Easy Access to Financial Documents

by Chris Carroll

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Manufacturing companies don't just use IT for engineering documents. EHV-Weidmann, an international company that custom manufactures electrical insulation products and systems for the power transmission and electric distribution industry, uses Fortis COLD from Westbrook Technologies to simplify access to its financial records.

Business solutions come about in response to business problems. The fundamental problem facing EHV-Weidmann Industries was its abundance of stored records -- and the effort it took to access them. Most records were financial, but also included manufacturing and product quality records.

EHV-Weidmann, an international company that designs and custom manufactures electrical insulation products and systems for the power transmission and electric distribution industry, was founded in 1969. The 325-employee company maintains a manufacturing facility in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and a manufacturing and distribution location in Rockford, Tennessee. A member of the WICOR group, EHV-Weidmann's parent company is located in Switzerland.

The company found that the custom order nature of its business required them to keep all product paperwork on hand for at least two years in closed order files. These documents included order detail reports, customers' purchase orders, internal contract review forms, original drawings and sketches, material lists, change orders, and quality reports, to name a few. The corresponding accounting department records found in the closed order files -- invoices, packing slips, bills of lading, and freight bills, as well as the need to quickly locate information in financial reports -- finally drove the company to look for a more efficient document management solution.

"We had volumes of records, many stored off-site," said Chip Deasy, Business Systems Analyst at EHV-Weidmann. "In order to locate an older record, an employee had to leave the building, enter an off-site holding container, and then hunt through the files." Employees were losing valuable work time while locating information pertaining to old insurance policies, employee expense reports, inter-company transactions, payroll and other financial records.

EHV-Weidmann's search for document management (DM) software that provided easy access to data ended with Fortis and Fortis COLD, both by Westbrook Technologies Inc. (Branford, Conn.; www.filemagic.com). Its DM system is composed of the Fortis document management software suite, Fortis COLD, a Microsoft SQL Server, and an additional joint application/image server. The company purchased 34 concurrent user licenses. Documents are stored in a RAID 5 array and on optical disks. Information can be instantly accessed electronically from the database.

Explaining the record retention process, Deasy noted, "When an order is complete, manufacturing and product quality records are kept in 'closed order files' for a period of two years. These have always been paper files. We chose that time frame because within two years our customers have typically installed or have begun to use the product that we have shipped. The manufacturing that we do is custom by nature. Our quality records provide us with documentation that we have manufactured product exactly to our customer's required specifications. Our 'closed order file' documents have engineering comments and other important manufacturing and quality notations written on them. These documents will now be scanned into the Fortis system, as COLD processing is not appropriate for the majority of these documents."

"Whether we input the documents using a scanner with OCR technology or use the COLD process directly from our RS/6000, we are using Fortis," Deasy said. The company uses Intrepid accounting software on an IBM RS/6000 system to manage its financial data. Fortis is used to store the reports that are generated and processed by the Intrepid software package. Retrieval wasn't a problem with current data, but finding older data for research and other purposes posed a problem. With Fortis, selected pages of a report, or the entire report, can be browsed, printed and redistributed without being re-run on the IBM.

The software captures the files and easily manages the volume of reports. "Many of our historical financial records were both printed on green-bar paper and stored on our IBM RS/6000," Deasy said. "Instead of scanning all of the paper reports, COLD was used to transfer the report data directly from the RS/6000 into Fortis. Current financial records go directly from the RS/6000 into Fortis via COLD. Those reports that cannot be re-run will be scanned."

"We chose Fortis COLD because of its functionality," Deasy said. "We have five years worth of general ledger records, or over 353,000 documents, currently in the system. That equals about 81,000 sheets of green-bar paper. We were actually able to create templates, test and load all that data into the Fortis system through COLD in only one week!" Additionally, the company saves time and resources running general ledger reports that, if run manually, would amount to approximately 1,400 sheets of paper a month. Currently, the company is storing a total of over 33,000 invoices in Fortis. Most new documents are processed as COLD reports.

The overall result? The company's internal business processes have benefited tremendously from the savings in time and energy. "Now when information is needed, the Controller doesn't need to be called and the report re-run. The information can be simply viewed by the person who needs it. The granting of various levels of permissions and other database security features makes this possible," Deasy said. He noted that investment costs and rates of return on the solution are proprietary information.

He will say that EHV-Weidmann's success with Fortis and Fortis COLD has already prompted thoughts of expansion. "We have been so impressed with both the product and the people supporting it that we are already seeing additional possibilities and benefits for the company," Deasy commented. "We started using the system for financial documents. The success that we had with the Fortis application and COLD processing of documents gave us ideas for using Fortis in other departments," most notably customer service, research and development, and personnel. "Customer service reps will no longer have to wade through boxes of stored 'closed order folders' to access records, as information, such as the quality records, will be readily accessible via the Fortis screen on their PCs," he said. "R&D can quickly locate test results and technical information and Human Resources will be able to more efficiently access and manage employee records."

System Details: · IBM RS/6000 · Image/application server and the database server are both Dell Poweredge 4300 PIII 550 Mhz machines (the db server with dual processors) · Optical storage: HP SureStore Optical 80ex (www.hewlettpackard.com) with KOM OptiStorm software (www.kominc.com) Scanners: Canon DR-4080U (www.canon.com) and an HP 6250 Cxi

Chris Carroll is public relations manager for Westbrook Technologies, Inc. He can be reached at (203) 483-6666, ext. 616 or ccarroll@filemagic.com.

Source: AIIM E-DOC Magazine

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