Case Study: S4i Express

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Brothers Emil and Henry Stanz started a foodservice business in 1923 with just $500, a small truck, and big plans. Today, Stanz Foodservice serves 3,500 institutions in Indiana and Michigan, including the University of Notre Dame.

The foodservice industry is competitive; most vendors sell similar merchandise at a low profit margin. Because of this, Stanz is always looking for new ways to offer its clients more value by improving responsiveness, facilitating consultative selling, and reducing the cost of business. The technology-centered solutions used by Stanz—particularly its advanced Retalix ERP system that runs on an iSeries Model 810—contribute greatly to these endeavors.

In August of 2003, a document automation solution from S4i Systems, Inc. was integrated with Retalix to produce invoices, purchase orders, statements, and other important documents via electronic forms on blank, two-part NCR forms stock, all printed with common HP laser printers. "Because of S4i Express, we are more responsive to our customers, and we affect better overall customer satisfaction," says Mark Gaddie, Vice President of Information Technology at Stanz.

Making a Good Impression

Two years ago, Gaddie vetted complaints from drivers about the marginal quality of the second, third, and fourth pages of invoices that accompanied shipments. The IBM impact printers used to produce these documents on four-part, preprinted forms weren't making a good impression for Stanz as customers had to sign off on invoice pages that were muddled because of poor print quality. And it was hard to make adjustments on return items because duplicate notations had to be made on several pages.

Exasperated, Gaddie set his Web browser to "iSeries Document Automation," found several potentially suitable options, and mounted an exhaustive study of the features and functionality of these products before settling on S4i Express. "I decided the amount of time needed to set up S4i Express was a little more than other solutions, but it was worth it because, once S4i Express was configured, it was more flexible than the other options. I could tailor it to our operations rather than conform to its constraints."

"Every system allows you to design your own form," continues Gaddie. "S4i Express offered more flexibility in how we wanted a specific form to work, from the way it processed data from spool files, to the order in which the pages were printed." Gaddie chose S4i Express because he was also considering S4i's ImageXP electronic document imaging system as a future project and felt that S4i Express would be a compatible fit.

The unchallenged reliability of the iSeries came into play too. Says Gaddie, "I wanted a solution that completely resided on the iSeries. If invoices don't get printed, then trucks don't leave the warehouse and our customers don't get their supplies." In overhauling the document-creation process, Gaddie also wanted to streamline shipping, reduce order staging time, and reduce the time drivers spend reviewing invoices with customers once the order is unloaded. With S4i Express, he is able to print two copies of an invoice's first page and have the printer's stapler bind them together. The same process is repeated for all subsequent pages until a complete set of shipping documents is created for each order. This lets drivers and customers review the orders, make any necessary adjustments to the top copy of each page, and initial it. This eliminated printing all pages of an invoice consecutively, printing a duplicate set separately, and having drivers make notations on both copies.

According to Gaddie, "S4i made this happen, and that's why we settled on S4i Express. They even developed a couple of features specifically to accommodate us."

Automation and Lower Costs

For Stanz, S4i Express also eliminates the need for an operator to manually change the preprinted forms in the printer when printing invoices, shipping manifests, and other documents. Today, the forms stock that is loaded into printers is blank except for the terms and conditions printed on the back. S4i Express automatically changes documents by changing the template that gets merged with the spooled report data. Gaddie explains, "This is a huge advantage. We can change forms at will and an operator can handle it. It has really simplified things, and the paper is less expensive."

Sometimes, busy software vendors don't share their customer's sense of urgency when the inevitable uncertainty that accompanies a new product installation slows progress. Says Gaddie, "S4i helped us with a couple configuration problems over the phone, and their tech support was excellent. They are a notch or two above the industry standard for support.“

Several information-sharing processes have also been automated. When customers used to ask for an order history report, an operator had to import a text file into Excel and perform several time-consuming steps before printing it on greenbar, placing it in an envelope, and mailing it. "Now we can email the report to them, and it really doesn't take any time at all," says Gaddie. To fulfill requests for copies of invoices and purchase orders, staff had to print copies, walk to a fax machine, and feed documents. A copy of the signed invoice, which serves as proof of delivery, can now be retrieved electronically from within the ERP system and emailed directly to the customer. "With S4i Express, once we select an email address, the product does the rest. You set it up one time and you're done. We already have the report defined in the Retalix system 90 to 95% of the time. S4i Express can convert it into a PDF or Excel file and send it off."

Fast ROI and Happy Customers

Stanz got its investment in S4i Express back in three months with the money saved on labor, preprinted forms, and delivery. Says Gaddie, "It eliminated many of our forms and the manpower needed to burst reports. Our customers are happier, and the high quality of the documents that leave our building reflect positively on our business."

S4i develops disk, imaging, and electronic document management solutions for IBM iSeries and System i computer systems with industry-acclaimed around-the-clock technical support. S4i has an above-industry-average customer retention rate approaching 98%, and in competitive evaluations, S4i products are selected over other offerings 86% of the time.

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S4i Systems, Inc.
4755 Oceanside Blvd, Suite 130
Oceanside, CA 92056
Tel: 800.231.5280 or 760.631.5280
Web: http://www.mcpressonline.net/www.s4isystems.com
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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