To comply with strict labor laws, A&F must collect the correct documents when it hires a new associate—but keeping paper records can make it costly and time-consuming to ensure stores are audit-ready.
A&F is working with MagicLamp Software to digitize hiring-related documentation across its operations in Europe using IBM® Datacap software—enabling teams to access content online in seconds.
Meetscompliance goals for external audits for operations in Germany and Spain
Cutscost and effort of paper-based processes in regions that allow electronic retention
Full ROIanticipated once the solution is completely in production
Business challenge story
With over 1,000 stores located across Europe, North America, and Asia, Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) has a huge workforce and a large paper trail to match. Whenever A&F hires a new associate in Europe, labor regulations require the company to gather a whole host of content and retain it for the entirety of that associate’s working life. However, relying on manual methods to verify, track, and deliver this physical data resulted in challenges with ensuring compliance and providing visibility.
Joshua Forrest, IT Manager at A&F, explains: “European law requires us to collect various types of information when we hire new staff, including contracts, copies of IDs, passports, health cards, data privacy forms, interview guides, and health and safety forms—to name only a few!
“Local labor authorities perform frequent audits to ensure we have gathered and stored all required documentation—and failing to provide the relevant data during an external audit could result in significant fines and penalties for non-compliance. To ensure compliance, internal audit teams visit stores periodically. On their visits, they review each stores’ archives, but these checks are done manually—by examining boxes and filing cabinets.
“Relying on manual methods made it difficult to confirm each store had all required documentation in its proper format. Additionally, it was expensive and time consuming to perform internal audits, which required our teams to travel out to the stores on a rotational basis. As a company, we wanted to be more proactive and efficient with our international labor audits, making absolutely sure that we had the right copies of the right information stored on site.”
Uploading the filing cabinetTo maximize audit compliance and boost efficiency, A&F decided to make the move to digital document capture and management. As a longstanding user of IBM solutions, the company trusted IBM’s recommendation to use Datacap: an intelligent, multichannel information capture solution.
Joshua Forrest continues: “We have been using IBM® Content Manager as our accounts payable repository for approximately 10 years. So deploying IBM Datacap as a front-end capture solution made perfect sense—we were already familiar with the IBM enterprise content management portfolio and it would be easy to integrate Datacap with our existing Content Manager environment.”
A&F was keen to get the new solution up and running, but the implementation hit some early obstacles.
“We initially engaged a third-party vendor to manage the implementation, and after 10 months had little to show for it,” says Joshua Forrest. “Luckily, our IBM representative introduced us to MagicLamp Software, who completely turned the initiative around.
“We have a fantastic relationship with MagicLamp and view them as a true partner. I’ve been working in IT for a while, and have yet to come across a better vendor. After just five weeks of working with MagicLamp, we had a fully operational capture application, with more functionality than our previous vendor was able to provide.”
To date, the A&F team has seven European countries in production on Datacap, and is currently working to migrate Ireland and the UK to the solution. Next, the company will move four countries in Asia currently using paper-based processes to the new platform. A&F expects all international stores to be live and enjoying the full benefits of Datacap by mid-2017.
As it works to roll out the Datacap solution, A&F has made a number of process improvements to drive highly consistent and streamlined document processing.
Joshua Forrest notes: “We standardized many of our documents to reduce the workload for end users by adding QR codes and keywords, which enable automated indexing. We’ve also created templates for all unstructured documents by adding boxes for ID cards and passports, as well as clear instructions to ensure all documents are scanned in a uniform way.”
Taking a proactive approach to compliance
For A&F, embracing electronic content had an immediate positive impact on operations in multiple countries by limiting the expense, risk and effort of managing mountains of paper. These benefits are only set to increase as the company adds more locations to the new document capture and storage platform.
Joshua Forrest says: “We’ve historically budgeted for store visits where associate files are housed. These store visits resulted in significant time being allocated to file audits. Similarly, requests for documentation could take days with our prior state of operations.
“Today, that’s all changing. With IBM Enterprise Content Management solutions, we can access the right document in seconds—not days—and from any location, without the cost and effort of performing manual searches. The solution will provide instant ROI once live in all international locations.
“Equally important, faster information access means we can provide external audit teams with a quick and full response to their requests for information. It’s always a bonus to have a positive relationship with your auditors.”
What’s more, with all hiring-related documentation available electronically in one location, A&F is gaining unprecedented visibility into associate records. This, combined with enhanced reporting capabilities, makes it easier for the company to ensure it has captured the correct information from each new associate.
Joshua Forrest explains: “Now that content is digitized, we can quickly and easily confirm associate files are present for every associate at each store. This is a great advantage in cases where we require visibility into this documentation; for instance, confirmation that all associates who are Spanish citizens have national identity cards on file, or confirmation that all student associates in France have student IDs on file. Thanks to our new approach, we have instant document visibility, something that was never available before.”
With a clear, complete picture of all hiring information, A&F can rest assured that each store is audit-ready.
Joshua Forrest continues: “Manual file audits, while necessary, only provided an estimated view into the state of document retention; we simply couldn’t audit all files across all stores.
“Since introducing Datacap, we’ve been able to proactively identify gaps in our hiring documentation and take immediate action to correct it. As a result, we’ve improved our associate file compliance in each country this solution has been rolled out to, a trend we expect to continue as Datacap is introduced to additional countries.”
He concludes: “IBM Enterprise Content Management solutions give us the insight we need to manage the hiring process in a more efficient and compliant manner. This enables us take a proactive approach to audit compliance, helping A&F reduce risk and stay on track for profitable growth.”
About Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) is an American retailer that provides young consumers with high-fashion casual wear. Headquartered in New Albany, Ohio, A&F has 278 locations in the United States and four in Canada, in addition to multiple international outlets. A&F owns the subsidiary brands Abercrombie Kids and Hollister Co., and operates 1,049 stores across all four brands.
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Established in 2003, MagicLamp Software has delivered perceptive software development and consulting services for companies across North America who are looking to significantly improve their operations. With a high level of expertise handling a variety of technologies, MagicLamp Software is best placed to help enterprises integrate and optimize IT solutions. To find out more, please visit: www.magiclampsoftware.net