(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the October/November 2017 issue.)
Few activities in the food and beverage business command the level of focus and all-hands-on-deck response of a product recall.
For most in the industry, the next step is to start laboriously searching through paperwork that traces the origins of the errant product to its destination. Following the paper trail can take weeks while a company’s reputation and future hang in the balance.
Not so at HB Specialty Foods, a global supplier of dry blends and food coating products. Two years ago, the company converted its customer order and supply chain paperwork into an electronic records management system by Laserfiche, making recalls—and just about every other aspect of customer service—as efficient and error-free as possible.
“Without that immediate access to the production reports, finding the items needed in the recall would have taken days instead of minutes,” says Pamela VanTine, software administrator/analyst, HB Specialty Foods. “All records were instantly traceable, and our customers were notified in less than an hour.”
High-speed response to recalls is just one of the benefits HB Specialty Foods is enjoying as the organization undergoes a digital transformation initiative. The new system is providing more than instant access to records; the business process automation software within Laserfiche is now opening up new methods of doing business across all areas of operations.
Automating Information Flow
After digitizing the organization’s paper documents, HB Specialty Foods began working through key operations to automate business processes. The first project was to streamline the customer order process. Sales staff needed a way to electronically submit a customer request for a new or revised product to the company’s research and development team to devise a means to fill that order. After research and development, that order heads to the executive team for pricing and approval, and then to a developer to fill it.
VanTine was tasked with finding a way to use Laserfiche business process automation to move the information involved in this process automatically through each step. VanTine built a workflow in the software that would move all the digital documents submitted by sales staff through every step involved in filling each new customer order.
This automation saves thousands of staff hours each year which would be spent pulling records from filing cabinets and photocopying them, VanTine says. It also eliminates duplication of records as everyone works from the same digital document. The system compiles a log of everyone who accessed the records involved, providing security for what can be very tightly guarded product information.
“Our customers know their order information is safe with us,” VanTine says. “Business process automation has also eliminated error while making it much easier for us to respond to emergencies and audits, such as the product recall.”
Web Portal Streamlines Collaboration
Using traditional paper forms, HB Specialty Foods’ order and supply chain were in a state of constant flux as regulations, ingredients, and specifications changed, sometimes over the course of a day or even hours.
Every change made to a formula requires a new specification, which previously had to be written into the existing paperwork, VanTine says. Customers didn’t always know which was the latest version of their formula and which was outdated. The amount of documentation needed by each customer for each item, and email size limitations imposed by the IT department, led to heavy email traffic between customers and the company, straining the company’s email servers and staff.
To solve this dilemma, HB Specialty Foods used its records management system to create a web portal that enabled customers to log in and access the most up-to-date versions of product orders. Giving customers access to their necessary information and documents without requiring them to contact HB Specialty Foods saved time on both ends, and eliminated the confusion of trying to collaborate on various versions of documents via email.