VAR Recognizes Workflow Opportunities With Manufacturers
An automated workflow solution for managing a manufacturer's reject tags combines increased efficiency and regulatory compliance with a six-month payback period.
Workflow is often associated with the traditional imaging markets such as healthcare, insurance, and banking where documents have to be reviewed and acted on by a group of people. However, Murat Sehidoglu, a partner at DKM Inc. (Los Angeles) (www.dkminc.com), points out that workflow can enhance business processes in nearly any vertical where documents are present. A VAR and systems integrator, DKM is targeting $25 million to $500 million manufacturers as a key growth market.
Among DKM's customers in this sector is Hi-Shear Corp. (Torrance, CA), a manufacturer of fasteners for the aerospace industry. Because of the exacting standards of the aerospace industry, Hi-Shear has an extensive quality assurance program. As part of this program, Hi-Shear generated paper tags when a specific part was rejected. That paper tag would be passed from one person to another in an attempt to determine the cause and disposition of the rejected part. In some cases, the part could be reworked; in others, it would be discarded. In either case, it is imperative that Hi-Shear identify and eliminate weaknesses in the manufacturing process that caused the part to be rejected. "The paper-based system was prone to holes, delays, and potential errors," comments Sehidoglu. "Replacing it with electronic workflow allowed Hi-Shear to process reject tags efficiently and resolve issues faster."
Another major weakness of the paper-based system was lack of visibility into the process to determine the status of a reject tag. Tags could be days, even weeks, old, and there was no way to find the cause of a bottleneck without a full audit. "When you don't know what you're dealing with, it's hard to manage it," notes Sehidoglu.
Using Worktiviti's (Cincinnati) Workflow Builder, DKM designed an automated workflow that mirrored Hi-Shear's existing process. Instead of paper reject tags, electronic ones are distributed via e-mail. The workflow solution is integrated with a Fourth Shift ERP (enterprise resource management) system. An OLE (object linking and embedding) integration with Microsoft Word is also part of the project.
A flow chart is created to help users visualize the path the reject tag takes throughout the organization. Authorized users can view the status of any reject tag, including what stage it is at and how long it has been there. Sehidoglu says that many users opt to enable an expedite feature that alerts a supervisor when a certain condition is met, such as inaction after 24 hours.
Low Cost, Quick Implementation Key In Unfamiliar Market
DKM chose Worktiviti because it provides tools that cut implementation time, reducing costs to the end user. "Typically, service is 1.5 or 2 times the cost of the software. In the case of Worktiviti, it's generally closer to 75%," says Sehidoglu. "Reducing the professional services hours keeps the price of entry from being prohibitive and allows success in a short time frame." The Hi-Shear installation took about four months, two of which were committed to the design phase. Employee training for the 10 concurrent users was conducted in two half-day sessions.
The benefits of low price and quick implementation are especially important in a vertical market where automated document workflow hasn't gained a foothold yet. According to Sehidoglu, manufacturers really have to feel significant pain or be made aware of substantial improvements to be gained. Although a contact at Hi-Shear invited DKM in to propose a solution, the customer still performed a selection process. In addition to vertical expertise, Sehidoglu says the ability to automate a single process efficiently was a key differentiator. "Our competition is often offering a bigger solution that contains workflow, and the customer may not need the whole package," he says.
The total cost of the Hi-Shear project was less than $40,000. Based on Hi-Shear's analysis of the cost of delays and other bottlenecks, the manufacturer realized a payback from the solution in six months and is considering incorporating similar workflow solutions for other departments. The reporting and auditing capabilities of the solution have also reduced costs associated with documenting regulatory compliance. As an aerospace provider, Hi-Shear must meet the DI 9000 Boeing standard as well as Federal Aviation Administration regulations dictating consistent processes. The reports generated from Workflow Builder not only save time, they are also beyond reproach as a legal document, according to Sehidoglu.
"You don't have to be in a highly regulated industry to see quick payback and savings for a workflow solution," Sehidoglu points out. "We're targeting any business process system that has three or more stops. The more complex it is, the higher the return will be. Whatever you do manually with paper, you can expedite electronically."