Less paper means more money for metals manufacturer

THE Metal Manufactures Group (MM) - incorporating a number of businesses involved in electrical wholesaling, PVC, plastic products and distribution - overcame three document-related business challenges when it decided to adopt a 'less is more' attitude to its paper usage.

THE Metal Manufactures Group (MM) incorporates a number of businesses involved in electrical wholesaling, PVC, plastic products and distribution.

The Group produces high value invoices for goods that are shipped around the country. Often deliveries are disputed, which makes proof of delivery (POD) documentation crucial to ensure invoices are paid. MM had employed a dedicated full time resource to manage POD documents, which were manually stored in a cumbersome hard copy filing system. 

Group IT manager Trevor Batten felt the burden of maintaining a widely distributed and aging fleet of printers in over 200 locations across Australia. 

"The logistics of internally managing the supply, maintenance and replacement of all our printers was expensive and complex," explained Batton. 

"At the end of the day our core business is not printers, and I didn’t want to have to waste resources looking after them."

>Because the majority of printers were dot matrix, pre-printed stationery was required to produce forms and corporate documents. Each time a pre-printed form had to be updated, all old forms were thrown away and new versions brought in. 

"The forms just cost too much; they were wasteful and gave us an unnecessary administrative hassle," said Batton.

Technology supplier Upstream was engaged to overhaul the Group’s printing processes, including its proof of delivery (POD) documentation system and forms production. With Upstream’s uscan solution, a new POD docket was designed incorporating two encrypted barcodes, one on each half of the docket. 

Upon delivery of goods, the truck driver leaves one half of the docket with the customer. The other half of the docket, containing the customer’s signature, is returned to the distribution point where it is scanned.

In addition, high volumes of transactions are "counter based" and these also form part of the POD process. POD documents are made available to head office, all branches, and even customers within minutes and archived electronically for ease of retrieval and storage. To complete the process Upstream tailored uscan to automatically update the legacy ERP system with the POD number and close off the job.

"The new uscan system means we have instant recall of PODs, which couldn’t be lost once filed on our server. And because external freight operators are only paid once they return the signed POD docket to the local warehouse, we don’t have a problem with missing documentation," said Batton.

A custom forms solution utilising Upstream’s unique printer resident uforms solution was also created to eliminate the need for pre-printed stationery. As the printers can store thousands of forms, a few extra paper trays were added and all label production was migrated into the solution as well. Six label variants and numerous business forms with each different form layout loaded directly onto the new printers, so that when a job is sent, the printer recognises the type of document and automatically prints it utilising the correct template with the correct information. By consolidating paper forms, the POD application alone helped MM reduce printing by more than 250,000 pages per year. Importantly, faster POD production means MM can collect payment faster as well.

At the same time, Upstream rationalised MM’s printer fleet, replacing old dot matrix printers with the most suitable stand alone laser or multifunctional network devices for each location. All machines are now supplied and managed by Upstream under one agreement that covers all service calls and consumables.

"We saw significant cost savings across the board, but particularly with our forms," said Batton.

"The new form design is much better and more efficient. We don’t have to reprint if we want to update a detail. In fact, now that Upstream manages the supply and maintenance of our entire national printer fleet, we don’t dedicate any internal resources to that area.

"The main benefits for us are not just cost, but a massive reduction in administration time and improved service to our customers. Our forms look cleaner and more professional, and the POD system allows us to quickly bring up information for customers without having to dig through old filing cabinets."

What began as an overhaul originally across only one division’s printer fleet and the document management system became so successful that it was also rolled out to all other members of Metal Manufactures Group and has solidified nearly a decade long partnership.

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