Magazine Article | February 1, 2006

Cut Labor Costs With Document Management

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Replacing microfiche with a comprehensive
document management solution saved a
book supplier 2,000 man-hours annually.

Integrated Solutions, February 2006
Each month, Blackwell's Book Services (BBS) processes more than 1,500 invoices and 8,000 to 12,000 orders. Headquartered in Lake Oswego, OR, with other offices in Blackwood, NJ; Sydney, Australia; and Oxford, England, the company supplies books and value-added bibliographic products to more than 15,000 academic, research, and special libraries in more than 120 countries worldwide. It presently sells about 3 million books per year.


Managing all accounts payable (AP) work for the Oregon and New Jersey sites, as well as the accounts receivable (AR) work for both the United States and the United Kingdom, from the Oregon office was a daunting task. Whenever the New Jersey distribution center received a shipment of books, invoices and packing slips from the shipment had to be put into cartons and sent to the AP office in Oregon. There, the documents were processed and archived on microfiche, then destroyed. Copies of the microfiche were sent to Sydney and Oxford weekly. This system was inefficient at best, according to Scott Pakel, operations accounting manager.

The customer order and customer service departments also faced constant challenges. Although 60% of the 2,000 to 3,000 orders received by BBS each week arrived in electronic form, order numbers were still manually entered into the order processing system. Microfiche was used to store and share this data. Additionally, whenever customer service representatives received a call questioning an invoice, they spent a minimum of 20 minutes to walk across the street to the accounting department, find the correct microfiche, and locate and print the invoice in question before phoning the customer with the requested information.


Working with microfiche caused other difficulties as well. Information was difficult to find and retrieval times were long; the accounting department alone wasted 2,000 hours per year searching for information. Just as significant, a lot of time and personnel were involved in managing microfiche files at each location. Producing duplicates of lost or misplaced microfiche from backup copies was time consuming. Additionally, BBS' microfiche reader was on its last legs, and the company did not want to make a capital investment in old technology.

With this in mind, BBS went shopping for an electronic document management system that would reduce document retrieval time and eliminate wasted effort. It sought a scalable, nonproprietary, user-friendly, multisite solution with low administrative costs. Other requirements included quick, easy information access for all employees; the ability to interface with existing corporate software; and the ability to import images stored in the old imaging system. Mandatory as well was the capability to fax or e-mail documents directly from the system without printing them and the capability to store document images in a format vendors could view without installing special software.

BBS purchased DocuWare's COLD/READ, INTERNET-SERVER, ISIS Pro, AUTOINDEX, and CDMAKER modules. Two Canon DR-5020 scanners are also part of the system. The company uses the technology to store all vendor invoices, customer orders, and customer invoices. AP vouchers and customer orders are scanned and automatically indexed in the system as well. The AR department uses the COLD/READ module to automatically store copies of all invoices, and the INTERNET-SERVER module enables anyone in the company to access the system via the Web.


Pakel estimates that the solution paid for itself within its first year of operation. "We didn't purchase all the modules at once," he says. "Each time we purchased an additional DocuWare module, we gained more functionality and reduced our payback period." By allowing employees access to any document directly from their desktops, the system has saved a collective 2,000 man-hours annually, or one employee's full-time hours for an entire year.

Other departments are also benefiting from the implementation. AP invoices stored in the system have become a database into which employees can tap to find information, such as a book's ISBN (International Standard Book Number), title, author, and volume number. Storing AP and AR documents in one system instead of two paves the way for smooth operations in the accounting department. Customer service representatives can obtain answers to customers' questions about new and old orders, improving the caliber of customer service and freeing up staff to focus on their core responsibilities. This, in turn, sharpens BBS' competitive edge and positions it squarely for the future.