Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry in Manitowoc, Wisconsin relies on process efficiencies, quality control, and precise engineering to ensure the delivery of the finest aluminum and copper-based alloy castings to a variety of industries worldwide. The company’s focus on continuous improvement in technology earned it the prestigious “Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year” award for three consecutive years.
This desire for continuous improvement led to the implementation of precision CAD prototyping and robotic finishing equipment. It also brought about recognition of a lean opportunity in the Accounts Payable department where manual paper processes were prevalent and involved managing multiple copies of documents, inefficient approval tracking and signoff, inadequate storage space and unsupported document recovery.
“The positive results we experienced through our lean manufacturing efforts in the foundry, led WAF management to believe that applying the lean approach to an office application would prove equally successful,” said Rick Risch, who oversees the IS Department.
Armed with this understanding and building on a strong relationship with MBM that began in the mid-1980s, several managers attended a seminar hosted by MBM. At this seminar it became clear that MBM’s ePayables process was just what they were looking for.
“It was specifically the flexibility of the implementation that impressed us,” said Denise Kaas, WAF Network Administrator. “We evaluated several other products, but it was MBM that brought a solution to the table that could grow with us over time, so we didn’t have to change everything all at once.”
Through MBM’s ePayables solution, as invoices are received from vendors, they are converted from hard copy into digital images and stored in a central repository. This allows all system users access to these documents for status, tracking and look-up capabilities. With all documents available electronically, review and approval processes are handled efficiently via electronic routing. The new system also supports Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry’s disaster recovery planning efforts.
To further automate accounts payable processing, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry chose to implement MBM’s image enabling solution to the ePayables process allowing staff to pull invoice data directly from the ERP system into the electronically stored invoice, thus eliminating any potential re-keying errors. MBM configured and implemented this turn-key integration solution without disruption to the company’s existing ERP system and without costly customization charges from WAF’s ERP vendor.
Through the implementation of the MBM ePayables process, the Accounts Payable department’s workload improved dramatically. Manual filing, which had previously consumed nearly 16 hours per week, was practically eliminated. In addition, year-end audit processing time was streamlined dramatically. Because Accounts Payable documents are all captured and stored electronically, when a discrepancy between a purchase order and related invoice is found, the AP staff simply routes the documents electronically to the appropriate individual for review and signoff, completely eliminating the time that had previously been spent in hand-delivering documents to the appropriate person.
With these immediate changes in place, the workload redistribution in the Accounts Payable department offered Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry the ability to begin integrating a full-time person to the role of Business Analyst. Along with the Network Administrator, this person works to identify future business process improvement opportunities, with the goal of creating even greater efficiencies for the company.
And some additional benefits were just waiting to be discovered. Case in point, as a result of implementing an electronic AP process, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry has greatly improved relationships with existing vendors because payments are processed more promptly. In addition, new vendors are now willing to offer better up-front payment discounts because of the electronic solution they have in place.
Following the implementation, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry also enjoyed additional benefits that hadn’t been considered in the initial evaluation process. One example is the reduction in time required to determine the upcoming year’s standard freight cost when estimating new projects. Previously, this process required the company’s purchasing agent to pull hard copy documents from years’ past, but with MBM’s solution making all of these documents available electronically, determining the freight cost has become more efficient than ever.
The flexibility that MBM’s ePayables solution provides has been instrumental in improving staff workload at the Foundry. In addition to providing more work/life balance to long-time employees, as business improved, the ePayables process allowed the Foundry to manage the increased workload without having to hire additional staff.
The team at Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry expects the improvements to continue, and attributes this to MBM’s relationship-focused approach. “They take the time to understand your business processes so they can help you make a real impact,” said Risch. “We think MBM’s solutions are the best available, and I count on their team to continue to bring me new ideas to make our business operations even better.”