Cequent Consumer Products, Inc. has more than 85 years of experience as a leading designer, manufacturer, and marketer of innovative accessories for light trucks, sport utility vehicles, recreation vehicles, passenger cars and trailers. Cequent products include towing and hitch systems, trailer components and accessories, as well as electrical, brake, cargo carrying and rack systems.
Cequent is part of the recreational accessories business segment of TriMas Corporation, headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. TriMas is organized into five strategic business segments: packaging, energy, aerospace and defense, engineered components, and Cequent. TriMas has approximately 3,900 employees at more than 60 different facilities in 11 countries.
The Need for Automating Paper-Based Processes
Forms are the bane of many organizations. Whether they originate within the company or are received from elsewhere, paper-based forms must be manually circulated, filed and retrieved. This consumes considerable labor and can lead to delays when a form gets stuck on someone’s desk.
To optimize efficiency, Cequent wanted a complete form production, management and filing solution that could automatically route documents to users’ electronic inboxes either based on the document’s contents or source or by using pre-defined routing definitions.
Cequent also wanted a content management system that could automatically create the indexes required to find electronic forms and other documents easily. In addition to reducing manual labor, this automation would reduce the chance of documents being misfiled due to human error. Furthermore, because most of its business systems run on an IBM i platform, Cequent wanted a solution that integrates well with IBM i applications.
Fortra Solutions Eliminate Paper and Streamline Forms Processing
Webforms creates browser-based forms that can be completed online. At time of writing, Cequent had seven forms in production and one in testing. These forms serve the finance, purchasing and IT departments and include accounts payable check requests, purchase orders, debit memos and customer information sheets. Within a year, Cequent expects to have 15 to 20 forms in production.
Webforms can make forms available to anyone over the Internet, but Cequent chose to restrict access through an internal URL. When users are offsite they connect to the URL using a secure VNC link. To improve productivity, once a user enters key data on a form, such as a vendor number, Webforms populates other fields from data in Cequent’s databases.
In addition, Webforms validates forms in real-time to ensure that users don’t file invalid forms. For example, forms cannot be saved if mandatory fields are blank. In addition to filing completed forms in online folders based on both the type of form and its contents, Webforms can also electronically route them to the inbox of the appropriate person for approval or additional work.
iForms is the flipside of Webforms. Rather than creating data- entry forms, iForms outputs data that already exists in Cequent’s systems. It takes unformatted spool files, such as bills of lading, separates the stream of data into individual forms, formats the data, merges the formatted data with a design template, and then prints out the completed form on plain paper. This replaces the preprinted forms that Cequent used to employ.
Webdocs is a content management system that allows Cequent to store, manage, archive and retrieve its vital documents electronically, rather than on paper. Document images can then be accessed using up to 10 keys. Those keys can be entered manually or Webdocs can automatically extract them from bar codes or textual data appearing within the images. Once loaded into the system, authorized personnel can use a standard web browser to access the images over the Internet from anywhere in the world.
Reaping the Benefits of Digital Forms and Document Management
Cequent now automates workflows by electronically routing documents and forms throughout the company. As a result, the process is much more efficient, there are fewer bottlenecks, there is no longer any chance of documents being lost, and many previously manual functions can now be automated.
The availability of IBM i-based versions of Fortra software has been a major factor in Cequent’s ability to streamline business functions. The software integrates well with Cequent’s other applications and there is no need for expertise on other platforms.
In addition, using iForms to generate forms and print them on plain paper rather than on expensive preprinted forms has also helped to reduce Cequent’s costs. The Fortra solutions also help Cequent to fulfill its SOX requirements. For example, the company can now:
Strictly control who has access to documents and what they can do with those documents.
Maintain a complete audit trail of document accesses and updates.
Rigorously enforce document retention policies.
Cequent also appreciates the high caliber of Fortra customer support. “They’re very knowledgeable and friendly,” said Deborah Stitts-Isaac, senior IS manager at Cequent Consumer Products.
“When I’ve needed help with anything their response time has been wonderful. That’s important because customer service is everything. You can have a wonderful package, but if you don’t know how to use it, you don’t know how to install it or you don’t know how to maintain it, it’s nothing.”