From an article in GAWDA Edge May 2008
Wright Brothers Goes Paperless

Charlie Wright, CEO of Wright Brothers Inc. (Cincinnati, OH), envisions his company being paperless. This vision started to take off just over a year ago when the corporate offices were moved away from the fill plant. “The move gave us the opportunity to embrace the technology that would make our company more efficient and effective,” says Wright. “I thought we'd be able to expand our company and increase business simply by taking our customized computer systems to a new level.” Wright Brothers has evolved into a technologically savvy company, moving closer to that paperless dream, and hasn't looked back once.

Customer Service Manager Vicki Patterson tracks service calls using a GPS system.
To get employees in the mindset to use technology more, an electronic conference room was designed. During meetings, information from a laptop is displayed on personal monitors around the conference table. “By using individual monitors, our meetings are more conducive to productive conversations, as opposed to just looking at a projection on a wall,” Wright says. The laptops are also used to create spreadsheets, prepare word documents and develop proposals; employees send each other e-mails during meetings to keep as records. “All of a sudden, we weren't seeing paper come into the conference room,” Wright says. He references a customer project the company worked on with the original proposal in a notebook. Everything else was done electronically through e-mail because it was easy to move around and update. “I became very aware of how much clearer, more organized and better documented it is using electronic communications,” Wright says. “These capabilities have certainly enhanced our professionalism with our customers.”

Not every employee at Wright Brothers has a laptop, which is where the terminal server comes in. Wright compares it to the movie Back to the Future, where computers are actually more like terminals. Employees can go into the conference room and log into the server that is mounted under the conference table to use their computers as though they were sitting at their own desks. The server also allows for the company's branches and fill plant to be centrally maintained from the corporate offices, without having to physically go there. A third advantage of the server is that employees can pull up the screens of other employees if they have a question. “If someone at our Florence store needs assistance,” Wright says, “we can actually bring up their screen as if we were looking at our own, and answer any questions. The terminal server has had a huge impact.”

The Internet could provide the push for companies like Wright Brothers to become paperless. Employees and customers are constantly using it. Four years ago, the company's computers connected to the Internet with a modem. Today, with a DSL line, the ability to work with customers has significantly improved and allowed additional growth. Instead of just one computer dialing over a phone line, there are now three computers that process concurrently. Wright is also able to access the company system from his computer at home. He can pull up the data processing system, the general ledger system, the GPS system and communicate via e-mail. “The direct connection enables us to better communicate with our customers,” he says, “reducing transaction costs for them, as well as ourselves.”

What Wright never imagined was the need for a full-time IT person. “But we do,” he insists. IT Specialist Scott Brickey maintains the servers and sets up a process to scan delivery tickets, which has made document retrieval easier for employees and doesn't keep customers waiting. “It takes five seconds at the most to find a ticket. It used to take an hour to look through cabinets to find something,” Brickey says. An even more efficient solution the company is carefully looking at is using handheld devices that collect customer signatures electronically. “Anything that slows our trucks, slows our customer deliveries, which is not good,” he says. “If you're slowing down a $200,000 truck, there better be a very good reason for doing it.”

“Paperless” may be somewhat of a buzzword in the industry today, but Wright Brothers believes it to be a necessary strategy, and they are determined to meet it.

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