Export efficiencies: Dutch filter manufacturer automates export processes using enterprise-integrated documentation
|Filtrair Finance Manager Johan Langius says thanks to smoother customs clearance enabled by a recent enterprise and transportation management systems integration project, the number of days that Filtrair’s goods spend in transit is significantly reduced.|
Dutch manufacturer Filtrair specializes in making filters for demanding applications—automotive paint shops, medical facilities, and protecting sensitive manufacturing processes in food processing, pharmaceutical, and high-tech electronics plants. In business since 1965, filters from the company’s Heerenveen, Netherlands plant are shipped to more than 80 countries spread across Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
Yet when Filtrair Finance Manager Johan Langius joined the business three years ago, he recalls, the entire export documentation and shipping process ran on a small, antiquated DOS system supplemented by Microsoft Word and Excel templates.
“System proliferation was rife; there was a lot of double data entry; and a high level of errors,” Langius relates. It was difficult to interrogate the system, too, “which made it difficult to see where our income was coming from,” he adds.
It also was a time of change. In 2004, the business had been acquired by Joliet, Il.-headquartered Filtration Group, and a rollout of QAD ’s MFG/PRO enterprise application suite had been completed. And in 2006, as Langius began searching the marketplace for a better way of managing Filtrair’s export processes, QAD was changing, too—acquiring Dublin, Eire-based Precision Software , a vendor of the very capability that Langius was looking for.
The combined promise of improved functionality and tight integration with QAD was too good to miss, and Filtrair signed a contract to license Precision Software’s TRAXi3 transportation management system.
The objectives were clear, explains Anne Jensen, European marketing manager for Precision. “TRAXi3 could cover Filtrair’s European and North American shipping requirements, as well as automate the production of Filtrair’s export and shipping documentation,” she notes. “In addition, the ability to communicate electronically with Dutch Customs offered faster and more streamlined customs clearance.”
Going live in December 2006, the new system immediately delivered on its promise, reports Langius. The workflow engine ensured all the steps required to get a shipment out the door were made, with the correct documentation being produced promptly, leading to a smooth customs clearance and a timely delivery to the customer. In addition, the company’s distribution team was pleased that their process flows had been retained. Overall, notes Langius, thanks to faster and smoother customs clearance, there has been a reduction in the number of days that Filtrair’s goods spend in transit.
But in August, Filtrair made public some other metrics highlighting the scale of the improvements that the company has experienced, now that the system has “bedded in.” The tight integration with MFG/PRO, plus a configurable, rules-driven workflow, it turns out, eliminated completely the workload formerly associated with producing documentation such as customs declarations, bills of lading, and certificates of insurance.
In terms of employee numbers, explains Langius, “We’ve saved the equivalent of three full-time people.” What’s more, he adds, the level of errors was reduced by 90 percent, and customers complaints regarding incomplete and missing documents have fallen by 85 percent.”
Errors also were reduced in the submissions made to Dutch Customs: Previously subject to manual input, customs filings are now made electronically.
“It has saved time, reduced the possibility of mistakes being made during data entry, and improved our effectiveness,” Langius sums up.
It’s now the turn of North American plants within the group to benefit, with Filtrair in the Netherlands directly assisting them as they move more substantially onto the world stage, reports Langius.
“We’re delighted with the results we’ve seen here in Heerenveen,” he concludes. “We’re now rolling out to North America and our other facilities around the world, and anticipate similar gains.”