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Wilhelm Schröder

A hybrid approach for digital processes

Do the words “metal” and “plastic” sound like a contradiction in terms? As a specialist for metal-plastic composites, Wilhelm Schröder would beg to differ. Through sophisticated combinations of these very different materials, Wilhelm Schröder creates intelligent hybrid designs. With certain components, these hybrid products made from plastic and metal don‘t just reduce the costs, but also the weight – while the stability and quality remain constant.

The journey to the paper-free office at Wilhelm Schröder

You may have already used Wilhelm Schröder products yourself without knowing it. After all, Wilhelm Schröder makes components that are used in the construction of motor vehicles as well as household appliances, such as dishwashers, vacuum cleaners or door locks. All of these products require the most reliable quality and stability, with the lowest possible weight and the highest degree of convenience – which is what the 140 employees at Wilhelm Schröder have been ensuring since the company was founded in 1924.

It goes without saying that over the past 100 years, almost no area of the company has been unaffected by the advances in technology. For a long time, however, part of the working day seemed destined to be there forever: paper.

The longer paper continued to dominate things, the greater the quantity of folders in the archive. As the mountain of paper became higher, the hurdles in the way of taking the daring step into the digital age became bigger. As each year went by, Wilhelm Schröder was managing more and more files. Ultimately, scanning all these documents would therefore take longer – but the everyday benefit would be even greater. After all, the more complex the physical quantity of files, the greater the gain in efficiency provided by a digital archive.

Many of those at Wilhelm Schröder still enjoy working with paper today. As soon as a newly-arrived document is available, they appreciate the direct tangibility of paper. The subsequent archiving takes place as soon as the bulk of the process is complete. This compromise enabled Wilhelm Schröder to introduce the digitalization on a step-by-step basis. Despite this, increasing numbers of employees are recognizing the advantages that the digital archive offers.

We no longer spend time looking for documents, we find them straight away. Finding out the whereabouts of a required document has become a thing of the past. Being unable to find something in the archive is an absolute exception. The gain in efficiency has also simplified processes that weren’t previously thought to be a problem. Even those colleagues who weren‘t able to imagine working without physical files are now amazed at how much their work – especially those working at home – has been made easier by digitalization.

Thomas Schmidt,
Head of Controlling / Head of IT at Wilhelm Schröder


switch to digital documents

With folders that regularly move from one place to the next in particular – whether it is recep-tion, purchasing or accounts – one problem became clear: A physical document only exists once; which means only one person can work on it at any time. Even making a physical copy of it is a time-consuming, stopgap solution. As they crossed the various desks, documents seemed to be desperately sought-after or had gone missing – a folder may have been assumed to have gone to the accounts department, only to transpire hours later that it had never arrived there. And even if lost documents usually reappeared – it all meant extra work that distracted from the actual tasks.

The increasing use of digital documents almost completely eliminated these problems. Still, being able to send files back and forth easily by email didn’t solve everything. After all, even with completely digital documents, the correct archiving remained a stumbling block. Storing the files in simple folders on the work computer wasn’t an option – after all, that doesn’t com-ply with the legal regulations on archives. Wilhelm Schröder briefly made use of a makeshift solution: Documents that arrived in digital form were printed out at the end of the process and archived in paper form: a laborious task. So despite the space-saving gain of the digital documents, the mountain of files continued to grow.

A changeover, but without a conversionIn 2017, Wilhelm Schröder finally decided to come to grips with its archive problem, and by early 2018, the easy archive was ready to accept all outgoing documents, with the incoming documents following in the course of the year. Since the start of 2019, the archive has been fully integrated and ready for use. Since then, Wilhelm Schröder has completely omitted its paper filing processes.

Some of the work with the documents remains paper-based. Long-standing employees, in particular, feel more at home with such processes. The popularity of digital working methods at Wilhelm Schröder is increasing, however. In the future, an improved ERP system is set to further simplify the paperless processes.

In this respect, easy archive is playing a key role, as the archive can be accessed directly using the ERP system. The big challenge when introducing new forms of technology is to familiarize the staff team with their new tool as quickly as possible. Otherwise, a tool which is difficult to use will reduce the efficiency gain, especially in the important initial phase. Thanks to the seamless connection of easy archive with the familiar ERP system, users at Wilhelm Schröder barely noticed that they had switched from one application to another. The possibilities are growing, but the environment stays the same.

The ERP system that Wilhelm Schröder has been using for several years is from the wide-ranging partner network of easy. On this basis, opting for easy archive as an appropriate archive for the existing ERP system wasn’t a hard choice. The basis made the introduction of the archive even easier than originally expected, as it wasn‘t necessary to start from scratch.

Why, then – despite all these clear advantages – did Wilhelm Schröder introduce the digital archive at a relatively late stage? Were the awe-inspiring, ever-increasing mountains of files the only reason? In fact, years earlier, Wilhelm Schröder‘s IT department had previously said that it wanted to introduce a digital archive. However, an upheaval of this kind is always a financial investment that decisi-on-makers approach with caution. After all, why bother fixing something that appears to work?

The legally compliant archiving of documents might not sound like something that could have a significant impact on sales. The advantages added up, however, especially over the long term, and were revealed in the next financial report: Firstly, the introduction of the new archive allowed Wilhelm Schröder to save almost all its previous printing costs – over the months and years, printing all the digital documents for the paper archive, which had become necessary, cost quite a few hundred Euros.

The changes in the work process had an even greater impact, which may only have become clear gradually, but weren‘t to be sniffed at: Each year, Wilhelm Schröder processes approximately 6,000 incoming invoices, 12,000 outgoing invoices and around 25,000 similar documents. Since the digitalization of all its files, the processing time for the individual processes has been signifi-cantly reduced. Even if the original documents are still used to a limited extent, processes can now be initialized in several places at once. Documents no longer need to be passed from one room to the next or even physically copied. A phone call or an email is all it takes for the next step in the process to continue in the other office. With incoming invoices in particular, this means that in the long term, whole days of unnecessary additional work can be eliminated. The time that is saved can now be used for more productive work. For those who work from home in particular, the archive has proven to be a genuine life-saver.

By gaining flexibility, the departments have been able to restructure and optimize their processes accordingly. Processes that once went without saying are now being put to critical examination. Do documents in the digital age really need phy-sical stamps?

Documents can also be found and opened in no time at all in the event of queries or complications. This allows individual employees to validate certain positions immediately, and without having to find the file folder elsewhere first –if, indeed, it can actually be found then in the first place. And when deadlines are urgent, they are nearly alwaysmissed without a digital archive.

This is because paper-based files can only be sorted in one way in each filing system: whether it is chronologically, by customer name, by item – however it is done, it’s never right, as the search requirements differ depending on the situation. With the full-text search option in the digital archive, however, the Wilhelm Schröder employees can now search with any keyword they like, instead of having to rely on an item number or sift through comparable values on the tabs of a folder. In addition to this, related documents are automatically assigned to each other, so in some cases, a search becomes completely unnecessary. No more flipping through folders to find a single page.

Even those with doubts were convincedOf the 140 employees at Wilhelm Schröder 25 are able to access the archive. All these employees are personally committed to maintaining the core data of the documents carefully, as they know that well-managed doc-uments save time and stress in the future. The users are enthusiastic about how quickly everything in the archive can be found and how quickly they can work with it. This kind of clear praise among employees in a company is rare.

easy planned this project independently on the basis of its many years’ experience with simi-lar projects. The fact that easy knew exactly which functions were useful or necessary hugely relieved the workload on Wilhelm Schröder At the same time, easy looked at the expressed desires, and assessed whether they were reasonable or not. The learning process following the introduction of the software was very quick. Within a short time, the responsible employees at Wilhelm Schröder were able to set up new filing systems in the archive without supervision.

The return on investment is being achieved more quickly than expected due to the huge gain in efficiency; to which immediate savings, such as the huge reduction in printing costs, have also contributed. In particular, however, the problem-free working from home that the new system allows has avoided an expensive problem that would otherwise have been a nasty surprise for Wilhelm Schröder.

In the future, Wilhelm Schröder is planning to temporarily ban paper completely from its offices to get an idea of what working on a 100% digital basis is really like. In this way, efficient processes can be created that are traceable, on a transparent basis, from start to finish.

the right data in the right hands


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