Many years ago, the trade press and popular media predicted the imminent arrival of the paperless office. For most companies, it never happened. Many are still drowning in paper. That's not the case at ITW Filtertek. It is moving aggressively to eliminate much of the paper in its operations.
Hebron, Illinois-based Filtertek is a subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works (ITW). ITW Filtertek manufactures automotive, medical, commercial and other custom filters at five locations around the world. It provides a comprehensive range of services including design, modeling, prototyping, building, and testing.
How Paper Stalled Processes for Filtertek
Four or five years ago, accessing and managing intellectual property and legal documents was difficult and inefficient at Filtertek. Trying to find paper documents quickly, particularly when they were inadvertently misfiled, was time-consuming and costly. As a result, the legal department came to IT with a request for document management software that could help to tame the legal documents beast. When Filtertek was acquired by ITW in 2007, the legal department was absorbed into the new parent company, but the paper problem didn’t go away. Across the company, paperbased processes curtailed productivity. Furthermore, paper was an impediment to serving customers quickly when they called with questions. And, with hundreds of thousands of documents, paper also consumed considerable space. The obvious answer was to digitize the paperwork. However, if Filtertek did so, it wanted to be able to easily purge obsolete documents to conserve online storage space.
The Benefits of Digital Document Management
Filtertek considered a few document management packages. It chose Webdocs from HelpSystems for a variety of reasons. For one, Webdocs offered all of the features that Filtertek needed to take the paper out of “paperwork” and, in doing so, make business processes much more productive. In addition, because Webdocs is available on an IBM i platform, it integrates easily and seamlessly with the company’s other business applications.
Webdocs allows organizations to store document images on IBM i-based or Windows-based servers. The images can then be accessed using up to 10 keys. Those keys can be entered manually or Webdocs can automatically extract them from bar codes or textual data appearing within the images.
Once loaded into the system, authorized personnel can use a standard Web browser to access the images over the Internet from anywhere in the world. Beyond its extensive functionality, Webdocs also offered the lowest total cost of ownership of all of the options Filtertek considered. “As a bundled package licensed for unlimited users, it doesn’t nickel and dime us to death,” explained Ken Fotos, IT manager. “With other software you can really get into trouble if you don’t carefully watch the number of users.”
Today, ITW Filtertek uses Webdocs to manage most of its operational documents, including customer orders, purchase orders, shipping documents and receiving documents. Webdocs serves about 30 users, including some who keep the software permanently open in a window because they use it to gain online access to documents frequently throughout the day. In addition to simplifying access, Webdocs allows users to retrieve documents instantly wherever they are needed.
ITW Filtertek operates from multiple locations. Unlike what occurred when distributing paper, with Webdocs, distance is irrelevant when it comes to viewing documents. From anywhere in the world, authorized employees can get at the documents they need over their VPN. What’s more, Webdocs helps to enhance and streamline customer relations. “Prior to Webdocs, if a customer called and wanted a copy of a bill of lading, we’d have to shuffle though boxes and boxes of shipping documents to find it, make a copy, send it to the customer, and then put it back in the box,” said Diane Sublett director of IT. “Now, you just enter the invoice number, call up the bill of lading, email it right from Webdocs, and you’re done.”
Webdocs also helps ITW Filtertek to conserve online storage by allowing for automatic purging of obsolete documents. ITW Filtertek is getting ready to take paperless operations even further. It will soon be implementing the HelpSystems signature capture solution, which will allow the company to capture and apply signatures to bills of lading, without having to create a paper copy of the document.
The company is also planning to replace its existing forms production software with iForms from HelpSystems to provide a single source solution for document management and production in order to reduce both complexity and costs. How valuable is Webdocs to the folks at ITW Filtertek? “I can think of probably a half-dozen people who would have a heart attack if we took it away,” answered Fotos.