Updated: Apr 9, 2019
They say pride comes before the fall. One of the greatest mistakes that a business can make is assuming that they've reached the limits of success. Even the most profitable and specialized businesses in the world have areas where they can improve. For example, the greatest manufacturing companies may have the most efficient way to create a product but in 2019 that’s just not good enough. Now they face the challenge of doing it in a more sustainable way in order to keep shareholders happy.
A challenge many businesses face is commoditization as all the major players reach a point where the service or item they provide is very similar or the same. When the only way to tell products or services apart is by cost, it forces companies to get into bidding wars with their competitors and in these cases no one wins. Yet, even in saturated markets there are still ways to stand out and improve.
The Document Scanning Service Industry has become one of those commoditized markets. The thinking here... How differently can someone scan a document? You can buy the fastest scanners, get the best operators and even have the fastest data entry people. Once you have all those things, then what? Well... When you have the best hardware you need the best software to support it. You may have heard, it’s not what you do, it’s HOW you do it that matters.
An important aspect of improvement is being able to measure it. When you make a change expected to improve your production system ideally you'd like immediate feedback on the results. It's like a science experiment and if you don't have a way of measuring adjustments then you are just changing things but not knowing if it helps. One might say you are rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks.
In the document scanning service industry it can be difficult to find out if something has made an impact until a job is done or until you accumulate all the job data to create time consuming spreadsheets that compare multiple jobs.
Recordsforce struggled with knowing if the changes they made were helping or hurting their business until, in some cases, it was too late. They needed a way to quickly monitor if their investments in new technology, new practices or new people were paying off. That's when they created the business operating system, PACE.
This software allowed Recordsforce, and now allows many other service bureaus, to get real time reports on every step in their production environment. They can see exactly how quickly each employee scans a batch, preps a box, indexes or Q.C's a job. The system even measures the productivity of automated systems like imports and exports.
One example of how these in depth speed and accuracy reports helped justify a change was when the company was deciding if it was worth buying larger, higher resolution monitors for a common document classification function they performed for a large client. They originally bought one monitor and tested it with multiple operators. Within the first couple of hours they had real data that showed the differences between the past and present performance. Not only did it show the change in speed but PACE even created a report to show how much they were saving on production cost with this improved efficiency. This allowed Recordsforce to determine the R.O.I. if they decided to switch and justified the purchase. Now Recordsforce still does similar work as their competitors but they can compete at lower prices because they are increasing efficiency in objective measurable ways.
Technology is changing quickly and we have seen multiple scenarios where improved production has created revolutions. Robotic assembly lines have cut the cost of manufacturing by removing people and although folks are losing their jobs, the company will become more profitable. In document management, the next major change will be the use of A.I. software with OCR to do data extraction from handwritten and typed documents. The way the technology is going so far suggest that in ten years your data entry team could be more a software program and some virtual machines than a team of humans.
In conclusion, making and measuring change frequently and as close to real time as possible is the best way to improve your efficiency and ultimately your bottom line. Utilizing management software and new trends like AI within the industry will be essential to staying afloat in the coming years as commodification intensifies.
If you think that big one time projects like back end scanning jobs will keep your retirement goals in line you could be wrong. As your competitors continue to find better ways to streamline their processes, lowering their cost, they will be able to deal with the competing prices in this buyers oriented market. In the process, they will discover new capabilities that will enable them to further differentiate themselves from those content to watch prices continue to drop while their margins continue to erode.