2020 marks my 25th year at LRS. And what a year it has been. No one could have predicted how much the world, the economy, and our lives would change… or how quickly those changes would come. In a quarter century, I’ve seen the alleged death of the mainframe (hint: turns out that’s not quite true), the rise of decentralized computing, the rebirth of centralized computing (known today as thin-client architecture or VDI), and the elusive quest for the paperless office. But I never thought I’d witness what a pandemic would do to the world of computing, documents, and our way of life.
COVID-19 Strikes, Businesses Strike Back
After some initial shock, our customers quickly got down to the business of adapting their organizations and workflows to the new reality. I have some thoughts on why they were able to react so rapidly, which I’ll save for a later post. First, I’d like to share a few real-world examples in the hopes that they may spark some ideas that may be useful in your own organizations.
To limit the spread of the Coronavirus, many companies (including LRS) have instructed their employees to work from home. This immediate and dramatic workplace shift has impacted how we work, interact with colleagues, and use/print/share critical documents. But for some organizations, working from home is not an option. Hospitals obviously need to stay staffed and open to the public. Food must be distributed so the rest of us can shelter at home. Transportation networks need to remain viable so goods can be shipped wherever they are needed.
Documents play a critical role in all of these industries, and the major players all have a robust output management infrastructure in place. But physical documents are seen by some as a potential disease vector. A “Zero Touch” solution is in order. Here’s how some LRS customers are adapting:
A global producer of meats and processed foods has workers around North America and the world. On a typical day, they generate over 1600 hardcopy reports, which are printed on remote printers around the organization. With most of these employees now working from home, they are looking to shift to email delivery of these documents using the VPS/Email extension to their existing LRS output management software. The speed and ease with which the organization could shift to email document delivery is a result of the modular, holistic approach of the LRS output management solution. No application changes, no reformatting, no problem.
Grocery Wholesale & Distribution
One of the largest produce and grocery wholesalers in North America supplies countless food retailers around the nation with the products needed to sustain citizens during this quarantine. When their customers — major grocery chains covering most of the U.S. — required them to eliminate all printed shipping, billing, and other documents, the wholesaler sought to shift to PDF and email document delivery.
LRS is working with them to transition their hardcopy-based workflows to electronic ones through the use of various LRS extension products. Like many large organizations with paper-based shipping processes, the customer currently employs pre-printed forms used on high-volume, high-speed printers. LRS services teams are working with the customer to convert these hardcopy forms to electronic ones for zero-touch document delivery. To extend the online availability of these documents and allow for greater business continuity, the company has the option of storing and viewing these documents in LRS’ browser-enabled PageCenterX archiving solution.
Rail & Intermodal Shipping
When it comes to moving huge quantities of goods in a hurry, rail transport and intermodal container shipping play a crucial role in society. Like the previously-mentioned organizations, a Fortune 500 transportation company needed a way to quickly transition to a zero-touch document system for the safety of both its employees and customers. Rail transport is a highly regulated and document-intensive industry. To comply with government mandates and make sure nothing goes missing, not a single container can leave the train yard or intermodal facility without the appropriate documentation.
Again, this organization has a holistic output management system in place that was designed to deliver any document, from any source, in any form, to any hardcopy or electronic destination. So while converting printed shipping manifests, hazardous materials forms, etc. will dramatically alter work processes in for the workers on the front lines, it is not so challenging from an output management software perspective. Our technical team estimates a five-to-seven-day deployment time for the software part of the equation — likely faster than it will take to configure and distribute mobile tablets to all of the engineers and yard workers who need them.
If I’ve learned one thing in the past month, it is that LRS has some of the most resourceful and dedicated customers in the world. Those qualities, combined with the flexibility of our software and creative problem-solving by our technical teams, is impressive. As it turns out, a solid output management strategy makes it easier to execute tactical changes in record time.
Stay safe, wash your hands, and continue to let us know what document challenges you are facing. Together, we’ll come through this stronger than ever.