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Erie Copy Products: Salvaging a Wholesaler’s Paper Process

4 Oct, 2005 By: Darrell Amy imageSource

Erie Copy Products: Salvaging a Wholesaler’s Paper Process

You don’t need to walk into a
large bank, law firm or healthcare facility to find lucrative solutions
opportunities. Dealers around the country are beginning to discover that
document solutions technology can have a positive business impact in virtually
any industry.

Solution sales representative Bill Flatley of Erie Copy Products, an authorized
Sharp dealer based in Erie, Pennsylvania, learned this during a cold call to a
national wholesaler of wrecked vehicles.

Several years prior to Flatley’s visit, Erie Copy Products had lost a copier
sale at the wholesaler because of price. Since that time, however, the
dealership has transformed itself into a solutions provider, and made a better
impression the second time around.

Following conversations about its business processes, Flatley sold the company a
bundled hardware/software that included Kofax (www.kofax.com) Ascent Capture,
Kofax Virtual Rescan, FabSoft (www.fabsoft.com) Reform software, and two Sharp (www.sharpusa.com)

Uncovering the Business Problem

When a vehicle is wrecked, insurance companies call the salvage company to pick
up the vehicle and sell it on the wholesale market. Since the vehicle is
destroyed, the title has to be turned into a Salvage Certification Request form.

The business has to face the hassle of processing titles and salvage certificate
requests for vehicles in all 50 states—a highly labor intensive process.

Document solutions, however, are not typically the first thing that would pop
into a sales representative’s mind when walking through the door of a vehicle
salvage company. But Flatley was determined to use his solutions training to its

“We consulted our way in the door,” he remembered. “On our initial calls we
point out that we are not just a copy company anymore. We stress our ability to
manage workflow, increase efficiency and effectiveness within their workplace.”

Using that approach, Flatley was welcomed in by the company’s IT manager, who
explained the burden of processing hundreds of titles by hand. On average, 130
vehicle titles arrive in the company’s office each day, and it processes
approximately 32,000 titles and Salvage Certification Requests per year.

Title processors would cross-reference the Vehicle Identification Number on the
title with the information in the wholesaler’s custom-designed inventory system.
The processors would then enter key information such as make, model and year
from the title into the inventory system.

Next, the processors would fill out a Salvage Certification Request form. Since
each state has a different form, the forms were completed by hand.

Finally, a copy of the title was made and the documents were scanned to a basic
document management system that had been developed as a component of the
wholesaler’s inventory system.

“Our goal was to find areas where we could automate the process,” Flatley
explained. “As we sketched out the process on a board, I began to realize how
valuable it would be if we could pull the vehicle information off of the title
instead of scanning it in.

“I figured if we could drop the titles in the scanner and read the data, it
would add tremendous value to the company,” he added. “We estimated a
five-minute time savings per vehicle would translate into a cost savings of
$1,000 per month.”

The IT manager agreed with the concept and asked Erie Copy Products to develop a
proposal to turn the idea into reality.

Designing the Solution

The solution required technology to read the data off of the scanned titles.
Typically, it is fairly easy to set up zone optical character recognition (OCR)
technology for a form if the information is in the same place on every form. The
challenge with this application was that each state uses a slightly different

The solution required technology that would recognize which state the title was
from. Then it could use a recognition template that matched the layout for the
states’ titles.

Kofax Ascent Capture was chosen as the application to make this happen. Erie
Copy had previous success with the program at a county human services
department. To make the system work, it would be necessary to design a
recognition template for each state.

Flatley also realized the electronic forms technology could be used to
automatically create the Salvage Certification Request forms. For this
application, he recommended FabSoft Reform, an electronic forms package that
reformats data from generic print streams to print on cut sheet paper.

Once again, each state used a different Salvage Certification Request form. The
electronic forms technology needed to be configured to automatically recognize
which state a form was being printed for.

After hearing Flatley’s proposal, the company’s management gave the go ahead for
the project, which was slowed by the rash of devastating hurricanes of 2004. The
storms led to a tremendous spike in business for the wholesaler. With the
increase in volume it was not possible to retool the business process.

During that time, Flatley followed up every few weeks. Finally, as business
leveled out, the company agreed to implement the system.

The proposal presented to the client did not include any hardware, but after
inquiring about the company’s aging copier, Flatley sold two Sharp MFPs to the
company as well.

The Implementation

The overall implementation took more than a week and included assistance of an
independent Kofax integrator to implement the solution.

First, Ascent Capture was configured to recognize each state’s title format.

“The form configuration required the most time,” Flatley said. “We needed to
have a high degree of confidence that the software would recognize the right
state every time.”

Next, templates were developed for each state title. The templates provided a
road map for Ascent Capture to find data like the VIN and the vehicle make and
model. These data fields were then mapped to the client’s existing database.

Additionally, a 62 page per minute Sharp MFP was installed on the network. The
copier was used to handle the existing volume of about 40,000 pages per month.
The scanning function was configured to direct documents directly to Kofax.
Another Sharp MFP was implemented to handle heavy inbound fax volume of 8,000
pages per month.

With the templates in place and the fields mapped to the database, the system
was ready to go into production. However, as titles were scanned, it quickly
became apparent that the image quality was going to be a challenge. Most state
titles have a fairly complex background to prevent counterfeiting. This was
causing challenges in accurately reading information from the forms.

“We realized that we were going to need to pull the background out of the titles
to prevent pixilation,” the company’s IT manager explained.

To accomplish this, Flatley recommended Kofax Virtual Rescan. This application
enhances scanned documents by automatically removing backgrounds and adjusting
the contrast.

Like many solutions implementations, integration challenges may appear during
implementation. While Ascent Capture worked with the Sharp MFP, the Virtual
Rescan Application required a stand-alone scanner. The client purchased a
Fujitsu scanner that was bundled with Virtual Rescan from a computer supplier.

Implementing a new scanner required re-configuring the recognition templates and
additional time. However, with Virtual Rescan implemented, the solution
recognizes data with a high degree of accuracy.

“We have found that the software processes 90 percent of the titles
automatically,” the IT manager pointed out. “If the software doesn’t accurately
recognize the data, it moves the scan into a quality assurance queue where it is
proofed by data entry personnel.”

Additional Functionality

With the system in place, data entry clerks still had to fill out Salvage
Certification Request forms by hand, but Flatley realized that electronic forms
technologies could potentially automate this process.

He proposed a solution that used FabSoft Reform software to create Salvage
Certification Requests. To print the forms, users generate a print screen out of
the existing inventory application. Reform intercepts this data and looks for
what state the request is for. Based on the state, Reform selects the
appropriate form and prints the Salvage Certification Request.

Instead of manually keying information, stacks of vehicle titles from any of 50
states are scanned in, key information is extracted, and a salvage certificate
request is generated.

Client Benefits

The main financial benefit for the client has been a 50-60 percent reduction in
data entry costs. With the system in place for just over a month, the company
has been able to reduce staffing requirements from 15 people down to five,
freeing up employees to add value in other areas of the company. The solution
has also increased data entry accuracy.

“If it can’t match anything on the title with a certain probability, it kicks it
out for a title processor to review,” the IT manager explained.

Additionally, the new system will enable Salvage Direct to grow without adding

“When we double in size, our title processing staff will remain relatively
small,” he added. “It is definitely an example of economy of scale.”

Words of Wisdom

Flatley offers the following advice to his counterparts in the copier business:

“Solution selling takes time. It is important to get the customer’s buy in on
each step of the sales process,” said Flatley, who has also implemented a Kofax
application in a company that manages magazine subscriptions.

“Do not revert back to the price game,” he added. “Even though the customer may
try to take you down that road, you are not a commodity, and there are many
additional things to differentiate yourself on other than price.”

Solutions Sales Suggestions

Fred Zurn, owner of Erie Copy Products, offers the following suggestions
regarding succeeding in the solutions business:

• Utilize sales specialists to market software solutions and keep your hardware
experts in their skill and core competencies.

• Partner with your existing client for account reviews on their business needs
and formulate strategies for improving their business results.

• Be patient. The business model and sales cycle is significantly different and
longer than the traditional hardware model our businesses evolved from.

• Don’t wait. The time and opportunity is now. The need for our industry to
reinvent itself is immediate.

few of the team members for Erie Copy Products from the left, Chris Zurn,
document solutions specialist, Mary Schreiber, sales director, and Fred Zurn,


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