Forgital Goes Paperless

Case Study: The engine component distributor implements an automated document system.

Forgital USA, a distributor of components for jet engines and steam turbines, realized in 2004 that it was buried in paper. More than a century old, the company knew all about change, but it still hadnt rid itself of the dozens of file cabinets where it kept documentation for just about everything related to the business.

The companys management knew it needed a better paper management process, so it contracted solution provider Stargel Office Solutions to replace the labor-intensive, space-hogging file cabinets with a fully automated paperless environment, using a document management system from vendor Questys Solutions.

Forgital USA, of Houston, is the North American distribution arm of Forgital Group, which designs, engineers and manufactures custom-rolled rings that are used as components in a wide variety of applications, such as aircraft engines, steam turbines, excavator bearings, ring gears, and pipeline valves and wellheads.

The company serves about 100 customer accounts in five major industries—aerospace, construction and mining, gears, oil and gas, and power generation. Customers include Caterpillar, GE Transportation, Chevron and Smith West.

"When we met Forgital, they were feeling over­burdened by paper processes. They had too many paper-based filing cabinets in their offices and had trouble pulling purchase orders, sales orders and sale confirmations, bills of lading, packing slips, and other business documentation," said Tyson Stargel, software solutions manager at Houston-based Stargel Office Solutions, one of the largest authorized dealers for Toshiba copier, fax and printing products in the Southwest.

Adding to the document storage and management complexity was the fact that Forgital is required to comply with various industry documentation and storage regulations, including ISO 9000 quality standards, in its day-to-day operations.

Its no wonder then that what began as a reseller sales call for a copier ended up as the implementation of the Questys document management system, which is designed to ease the process of storing and retrieving customer files. A Toshiba reseller and Questys channel partner, Stargel worked with Questys over the course of a year or so to configure, integrate and install a solution to address Forgitals day-to-day business needs. "Our goal is to have the client see us not as two separate organizations, but as partners with a common goal of making sure we provide the client with the right solution to ensure customer satisfac­tion," said Andre Pav­lovic, president and CEO at Questys, in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Mission accomplished.

"Today, were paperless. All documents are electronically stored and are accessible right from a computer screen," said John Fisher, controller at Forgital. "Employees are more productive, and our customers get an immediate response to a document inquiry."

Buried under

With revenue increasing about 10 to 15 percent annually over the past six years, company growth demanded that Forgital do something about what was quickly becoming an out-of-control manual process for handling important business paperwork, according to Fisher.

"It had gotten to the point where folders or documents couldnt be found, or multiple folders were started for the same order. We had cabinets full of files," Fisher said. In fact, at its peak, the 26-person office had at least 40 maxed-out, four-drawer file cabinets.

Not only did it sometimes take days for employees to locate documents, but often papers couldnt be found at all. The paper disorganization often required the company to request duplicate paperwork from the freight companies it did business with or from its European manufacturing facilities. Forgital Group has more than 1,000 employees worldwide and has locations in six countries.

A Toshiba channel partner since 1990, Stargel, founded in 1987, had the ideal solution for Forgital in its product suite. However, the first sales call to the manufacturer was to discuss replacing an aging printer. "Our rep talked to [Fisher] about copiers, but the discussion exposed the companys need for scanning and document management as well," Stargel said.

Thats when the rep suggested scheduling a second meeting with Forgital to talk about automated document management. "We quickly brought in Questys to help us do an assessment of the customers business and document management needs," Stargel said.

Together, Stargel, Pavlovic and Forgital dug deeper into the types of documents that needed to be brought into the new system, scanning requirements and the need to integrate with Forgitals existing NxTrend Sx.Enterprise ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

The presentation on Questys Enterprise software and Toshibas e-Studio 3511 color copier was "super," Fisher said. "It met all of our solution criteria," he added, citing ease of operation; reliability; cost; integration with ERP software; and the ability to take company sales, accounting and inventory data directly to Questys.

Stargel said that, as a Questys channel partner, he gets plenty of front-line support from the vendor. "They helped us make this sale happen," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read an eWEEK Labs review of two hosted document management options for SMBs.

Pavlovic said the copier market is so highly commoditized that many resellers have started looking to sell document management solutions to improve their profit margins. Questys supports about 250 channel partners with varying levels of expertise to make a document management solutions sale, Pavlovic said.

"Not all of our resellers are cut from the same cloth. Some are highly technical and have the personnel and know-how to implement and support a solution," Pavlovic said.

"At the other end of the spectrum are smaller resellers who dont have the solutions group [and] dont know the copier business or have the sales staff to make sales calls."

To address the needs of all its channel partners, Questys developed a tiered dealer structure. "We looked at the needs of our resellers and decided to focus on different plans and methodologies to help all of them, from helping them make the sale, to implementation to ongoing help desk support," Pavlovic said.

Stargel, he said, is in the middle of the pack. "Stargel knows the product [and] the pitch and pulls in Questys for support as needed," he said.

Getting the ball rolling

A review group at forgital looked at about a half-dozen document management solutions before selecting Questys. "We understood that the product would not only meet our needs, but all of the other solutions were more complex and twice as expensive," Fisher said.

In addition, Stargel was the only solution provider that offered customer references.

"That was a big plus. Stargel had no hidden agenda; they just gave us customer names and telephone numbers and said to give them a call," Fisher said. Forgital called three Stargel customers, met with each company and saw the Questys solution in production.

Forgital contracted with Stargel to deliver the document management solution that consisted of Questys Enterprise document management software, Questys Enterprise Automation Server and Questys Enterprise Web. Questys Enterprise Automation Server is a collection of modules designed to speed up the data entry process. Enterprise Web provides users with a virtual office that can be reached from anywhere in the world and enables document generation, scanning, authoring, and search and retrieval.

"We have employees in the field using laptops and BlackBerrys," Fisher said.

Stargel also assumed re­­sponsibility for ERP integration, system installation, training and product support as part of the purchase, which included up to 10 days of professional services.

"Questys helped us write scripts that would allow the document management system to pull files from the ERP system into Questys," Stargel said.

According to Pavlovic, the automated capture component extracts information, based on specified data fields such as customer name, invoice number and delivery date, from the Sx.Enterprise ERP software and automatically pulls it into Questys Enterprise without the need for human intervention. "It saves the customer hours of data entry time and also eliminates the potential for human error," he said. The integration work also required some input from NxTrend.

Questys Enterprise sits on a Dell server configured with 60GB of storage.

Clutter gone

Today, Forgital is paper-free; the company has kept only six of the 40 file cabinets it used to have. More important, "Questys Enterprise is one of the easiest-to-use systems that Ive been exposed to," Fisher said, adding that the auditors at ISO—the International Organization for Standardization—love it.

Since installing Questys Enterprise at Forgital, Stargel has returned to train new employees on the system and provide refresher training for employees who want it. Before the month is out, Stargel expects to meet with Fisher to discuss upgrading the Toshiba e-Studio 3511 color copier to the Toshiba e-Studio 451c digital copier. Forgital leases its copier. "The biggest advantage to the new copier is the native integration to Questys," Stargel said. "So instead of pulling documents into Questys, which is what the system currently does, it will push them into the system, eliminating a couple of steps in the process."

Another benefit is native integration with Microsoft Exchange that allows users to scan e-mail to a customer directly from the copier.

The Stargel-Forgital relationship isnt likely to end there. In 2008, Questys expects to release its next version of Questys Enterprise, which has been in the works for several years, according to Pavlovic.