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Capture Software Nets Discounts & Savings for Freight Payment Services Provider FlexiCapture Software Helps Trendset Continue Setting Trends.

Trendset, a provider of advanced freight accounting and payment solutions, found itself stymied by a daily mountain of paperwork that severely limited the number of documents it could process for its customers. However, the deployment of ABBYY's FlexiCapture Studio software has dramatically changed Trendset's data processing operations. In fact, Trendset's data entry operation is far more productive than it ever was.

The Problem: A Daily Mountain of Paperwork

One of the most important services provided by Trendset is pre-auditing, which is by far the most efficient form of freight bill inspection. Enabled by proprietary Web-based accounting programs, Trendset's pre-auditing of freight bills is an ongoing process of checks and balances. Using rules derived from the shipping contract of each client, the online system constantly verifies the accuracy of rates, contracts, classifications and other issues that affect freight and shipping costs. It alerts customers to any issues that need attention prior to payment of the freight bill. Trendset's pre-auditing system annually produces hundreds of thousands of dollar savings for its largest customers, with comparable savings for the smaller ones.

Trendset's services include electronic data interchange (EDI) as well as paperwork processing—in fact, the ratio is 75%-25% in favor of EDI. However, the ratio of labor-to-processing time with respect to each media category is reversed. As the daily workload grew over the years, the sheer volume of paper that the company had to process each day to meet customer demands became unduly burdensome.

The mountain of paperwork that Trendset continually processed for its clients every week had to be converted into computer-usable data within a narrow window of time, measured in only a few days. Hiring more workers was not the answer, because the cost would have cut too much into Trendset's profit margin. At the outset of 2006, Trendset decided it had to face the problem head-on. The solution lay in acquiring the technology that could successfully automate the processing of a recurring mountain of paper that topped 150,000 documents per week.

The Solution

Trendset's major problem was that the majority of the shipping documents and forms that the firm dealt with each day were not suitable for batch-processing because they were either semi-structured or unstructured, meaning that, as a whole, their layout was neither similar nor consistent in design. This lack of design consistency mandated a flexible system that, ideally, required the forms to be scanned, recognized and processed "on the fly" when they entered the mailroom, without benefit of creating special templates for batch processing. After interviewing and testing a number of systems that were judged unsatisfactory, Trendset discovered ABBYY's FlexiCapture Studio software. A demo showed that the system could automatically capture and convert imaged data on unstructured paper forms into computer-usable data at an extremely high accuracy rate.

Trendset already had in place an industrial-strength scanning system powered by two high-speed Kodak scanners into which documents from the mailroom were fed. The mailroom was staffed by five full-time personnel who opened and extracted documents from flat envelopes, and then sorted the mail each day by placing all mail documents in separate trays arranged by carrier. Next, the trays were delivered to scanning stations where five scanner personnel would pull out staples or paper clips from the documents, smooth them out and put separator sheets in between each invoice, bill of lading and delivery receipt to enable scanning them at high speeds. Afterwards, they removed the sheets and archived the paper documents to fulfill retention requirements. In this way, they scanned all of the mail sent to their department from the mailroom: some 120,000 to 150,000 pieces of paper that arrived in 40,000 to 50,000 flat envelopes per week.

After the invoices, bills of lading and delivery receipts were all scanned, they were recognized by the existing ICR system that captured the data from all forms at an average of two fields per form. At this acceptance rate, in addition to the two fields recognized, 25 data entry operators were required to key in the data from sixteen more fields on each form that the ICR system could not locate and classify. Trendset needed this much labor to speedily extract all the information from the forms necessary to compute, track and audit the volume discounts due to its customers, and then to immediately report this data to clients via the Web on demand. The deployment of the capture system dramatically changed Trendset's data processing operations. The number of mailroom personnel is now one staff member instead of five. The number of document prep workers has been cut down by one, from five to four. But the largest improvement has occurred in reducing the data entry staff. Now it only takes five people instead of 25 to do key entry and ICR error correction.

The Bottom Line
 BeforeAfter FlexiCapture Studio
Full-time Employees (including
Mailroom, Document Prep/Scanning,
and Data Entry Staff)
Fields Automatically Captured
by System
2 (16 fields needed to
be entered manually)
Processing Time8 days4 days (50% time savings)
Annual SavingsN/ACost of 25 FTE plus $60,000 savings on cost of separator sheets

But staff reduction is only part of the story. Now the system extracts all the necessary data from each form—as many as 18 fields on a form instead of the two fields captured by the old system. Moreover, the average turnaround time per document has been cut by 50%, from eight days down to four. Also, because of high classification accuracy, there is no more need for separator sheets. The expense reduction that results from eliminating the paper separator sheets alone yields annual savings of $60,000.   

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