The Challenges Limited by Paper and Manual Processes
As a chemical broker, finding regulatory compliance documents is critical; every piece of paper required documentation. However, due to both cost and the complex nature of each sales order, streamlining Skyhawk‘s paper-based world into a document management system seemed out of reach to their team.
As the company started growing its product line, staying on top of the detailed documentation of its chemical orders increasingly became a challenge. For over 30 years, Skyhawk relied on paper filing methods; but computer-generated documents associated with sales orders grew in numbers and contributed to silos of information throughout the company. Often, employees had to look in multiple places to get a complete picture of orders for great lengths of time.
“There is a lot of paperwork involved in our processes because we are dealing with volatile chemicals,“ recalls Travis Ellis, IT Manager for Skyhawk Chemicals. “Skyhawk is a lot like a middleman. We help manufacturers assemble the documentation and certifications required to get the chemicals to the companies that need them. It would be impossible for a manufacturer to manage all of the paperwork on their own. But on our end, the paper was starting to slow even us down.“
On a typical day, orders are received first by a customer service representative (CSR) at the front desk and then routed to all employees who will work on a deal. Since a single order was on average 50-60 pages, the order was most often printed, marked up, scanned, and then routed via email to the next person in the process. In the end, the entire document was usually reprinted once more, sent to accounting for payment and billing, and filed away.
“We were incredibly inefficient. We had rooms, in fact, storage units, full of documents. It was a huge risk – one flood, one fire could have destroyed it all,“ says Ellis.
Skyhawk knew there had to be an affordable way to manage their paper and consulted their longtime technology partner, Function4, for help.
Identifying Information Silos
The road to a solution began with a series of discovery meetings by Function4 to identify the high-level challenges that Skyhawk was facing.
Organizing and finding documents was challenging for Skyhawk Chemicals. Document storage seemed to be at the mercy of whoever touched the document last, which meant that a record could exist in one of many places someone’s desk, a filing cabinet, an email attachment, or a network file folder.
One of the biggest challenges with storing files on the network was that it was easy for an employee to put something in the wrong place because there were so many documents and folders. Copies were also tough to search upon within the file folders if not named correctly. All of this combined made order processing time consuming for the CSRs.
The discovery team also uncovered some roadblocks to the company‘s accounting system when it came to billing. Pricing and shipping rate changes were not communicated back to the accounting system fast enough, and there was no way to link documents outside of the system when an order became complex. Team members kept their manual templates and spreadsheets to track information outside of the accounting program to keep up with the workload.
From the discovery sessions, two critical objectives emerged. First, Skyhawk needed a consistent way of archiving and retrieving all of their information. Second, existing systems, such as the company‘s accounting software, needed a better way to be included in the process.
Transformation to Document Harmony
Function4 recommended an enterprise transition to electronic document management-implementing a cloud-based version of M-Files, an intelligent information management software solution, coupled with a new multifunctional printer (MFP) and Kofax AutoStore to process new document scans.
Since Skyhawk was transitioning from an entirely paper-based system, the project was broken into several phases. The first phase was to digitize all of their paper documents with a new Konica Minolta c308 MFP. Documents were scanned and indexed in batches right at the device with a dedicated scanning server running AutoStore data capture software.
Next, Function4 helped Skyhawk understand how an order flowed through the business to identify and eliminate redundant steps. One of the most significant redundancies was the unnecessary copying of the same document so that others could do their part in the review process. All too often, a file was printed, marked up, and scanned back to a CSR to make changes.
Instead of orders being processed manually, anything that is received on paper is first scanned at the MFP. With the help of AutoStore, securely indexed and delivered directly to M-Files. Files can also be retrieved, approved, and passed on to the next person in the process with just a few keystrokes.
On the accounting side, their accounting program elements and data are now automatically married with supporting documentation and email correspondence in M-Files. Customer service representatives no longer have to keep separate spreadsheets to track documents and data, and overall, the processing is much faster.
At the end of the project, a daily backup and disaster recovery strategy was put in place to ensure that everything was backed-up off-site in M-Files’ cloud-version.
“I especially like the redundancy of our documents backed up in the Cloud; plus, it‘s one less thing I have to worry about in-house,“ says Ellis.
Document Automation with Ease
“The automation part of the project greatly reduced all of the unnecessary steps our employees were making, especially when it came to making copies of the same document. It is now so much easier to find what we need, at the moment we need it, especially when it comes to maintaining regulatory compliance,“ says Ellis.
Looking back, Ellis admits the change should have been done years ago. However, like many companies considering the transition, both the investment and the project‘s scope seemed insurmountable. Today, Skyhawk is not only working faster but has been given the ability to be reactive with the growing product line, with less risk of error.
“The timing was right to make this happen logically with Function4. They were able to develop and implement a plan that truly worked for us, with the least amount of disruption to our everyday operations,“ concludes Ellis.
In the next phase, Skyhawk hopes to streamline even more complex processes for their CSRs and accounting department, as well as explore launching mobile functionality of M-Files to its sales force
Skyhawk Chemicals, Inc.
As a distributor of chemicals, Skyhawk Chemicals processes require a significant amount of paperwork for each sales order. For years, the company relied on paper-based filing methods to store and find documents for operational and regulatory purposes. Relying on paper-based systems resulted in problems, including inefficient workflows and information silos.
The company streamlined its overall document management process by transitioning to electronic document management, which consisted of a cloud-based version of M-Files, new multifunctional printers (MFPs), and Nuance AutoStore.
- Replaced paper-based processes to reduce lost files and increase compliance standards.
- Moved the management of information into one system to eliminate silos.
- Secured documents while making them accessible to the right people to improve productivity and collaboration.