Delivering interactive documents electronically

South African manufacturing concern, HellermannTyton, has migrated off its old electronic document management system onto a home-grown solution developed by Berco IT Solutions.

The new system, Virtual Postman, is a Linux-based system that delivers interactive documents electronically. Initially developed for two of the companies in the Berco Group, Berco IT is now taking this, as well as its tapeless backup solution, to market.

Says HellermannTyton IT manager, Alison Leach: "Our previous system, installed two years ago, did not work from day one. After we migrated from Windows 98 to XP, it fell over completely, and we started looking for an alternative. We reviewed a couple of solutions but wanted something that gave us everything we need in one basket. Then we found Virtual Postman (VP), which came out with all the pluses we needed."

Two factors counting heavily in VP's favor, Leach says, were the fact that the two year's worth of documents on the old system could be transferred into the new system without being rescanned, and that VP does not charge licensing fees. Users pay a once-off purchase fee.

The system is intranet or Web-browser based, and enables users to call up, fax, e-mail, cross-reference or print documents at the click of a mouse. It also integrates with HellermannTyton's ERP system.

"We process in the region of 20 000 invoices per month, which are automatically transferred to the VP system," Leach says. "We also process some 3 000 statements per month, and a proof of delivery (PoD) form for each invoice. At present the PoD forms, as well as debtors, creditors, cash book and shipping information are manually scanned into the system, whilst the others are electronically generated."

Each document has a barcode on it, making the documents referencable and trackable. A customer receiving an e-mailed statement, for example, can click on the embedded hotlinks in the statement and call up the relevant invoices or PoDs.

VP's compression system reduces each document to an average size of 87kB. Files are saved in PDF format, with SARS-approved 128-bit encryption. Even with this small file size, HellermanTyton says it currently has 50GB of data on the system. Only the current year's documentation is stored on site, Leach adds, the rest is stored in offsite archives.

The system runs on a Linux server, and the project -- from date of order, to installation, implementation and the conversion of data on the old system -- took two weeks.

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