every major iSeries industry award for product and service excellence. Companies of all sizes rely on its document lifecycle management solutions to electronically create, capture, manage, and archive mission-critical documents and deliver them via print, fax, and email.
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