Clean Scapes is an award-winning landscaping company in the heart of Texas. It relies on an army of workers, contractors and vendors to support the outdoor beautification and maintenance services it provides to thousands of customers.
Managing a diverse customer base means that back-office operations are every bit as important as rakes and bulldozers in keeping Clean Scapes in business. There are accounts receivable, accounts payable, purchase order and change order processes to track and complete. Then there are internal operational capacities, such as those within the marketing and human resources departments that need to grow in part if the company is to grow in whole.
That’s what Clean Scapes has been all about since co-founder Ivan Giraldo set up shop in Austin 11 years ago: growth. Today the company depends on hundreds of employees to generate some $42 million in annual revenue. As the company has grown, so have the problems inherent in working with burgeoning piles of paperwork.
Documents were getting lost among rows upon rows of filing cabinets, each taking up valuable office space. There was a lack of accountability in the handling of that paperwork. People forgot to file important documents in a timely manner, or they filed them with incorrect or incomplete information. This resulted in critical information being lost or misplaced, according to Travis Dyer, Clean Scapes’ director of technology.
Another problem the company faced was a lack of consistency across departments in the way they processed paperwork. Some departments required one approval step for a paper form submission; others required another. This often made it difficult to track down forms or identify bottlenecks in the process.
Two years ago the company decided it was time take control of its information and convert the piles of papers into digital files via an electronic document management system by Laserfiche. The system eliminated the need for filing cabinets and the time staff spent digging through them while creating a records management standard for all departments to follow. This standard is now making it much easier to track where documents are at any given stage of processing, as well as more easily identify and eliminate bottlenecks in those processes.
Perhaps most importantly, the new system is helping Clean Scapes discover the power of business process automation. The new system included a whole suite of business process automation products including:
- Electronic Workflow, which gives users drag-and-drop tools to build automated processes.
- Configurable, electronic eForms, which digitally capture incoming information and keep paper forms from clogging the beginning of processing.
- Records management Edition, which enables the company to archive all versions of a document and the actions taken on them.
Streamlining administration, keeping staff in the field
As the company successfully switched over to using digital documents instead of paper, it immediately started to see where it could deploy these business process automation products to streamline and automate staff action on incoming account and business information. This would have an almost immediate bottom line impact on Clean Scapes’ dozens of field managers who had to come into the office at least once a day to record that information.
“We need our people in the field in order to be maximally productive,” says Dyer. “We do not want them driving to and from offices just to file reports, submit billing information or handle other administrative chores.”
Chief among those chores is filling and filing purchase orders. For years, Clean Scapes relied on a notebook full of purchase order forms, which field managers stocked up on at the start of each week. Those would be filled out as work demanded, and dropped off at the business office and warehouse for processing whenever possible.
Working with the engineers from local Laserfiche reseller Zeno Imaging, Dyer used the system’s eForms software to build electronic versions of the paper purchase orders. Field managers now open the forms from their mobile devices, fill them out and file them from job sites — all without making a trip back to the office.
“The ability to do this work from the field is saving field managers dozens of hours each week just in streamlining the purchase order process,” Dyer says. “Now they can perform this task from the field, and that’s where we need them to be in order to be the most productive for our business.”
Automation eliminates errors
Beyond mobile filling and submission of purchase orders, the system enables the company to flag missing information in those purchase orders as well as provide reminders for users to provide the missing information. This keeps purchase orders — and jobs — moving forward when they would otherwise be held up for something as simple as an absent date, time or address.
The purchase order automation was so successful that Dyer set his sights on other areas of operations and has not been short of processes that he can improve. The eForm software was next moved into accounts receivable where job completion reports are now filled and filed remotely, expediting and improving the accuracy of the company’s all-important customer billing process.
Dyer was far from finished. Maintenance managers, chemical spray technicians and other field managers can fill out and file reports directly from a mobile device into Laserfiche where administrative staff at the office can process it. The filings are turned into a PDF document so that both Clean Scapes’ staff and clients have the same details regarding what is being billed. This makes for a more efficient accounting process as well as a more satisfied customer, according to Dyer.
PDFs keep clients informed
Previously, there was no easy way to provide reports about a property’s status when customers called seeking updates. Automating the property visit form allows area managers to file general observation notes along with pictures of the property through their iPhones. Once the reports are submitted, Workflow automatically embeds each photo into a PDF file along with the general observations, and emails it to the client.
The client opens the PDF attachment to see the photos the area manager has taken, as well as notes about each photo. Workflow also compiles statistics and places them on a chart, which it embeds into an email and sends to the organization’s executive team so they can more easily see where operations need improvements.
“Customers get more regular updates on their services, which they like,” Dyer says. “For our field teams, it’s very helpful to be able to bring all of this information together in a single place. It saves our managers a lot of time completing forms while allowing the executive team to more easily analyze production and find areas for improvement.”
Bottom line benefits, future promise
Similar efficiencies are in the offing as the technology is being rolled out to other areas such as human resources, and marketing and communications. At the same time, the digitization of paper processes is having significant impact on the organization’s bottom line with promise of much more to come. Clean Scapes saves at least 200 hours every week through the mobile technology, Dyer says. That translates into saving tens of thousands of dollars every year, and the system is still in the early stages of deployment. The most unexpected benefit, however, is that the technology appears to have ever more uses.
As Clean Scapes’ maintenance business and construction business continue to grow, there will be more opportunities to expand the use of Laserfiche throughout the organization. Other top features of the system benefiting Clean Scapes are:
- Geotagging: Users can automatically capture the geographic coordinates of an image and store them in a document field.
- Updated security: In order to protect against the inherent risks of mobile devices, administrators can enable automatic logout after a period of user inactivity.
- Updated searching: Search results now include content within a specific folder and annotation text.
- Annotations: Users may now see annotations on documents when using Laserfiche on a mobile device.
“This is more than just changing how we handle paper,” Dyer says. “It’s changing how we run the business. We had no idea going into this how much we would benefit from the technology, and we’re excited to see additional benefits in the future.”