Tales from the Front
Monday, August 31, 2015
by Tim Kollars
So there I was, pinned down by Charlie...
Let me back up. In a previous life, I served multiple tours as an SAP Administrator for a well-known tool company. Anyway, I remember getting a call around 9pm from a user who had submitted a ticket about being unable to print bills of lading. I knew this was a big deal as it would ultimately cost the company a significant amount of money. We all know how important bills of lading are; no shipment, no payment – though there could also be a penalty for failing to meet our SLA's.
The support technician assigned to the site had gone home for the day, and calling him back would cost more time and money. When I contacted the user, she stated the issue was occurring on both her computer and her co-worker's, and they were currently writing bills of lading by hand. What ultimately resolved the problem was a Windows print server reboot by the engineering team about an hour later. Frustrating, to be sure, the delay was compounded by the fact that it takes time to reconcile exactly where the output traveled. Pouring salt on the wound, there is no way to know how many queued print jobs were deleted in the process!
Later, while supporting mobile workers (service technicians), we found issues with faxing. The mobile workforce relied on multiple channels for communicating work tasks to the field technicians (where to go, what to fix etc...). One popular method was faxing, another was paging (yes, old style 1990's pagers). Faxes sometimes failed due to fax server problems and would have to be resent. The obvious issue with faxing is that the person sending the order seldom knows whether the fax actually reached its intended recipient. Confirming delivery was a time consuming and aggravating process, one which (in retrospect) could have easily been automated using some basic LRS document storage and retention software.
I’ve got countless war stories relating to failed printing, but some of the worst involve reprinting orders. Reprints are a dangerous thing in any warehousing or SAP environment in general. Why? Because they increase the risk of orders being shipped more than once. You’ve got the expense of the reprint, the redundant shipping cost, the cost of the duplicate object being shipped, and the cost of having the item shipped back from the customer site (assuming they don’t just keep it). All on top of looking like a fool in front of a customer or partner company.
Normally administrators avoid reprints like the plague, but they are a necessary evil. Putting users in charge of their own reprints minimizes the risk of duplicate shipments… again, easily accomplished by implementing a document storage and retention system from LRS.
Long story short, printing can be a nightmare in any environment where goods are shipped or service orders are sent via document. A rock-solid output solution can save a lot of money, time, and stress for the front-line workers and the support teams that help them. The time I spent on the service delivery team at that tool company gives me a better appreciation for the LRS software I advocate today.