Customers and internal teams at Unified Grocers were buried in paper. How could the company make it easier for people to access key accounting documents, including invoices and statements?
Unified has embraced electronic content, moving accounting documents to a secure digital archive and giving both internal and external users instant access to the information through a web portal.
Cutscost and risk of managing large volumes of paper files
Instantaccess to invoices and statements that previously took days to deliver on paper
Sharpenscompetitiveness and adds value for customers with modern content management
Business challenge story
Taking control of information
In an industry dominated by large, publicly owned retail companies, it isn’t easy for independent grocers to compete. Unified works to level the playing field by enabling its members to pool their resources—helping them leverage better purchasing power with suppliers, run cost-effective in-store programs and systems, and access the latest retail technology.
Unified is constantly looking to deliver greater value for its members and other customers, and help them run more efficiently. This commitment to continuous improvement led the company to find a way to make it easier for customers to access key accounting documents.
Linda Luke, Data Center Supervisor, Information Services at Unified Grocers, elaborates: “Previously, we sent everything to customers on paper. After they placed an order, we’d send out the invoice or billing statement by mail or with the delivery itself. Not only did it take some time for documents to reach customers, managing all that paper was time-consuming and expensive.
“We wanted to lift the burden of managing paper from our customers, and give them a faster, more reliable way to access their invoices and statements. This would make it much easier for them to work with Unified, boosting satisfaction and sharpening our competitive advantage.”
Extending the benefits of electronic content managementHaving already worked to digitize its own paper-based files several years ago, Unified has first-hand experience of the efficiency gains that can be unlocked by electronic content management.
Linda Luke recalls: “We made microfiche archives a thing of the past by introducing IBM® Content Manager OnDemand more than a decade ago, and have been working to transform into an entirely paperless organization. Unified has benefited immensely from digitization—we have eliminated the expense and effort of storing and maintaining vast paper archives. Users no longer have to shuffle through piles of paper; they can instantly bring up the information they need right from their computer.”
As Unified looked to extend the benefits of electronic content to its customers, the company recognized that an IT refresh was in order, and engaged an expert team from IBM to assist with the upgrade and migration work.
Linda Luke continues: “Our Content Manager OnDemand software was overdue for an upgrade—the application is just so stable and dependable that we almost forget that it is there sometimes! The same went for the Content Manager OnDemand web applications, so we took the opportunity to bring everything up to date.
“Working with IBM was a great experience. They were incredibly attentive to our needs and were always there to address any questions or concerns we had. The IBM team went above and beyond to make sure everything went smoothly, and with their support we met all of our objectives and timelines.”
Today, Unified provides customers with efficient, secure capture and storage of key accounting documents, such as invoices, statements, shipping documents and financial reports.
To provide users with quick and easy access to this rich store of electronic content, Unified uses IBM Content Navigator.
Linda Luke explains: “We have a ‘Business Center’ portal on our website, from which customers can access a range of marketing tools and other information. We’ve included access to Content Manager OnDemand from this portal, and have enabled single sign-on capabilities, so once customers are logged into Business Center, they can instantly access the system and view all of their store reports in one place.”
Adding greater value for customersCurrently, Unified has rolled out the new Content Manager OnDemand platform to customers across the Northwest, and is working to bring the rest of its customers in Northern and Southern California and Oregon onto the solution in the near future. For those customers that have already made the switch to electronic content, the impact on operations has been highly positive.
“The response from our customers has been great,” says Linda Luke. “They love that they don’t have to handle so much paper anymore or wait days for documents to arrive in the mail or with a delivery. We have several retailers who rely on invoice data to price goods for retail sale, so being able to view this information soon after they place an order has been a huge boost to efficiency.
“What’s more, because everything is stored in a single, secure online location, there’s no more risk of important documents getting lost in the shuffle, and if a particular file is needed for reporting or audit reasons, customers can bring it up in just a few mouse-clicks.”
She adds: “The value of electronic content management goes beyond efficiency gains. With financial information now pulled together in one place, it is more readily available for reporting and analytics. Customers can potentially unlock new insights from their data that can help them drive more-informed decisions about how to best run their business.”
Empowering customers with access to tools like Content Manager OnDemand enhances Unified’s image as a cooperative that is dedicated to giving its members’ the very best—boosting brand appeal and loyalty to strengthen competitiveness.
Linda Luke concludes: “Today, people are used to doing everything online—from paying bills to making purchases—so it is immensely useful for Unified to be able to respond to this shift and offer a service that lets our customers work exactly how they want to. IBM Content Manager OnDemand helps us stay relevant and competitive, so we can continue to support our retailers in running successful businesses.”
Unified Grocers (Unified) is the largest retailer-owned wholesale grocery cooperative in the Western United States, supplying more than 2,900 retail stores. Unified offers independent retailers all the resources they need to compete in the supermarket industry, from grocery products to marketing support and professional services.
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To find out more about IBM Content Manager OnDemand, visit: ibm.com/software/products/en/ondemand
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