Growth for Berry and Smith Trucking Ltd, a regional carrier serving the Pacific Northwest, had virtually become a paper chase.
The company, which provides over-the-road, intermodal trucking and a brokerage business with facilities in Vancouver and Seattle and a head office in Penticton, BC, was growing at an impressive rate of about 20% a year. But the $15-million operation was also generating more than 25,000 pieces of paper per month in processing and tracking customer and third-party shipments.
Many of those documents were accessible to just one person at a time, and filing would accumulate each time documents were used and returned. Customers spent too much time on hold while staff searched for information. Invoicing was also sometimes delayed when needed files had not yet been returned. The filing cabinets were a gathering place for staff as well as documentation.
Clearly the carrier’s process for handling freight documentation needed updating to promote efficiency, reduce the time and space devoted to paper filing, and integrate with both head office, mobile and Internet systems.
At the same time, staff had grown accustomed to manual processes and had concerns about automating completely as they feared important information could be lost in the event of computer breakdown.
“The paperwork had been there for quite a while,” says Dorothy Vankoughnett, who started with the company in 1999 as assistant manager for the Vancouver office and has since moved up to fill the dual roles of controller and IT manager for the 80-truck fleet. “One of the things I noticed was that there was a lot of duplication between the office in Vancouver and the head office in Penticton. One of our goals was to consolidate everything into the head office function but the problem was we still needed access to the paperwork in the branch office.”
Berry and Smith Trucking found the answer in document imaging, specifically the solution offered by Richmond Hill, Ont.’s Microdea called Synergize Document Management.
“We looked at document imaging from various other vendors, such as Pegasus and Xerox, but chose Microdea. We were happy with the price point …and that they were a Canadian company. Microdea showed us a business plan detailing what to look for in an imaging solution, instead of just supplying a quote. It felt like a partnership,” Vankoughnett says.
Also important was Microdea’s close working relationship with Maddocks, provider of the TruckMate transportation software run by Berry and Smith.
“We needed a system that would integrate with other software, especially the Maddocks TruckMate. The Microdea product is actually imbedded in Maddocks so our staff don’t necessarily have to use the Microdea Explorer; they can remain with their same software product,” Vankoughnett explains.
The implementation was phased in over a year including systems’ inventory, the configuring of existing servers and the addition of a scanner.
Systems integration included the meshing of Synergize with TruckMate’s Web-enabled component to provide authorized customers with self-service online. Microdea used a phased-in approach and introduced batch file processing to help train staff, and also to allay concerns about losing the security of hard copy.
And the carrier has certainly achieved the expected payback with the investment, confirms Vankoughnett.
With Synergize up and running, the need for filing space has gone down so dramatically that Berry and Smith has been able to go from two offices to one central office for administration. Managers estimate that as much as $150,000 has been saved in terms of wages, benefits and time. Staffing needs have been reduced by 10%, and employees have more time to devote to customer service and other mission critical activities. The company can continue to grow without having to add more people. Authorized customers can access information online, which adds incalculable value in terms of convenience and service. They also spend much less time being transferred or put on hold while files are located.
When third party customers call looking for Proof Of Delivery (POD) paperwork, staff can retrieve the documents directly from their PC’s.
“We all look for cost efficiencies nowadays. But we have been able to actually improve customer service too. Before customers calling in would have to be directed to people who would look for the paperwork. Now we have our dispatchers, who are on the phone already, able to pull up the document on their screen and see the details in question,” Vankoughnett says.
Offering customers the opportunity to also view their paperwork online cuts down on the number of phone calls, faxes and document retrievals, which gives Berry and Smith a competitive advantage.
“Sometimes there are benefits you don’t realize until you have the product in place,” Vankoughnett says.
More benefits could be on the way. Barry and Smith is currently installing mobile communications and is considering including scanning off-site capabilities for the future.