Taking the cost out of managing ERP documents
One of the problems of working in the information age is that documentation seems to accumulate at an alarming rate with ERP systems.
In 2009, Remote Control Technologies (RCT), an Australian manufacturer specialising in safety and productivity products for industrial users, found the quantity of filed supplier invoices, quotes and customer orders project documents, technical drawings, contracts, and other documents had become so great that physical storage capacity was a real concern.
According to RCT's Financial Controller, Marcus Bundesen, the cost of storage for hard copy files was growing, as was the time required to manage archived documents.
"At that point, we decided we needed to store documents electronically and eliminate physical files."
Bundesen began looking at document and content management software, and soon realised that much of the value of such solutions was in their workflow capabilities.
After lengthy research RCT chose OnBase, a content management solution developed by Hyland Software . Supported locally by Caylx, the software included workflow capabilities that could integrate with RCT's ERP system.
Start with a high-impact project
Within a month and a half of committing to the document system, it was up and running, and the first workflow, which was designed to support the company's use of customer service job or project cards, was released.
The project involved developing workflows for the job cards that encompassed all the possible requirements from initiation of a job to invoicing and completion.
He said the RCT team developed queues for jobs awaiting management approval or invoicing.
"We also instituted automated calls from OnBase to other databases, easing the task of collating project costings.
"We used to have physical cards that were kept according to a tray system. There would be a tray for jobs waiting for parts; another for waiting for labour, or when waiting for a customer to go and install the product.
"Others would be used when waiting for the customer order, or when waiting to be invoiced.
"The difference now is we can search on a customer or a customer service department and see where all the orders are up to," Bundesen said.
Data is now shared across different departments, providing each department with its own tailored view.
For example, a sales person can see which customers have work in progress while managers may seek to identify who's working on which projects.
Bringing consistency to quotes
RCT's next workflow was designed to support the quoting system. Given the technical nature of its products and the range of options available, a typical RCT quote can take up to eight or more pages.
Using the document management system, a standard quote template and workflow were produced. The workflow allows sales and management to track what stage a quote is up to - whether it is still being worked on, with a customer, or whether it needs to be followed up.
When the quote is accepted and a customer order comes in, the system automatically pulls the information from the quote and creates a new job or project card. The system streamlines administrative effort and has removed the need to re-key existing data into the system.
The structure of each workflow is initially developed by Bundesen.
He then hands the information to an in-house software engineer who creates the forms and any scripts required to enable the document management system to query the ERP database.
Bundesen explained that he is an accountant with no IT background, "but having completed the one week OnBase workflow course, I've found that I can still do a lot of workflows. The only thing you really need is a qualified programmer for some behind-the-scenes scripting," he said.
Recently RCT employed a systems accountant to focus on more workflows within the company.