Maximizing IT Resources

Blue Ridge Paper uses a help-desk solution to achieve myriad results throughout its supply chain.

Let's hear it for the little guy -- the one who can make a decision much quicker than the big guys. The one who implements and utilizes software solutions to a great advantage rather than an endless stream of red tape and bureaucracy. The one who knows size doesn't matter as long as you meet customer needs as quickly as possible.

Stop licking your IT wounds if you fall under the big-guy category -- there is much to learn from those more nimble out of necessity.

Take, for example, Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc., an employee-owned manufacturer of liquid packaging (think milk cartons) and coated bleached board for food-service packaging based in Canton, N.C. The company also produces paper products including envelopes and offset paper.

With seven plants in six states, the 101-year-old company needed a way to share information across the corporation.

"Before, everything we tracked from a help-desk perspective was in an Access database, which is not easily shared across a network with six states. It was pretty much insufficient for what we needed on a tier level and much less with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance," says Greg Bridges, the company's business systems coordinator.

Blue Ridge looked into various solutions and decided to go with Edison, N.J.-based UniPress Software Inc.'s FootPrints solution, a Web-based help-desk tool.

"We purchased the solution primarily for IT use because of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance," says Bridges. "As we began to look at the product, it became apparent we could use it in a much more flexible way to meet IT needs, and also to meet some data-warehousing needs across the entire corporation."

Indeed, Blue Ridge uses the help-desk tool to keep up with customer, quality and manufacturing data to a certain extent as it revolves around customer-service claims. It also uses it for the tracking and collection of short-paid invoices.

"Credit collections uses it to interface with sales -- to ask, for instance, 'Did you tell this guy we would pay the freight on this shipment?' So it doesn't take a paper trail seven or eight days long to resolve the issue," explains Bridges. "In a matter of hours they can resolve customer issues."

The human resources department at Blue Ridge also uses the solution as a hire and termination-process tool. It enables them to take care of certain things, including issuing or collecting company credit cards or requesting certain tools a new hire might need.

As for Sarbanes-Oxley, when a project reaches a certain status, the software sends a voting slip via e-mail to whoever is eligible to vote. Voters can sign off and note that they are aware of the project.

The product can be installed in 15 minutes and can be customized for a specific business within days, says Mark Krieger, president and co-founder of UniPress. Bridges agrees with the ease of implementation, noting that it was easy to configure the templates however needed.

"We didn't buy it for just the two projects -- we've been able to customize it for different departments," says Bridges. "We've saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional software."

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