International Door & Operator Industry

JUL-AUG 2018

Garage door industry magazine for garage door dealers, garage door manufacturers, garage door distributors, garage door installers, loading docks, garage door operators and openers, gates, and tools for the door industry.

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12 International Door & Operator Industry™ LEGAL&LEGISLATION Continued from page 11 Internet, improved electronic devices, and the growing and expanding economy after the worst depths of the Great Recession. Today, almost anything is possible in terms of electronic forms and record-keeping. So the advice I gave in 2012 is just as good today, if not even better. Why Going Electronic Is Valuable There are a variety of reasons why transitioning from paper to electronic records is a good idea. The first and most obvious one is because it eliminates the reliance on saving and organizing all that paper. A piece of paper can be easily lost. It can be easily damaged or destroyed. A rain shower or a spilled cup of coffee on a desk can render a paper record unusable. Once the record is in electronic format, it is harder to destroy, especially if the company has a good back-up system. Electronic records and forms also lead to greater accuracy. While there can always be mistakes in data entry, the likelihood of someone mis-reading an electronic entry is much lower than a handwritten one. Most electronic form programs and apps will also have error-checking capabilities for particularly egregious mistakes, and may limit the abilities to mess up other data entry. Depending on how dealers implement electronic forms and record-keeping, they may also be able to have greater protection against fraud in the field. If a technician doesn't have paper forms for invoices and work orders, he can't fabricate documentation that lets him take a payment for work on the side. Once a dealer goes electronic, by running all orders through a central process, the company has the ability to electronically keep track of all service calls, and then cross-check them against the electronic documentation that is generated from those calls. While there is no system that is entirely fraud-proof, this sort of system definitely makes it harder to fabricate paperwork in the field. Making Mail into E-Mail The simplest step for reducing the amount of paper is to digitize paper documents that come into your office. A networked copy machine with scanning capability can digitize the pages, and then those documents can be delivered and stored electronically. The current multi-function printers can even handle the e-mail distribution of scanned documents directly from the copier control panel, rather than having to go onto a computer to distribute them. Similarly, any mail going out of the office can be processed the same way, so that rather than maintaining paper copies, you can store those copies electronically. In order to make this system work, though, it helps the most if someone is tasked with the unenviable job of organizing the scanned documents -- a "document Czar" if you will. In our firm, all scanned documents are run through an OCR (optical character recognition) program, so that the contents of the records can be searched by key words. Some modern copiers even have OCR features built in. However, we also have the "document Czar" manually organize the documents into folders on our server, so they can more easily be located by anyone in the office. In our offices, this person is the first person called when a document needs to be located, much like a librarian, so those with more basic computer skills don't get frustrated and abandon the digital world. This job should not even require a full-time employee. Rather, the person can be the same person in the office responsible for document retention policies, and who can provide a gentle nudge to those that forget. For a dealer, the organization system may be done by customer, or by document type. In a given client's folder, they may be subdivided into estimates, invoices, delivery tickets, service records, and the like. The system you use should be determined by what your particular business needs, and what is easiest for the people who will be accessing the records. Both Mac and PC computers these days, however, have powerful search capabilities that allow even misfiled documents to be searched by PO number, customer number, or date, so you wouldn't have to get overly worried about perfecting the system. Invoicing, Field Reports, and Finances There was a time when work performed in the field could only be done on paper, because there was no other way of providing multiple copies of forms to customers, the home office, and whomever else needed a copy. That day is long gone. Today's technology allows the creation of forms for every possible use, and those documents can be transmitted through e-mail or electronic faxing in an instant. My first exposure to electronic job-site documentation software came at a demonstration of the Field2Base software at an ABA Forum on the Construction Industry event several years ago. The software ran on tablet computers, and could be used with a keyboard or a stylus to create and populate the various forms used on a construction project, and then distribute those forms through e-mail and/or wireless connections to a company's network. The information compiled through the system would also be dumped into a database, so that other documentation – activity reports, pay applications, job cost reports, and the like – could be generated. Today, with apps for smartphones and tablets, there is no reason why any door dealer cannot be partially or wholly electronic in the field. If you prefer to do it yourself, a program like Adobe Acrobat, which can be used to create and edit PDF documents, is available off the shelf for any company. For more advanced functionality, a company may need to contract with an IT specialist, programmer, or service provider, to design forms and databases to expand the uses of electronic data to ordering, billing, and beyond. IDA has formed strategic relationships with vendors who can assist dealers with completely digitizing their call, order, $ Continued on page 14

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