Imagine this paper-handling nightmare: A wholesale nursery business has 30 locations, and each is responsible for order fulfillment and invoicing processing, as well as for storing all hard copies of pick tickets, invoices, and a raft of other business-critical documents. The result: Employees spend numerous hours filing, retrieving, sharing, delivering, misplacing, and finding documents. But that all changed when the company implemented paperless process management (PPM).
Founded in 1955, Shemin Nurseries is the largest wholesale distributor of nursery products in the United States, serving 15 major metro markets. The company credits its commitment to customer service and innovation for its success and growth, so it's no surprise that it's always seeking new ways to improve customer service. One such initiative got the company looking into ways to improve its traditional, paper-based business system. While the core applications were highly automated, there was still much manual handling of documents. This resulted in customer information being fragmentally stored throughout the company's 30 locations, which in turn caused huge delays in resolving customer issues.
For example, if a customer requested a copy of an invoice, headquarters had to call the store where the order was processed and have an employee manually search for, copy, and fax the document and then archive it again. Additionally, when investigating an issue, employees had to repeatedly call customers, which led to a lengthened payment cycle.
Another major problem Shemin Nurseries faced was capturing customer signatures. When a customer completed an order, a Shemin representative had to produce multiple invoices, either by printing each form individually or by using a multipart, preprinted form. Each invoice then had to be individually signed by the customer and manually filed. During peak planting seasons, this caused missing signatures, long lines of customers, and loss of business.
The Need to Maintain Customer Satisfaction
Shemin Nurseries realized that to provide optimum customer service, it needed to automate these cumbersome paper-based document creation and filing processes. So the company purchased Quadrant Software's IntelliChief PPM solution.
IntelliChief consists of a suite of paperless process management functions, including document management, imaging, fax, electronic forms, workflow, and MICR check technologies. This comprehensive PPM solution integrates seamlessly with most major ERP applications and diverse IT environments, empowering companies to...
- Allow users to electronically create, capture, process, distribute, retrieve, and archive mission-critical documents.
- Improve communications through the customization and automatic delivery of documents.
- Decrease costs by decreasing dependency on expensive resources (e.g.; pre-printed forms, fax machines, filing cabinets, etc.).
- Increase productivity by automating repetitive tasks and streamlining workflows.
"Locations that are still waiting to get IntelliChief are anxious because they see what a difference it has made in locations that are currently using it," states IT director Donald J. Abramson.
Faster, More Efficient Processes
When a customer checks out, IntelliChief automatically creates the invoice, a copy of which is given to the customer for review. The customer then signs a Topaz electronic signature pad. Immediately after, invoices are automatically delivered to the customer's fax or email. A copy of the invoice, along with the captured signature, is indexed and filed in a central electronic repository that is accessible to authorized users. Shemin has achieved a 100% signature capture rate, and customers are happier because they have to sign only once versus three times, and they can leave with the original invoice.
These changes have led to faster and more efficient business processes. For example, when a customer requests a copy of an invoice, employees now instantly fax or email it directly from the business application. Now, employees spend less time performing administrative tasks and more time providing personal service to customers. Additionally, since all of a customer's documents can be accessed and reviewed from the desktop, employees no longer have to bother customers with calls.
Staff at the company's headquarters have also seen great improvements. Besides eliminating their reliance on stores for the retrieval of invoices, they have the option to exert greater control over the workflow process at a later date by using features in IntelliChief. For instance, guidelines and rules can be set that determine the movement of business content throughout a system, which are enforced through automatic alerts, requests, and reminders.
"People at our headquarters are happy because they see how much better connected they are to our store locations," declares Abramson. "IntelliChief is really helping us not only streamline the process, but also enhance both our internal and external communications. Additionally, the Quadrant Software team has been great at helping us design the best possible and most efficient business process for our particular needs."
Cost Savings: The Most Significant Benefit
Despite improved convenience for staff and customers, cost savings is the most significant benefit realized by Shemin Nurseries. That's because the company has eliminated its dependence on expensive resources like preprinted forms.
Today, the company easily designs its own electronic forms, such as invoices and bills of lading, which can be updated instantly and laser printed on inexpensive plain white paper. This means no disposing of outdated forms or using maintenance-heavy forms printers. Additionally, since most documents are stored and delivered electronically, the company is seeing a drastic reduction in costs associated with postage, paper supplies, and physical storage.
"We knew IntelliChief was going to provide us with demonstrable personnel efficiencies, improved quality, accuracy, and customer service, as well as a huge reduction in paper handling requirements," adds Abramson. "We are already realizing huge reductions in administrative costs. At this rate, IntelliChief might pay for itself in less than two years."
Spreading the Advantages
Shemin Nurseries is currently implementing IntelliChief in all of its 30 locations. Because of the benefits and cost savings, the company is looking at expanding the implementation of IntelliChief into other paper-heavy departments, such as human resources, thus allowing the company to do even more of what it does best: make and keep happy customers.
Gary Langton is CEO and Co-Founder of Quadrant Software, a leading technology company specializing in Paperless Process Management (PPM) solutions for the iSeries enterprise, with over 3,500 customers worldwide. The company's IntelliChief PPM Suite is the only affordable end-to-end PPM solution available on the market that integrates seamlessly with diverse business applications.
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