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Modernization, FoIP and Document Output Management Solutions for IBM i

Challenge

With the size and expansion of the company, Coleman Cable generated a large volume of forms to process using their IBM System i (iSeries 400) 9406-MMA System, approximately 600-1000 invoices and 500 packing slips per day, along with a host of other documents including purchase orders, checks, shipment notices and return authorizations.

The old method the company used to print forms was dependent on cumbersome hardware. Coleman had to deal with the expense of IPDS cards and then make sure they had printers that allowed them to use them. They also had some old hardware like a burster that took up a lot of space.

Time was also an issue. Between mailing delays that resulted from waiting for the bursting of the company’s invoice forms, to the sluggish response time when merging spool files onto documents for sales reps, Coleman realized they were wasting countless man and system resource hours.

As Coleman Cable continued to grow, so did its volume of forms output.  They needed to be able to eliminate some of the elements that contributed to growing pains.

Solution

Following the quick implementation of Formtastic (about a week not counting time for approvals), the benefits on the business-side immediately made themselves known. The first three forms chosen to be replaced by Formtastic included invoices, purchase orders, and packing slips due to their high volume.

The process for Coleman for producing forms was easy. It begins in Accounts Receivable, where they generate the invoice and send it to a non-printing queue for a nightly routine that takes the invoices and merges it with the Formtastic invoice form and then sends it to an out queue that prints it on laser printers.

By printing on laser printers, Coleman Cable was able to eliminate the bursters. The company was also able to switch from costly IPDS cards and printers to the more universal PCL format for printing.

Coleman Cable also has taken advantage of Formtastic’s PDF module. The module allows the documents the company generates to be converted to PDF. By converting the files to PDF, Coleman Cable is able to automate sending out those forms as emails saving significant printing and handling time.

In addition Coleman paired Formtastic with Quadrant Software’s Formatter solution. Formatter allows users to save on printing costs by removing redundant information (such as headers and footers on multiple pages) or combining multiple lines as single lines. By doing this, document lengths can be cut by 50 – 75%, allowing for a significant reduction in paper usage.

As Coleman Cable continues to grow, so does its volume of forms output. With the help of Formtastic, the company now gets invoices delivered to customers faster realizing a positive impact on cash flow. Formtastic allowed Coleman to switch to cost effective and industry standard PCL for printing saving the expense of purchasing multipart forms. On top of all that, Coleman was able to better accommodate its customers by putting information they needed (but couldn’t regularly get) on their packing slips without having to make changes to their core ERP system.

Result

“It did improve the business because it doesn’t take as long to process invoices.”

“I found it easy to use. If you can use a standard Windows application like MS Word, then there is no learning curve since its pretty much drag and drop. On the iSeries side of it, it was really user friendly as well.”

“I have a nightly job that runs and picks up the PDF files Formtastic creates and it puts them on the Information File Server for my customers who prefer electronic format.”

“The Linux web server would take hours to merge spool files, but then I decided to do that in Formtastic. It took a job that previously took the system hours to do, and did it in seconds.  That’s just because it didn’t have to send out spool files across the network, since it sat natively on the IBM AS400. That’s strength.”

“The experience I’ve had with tech support of other companies is that they’re either really good or they don’t even want to deal with you. With Quadrant Software, they had immediate and expert response. One time I asked for a feature that Formtastic didn’t support. They talked to their development team, and they sent me an update to make Formtastic do what I needed it to do.”

“I’d tell anyone looking to new technology for forms output and management, that  Formtastic and Formatter are good options. Look for something that integrates with document imaging systems, like Formtastic does, even if you don’t need it now. It’s something you will definitely want to utilize eventually.”

Jeff Peterson, Programmer, Coleman Cable

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