By Tim Nissen, IntelliChief ECM
Distribution is an industry benefitting from enterprise content management (ECM). The driver: logistics documentation. Shipping paper-based originals is fraught with expense (time and money) and risks.
Logistics processes and procedures are complex, and it’s common to still see physical documents shipped by express service providers to points of receipt, including your Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and Customer Service departments – domestically and internationally – carrying a significant cost factor. These printed documents are still handled manually, which creates opportunity for some serious efficiency gains and cost savings.
You move goods on a very large scale. Having a clear picture of your distribution operations of those goods is critical for business. Though a challenge to this is managing logistics operations that are driven by paper, restricting the movement of every inbound and outbound shipment. Paper-based processes are slow and create bottlenecks in productivity, making important data contained in shipping documents—bills of lading, manifests, delivery receipts and more—difficult to process and track.
If you’re storing and managing paper files, you know how much space your filing cabinets take up. You also know your staff’s time and cost to file and retrieve each document, each time. And while it may simplify things to use a records management company, your real price is high: fees from outsourcing the job, lack of immediate access to information, and the inability to link information to your core systems.
ECM makes information easy to access and retrieve with electronic organization for faster and more efficient content management. You’ll have instant access, with improved responsiveness to your customers, directly through your ECM-integrated screens, both onsite and mobile.
In-tandem with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) or supply chain management system (SCM), ECM enables you to automate capture of all formats of shipping documentation in paper and electronic formats – bills of lading, manifests, delivery receipts – assembling complete document collections per transaction. Accuracy is validated with vendor and customer information stored in your ERP or SCM, and automated workflow with all departments involved in each transaction. Detailed visibility is provided throughout your distribution channel.
ECM facilitates an ideal solution to ensure accuracy and security for distribution, as the foundation for building transactional trust and transparency, while also streamlining business processes across company boundaries. Global trade logistics relies on a web of disparate systems across freight forwarders, customer brokers, port authorities, ocean carriers and trucking companies. Imagine if you could digitize the process to collaborate across companies and authorities, reduce the paperwork, streamline cross boarder movements, and reduce fraud and errors, with tracking (visibility, reporting analytics) providing real-time information on each shipment, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions.
In an ECM-enabled logistics environment, these advantages occur:
- Quicker outbound turnaround – leading to improved delivery time, and stronger customer (and vendor) relationships
- Documentation security – nothing is lost with ECM, and only people who need access to your distribution documentation do so
- Assured accuracy – with ECM syncing with your ERP, SCM and business system databases, all information is verified in real-time, alerting users of discrepancies. Otherwise it’s simply straight-through processing into automated workflow
- Lower document distribution costs – automation negates physical document shipping, and all associated costs
- Faster notifications and approvals – with ECM’s automated workflow, everyone in your supply chain on the need-to-know does so quickly through automated notice, hastening processes and fulfillments
- Document append abilities – as amendments, updates and approvals need to be added to original documents, they can be while maintaining the document’s original information’s integrity. Users can enter notes either in a pre-set field, or a digital post-it note placement adjacent to the information being addresses. The document’s original data doesn’t change, though helpful information may be added and tracked by ECM and line of business system users throughout your organization.
These are particularly useful with Accounts Payable, Orders Processing and Customer Service departments; all areas of document’s origination and destination.
There’s an appreciated side benefit. You know the considerably time-consuming task of manually keying data, and how it weighs on your employees as well as your business. Repeating this process daily can result in your teams disengaging, processing errors occurring (reflective in fiscal and time costs), and manifesting frustration among your staff. By automating much of the data-entry work and repurpose your employees to do higher value tasks, they’re happier, more engaged and more all-in (less turnover and training).
About the Author
IntelliChief LLC’s Tim Nissen has built businesses supporting manufacturing, business continuity and document management.