Esker Fax Cloud Boosts Service Levels for Distributor
June 4, 2013 Alex Woodie
Fax may seem like an anachronism in today’s hyper-connected world, but it’s absolutely critical in some industrial pockets. For Edward Don & Company, the nation’s largest food service company, fax is used to send and receive hundreds of orders and invoices every day. But when Edward Don’s previous fax service provider couldn’t keep its fax machines on, the company looked to Esker and its Cloud Fax Service for SAP.
Edward Don & Company is the country’s largest food service company, with 1,200 employees and more than 70,000 customers. The Woodridge, Illinois-based company makes 12,000 products available to its customers for immediate delivery through a fleet of 100 trucks operating out of six distribution centers across the country. Major Don customers include restaurants, hospitals, hotels, schools, and governments, among others.
Most of Don’s orders arrive over the Web, but there is a core group of customers who prefer to submit orders via fax, says George Barwacz, Don’s IT operations manger. Don also communicates with some of its suppliers via fax, making fax a critical component at both ends of Don’s business. The company says outbound fax volume averaged 6,000 documents per month (roughly 200 per day), while inbound fax volume was 11,000 per month, (roughly 360 per day).
Don relies on SAP’s Business Suite running on IBM i to automate business processes, as well as an IBM i-based warehouse management system. Since the company implemented SAP in 2007, it had used a major electronic fax service to handle the inbound and outbound fax workloads.
However, this fax service provider (who will remain unnamed) was dropping the ball. “We would experience downtime as long as one to two days without orders coming in or purchase orders going out,” Barwacz tells IT Jungle. “And their service desk was really poor. We couldn’t get level 1 or 2 support for hours. We had no way to go around that. We were at their mercy.”
In 2012, during a period of exceptionally prolonged fax downtime, the IT pro had had enough. “It was impacting business,” he says. “We have major orders coming inbound on these fax lines so we decided to look elsewhere.”
So Barwacz dusted off the collection of fax service prospects and proof of concepts that had been put together when Don had initially implemented SAP and the ill-fated fax service provider five years earlier. Esker was one of the vendors on that list. But when Barwacz analyzed the fax service providers, he found that the solutions had changed considerably.
“When we started having problems with [the fax service vendor], we looked back on some of the ones in the POC and realized the whole faxing environment has changed and a lot of services were now hosted,” he says. “So we went full circle back in and liked what they [Esker] had to offer.”
Barwacz also heard good things about Esker from a fellow member of the SAP on IBM i user group. Pentair, a global manufacture of industrial equipment that’s based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has also been using Esker’s fax service with its IBM i-based SAP system. That recommendation carried a lot of weight. “We all learn from each other,” Barwacz says. “It’s a very informative and worthwhile group that we have.”
Not Your Grandfather’s Facsimile
Esker’s fax services allow customers to send and receive faxes from business applications just as they always have, but without the capital investment in fax hardware or telephone lines. In Don’s case, employees send faxes to Esker’s fax facilities by attaching them to an email. Once Esker receives the encrypted attachment, it faxes the document to its intended destination. Inbound faxes also appear as email attachments.
No workflow changes were required when Don adopted the Esker fax service. Esker supports any ERP system, but has done extra work to ensure integration with SAP and its BC-SMTP interface. The BC-SMTP protocol is used in conjunction with a secure document router that exists in the SAP software running on the IBM i server, to ensure delivery of faxes.
Minimizing downtime was the big goal with adopting Esker, and that goal has been reached. But Don has realized other benefits, too. For starters, Don employees now have access to an Esker portal where they can check on the status of faxes and see when they were delivered.
Don’s previous fax service vendor offered nothing of the sort. The only way employees found out if a fax wasn’t delivered was if a vendor called to say he didn’t receive a purchase order from Don. “Now we have real time status notification, when it leaves and when it’s faxed through to a destination and accepted,” Barwacz says.
Esker’s service has also impressed Barwacz (especially compared to the support atrocities committed by the previous vendor). “Their service is second to none. They are proactive, on top of it all,” he says. “Since we went with them, I have nothing but good things to say about them.”
The successful fax implementation could give Esker entry to business with Don, including a future effort to convert paper-based documents and processes into electronic equivalents. “We still have a paper chain of statements and invoices, and we’d like to look at potentially taking advantage of a hosted portal environment in terms of sending out statement and maybe invoices,” Barwacz says. “We know what we spend on paper, stamps, and envelopes, versus turning it into an electronic form, like email, which costs nothing.”
Esker keeps production fax facilities in the US, France, and Australia. Much of the company’s technical support comes from its headquarters in France. For more information, see www.esker.com.