Paper Company Goes Paperless
By Samuel Greengard
Mark Smith realizes that there's a certain irony in a paper company going paperless. But the co-founder and president of custom card and announcement producer Envelopments will tell you that the Irvine, Calif., firm found its groove after it turned to a business management software platform to optimize its processes and nearly eliminate paper within its facility.
A few years back, Envelopments—which allows customers to create highly personalized invitations and announcements for weddings, business events and other activities—experienced 30 percent annual growth. "Our order volumes were increasing, and the number of accounts we managed was rising," Smith notes. "We needed to handle the data flow efficiently, but an older ERP system wasn't scalable or dynamic enough to meet our evolving needs."
To deal with this business challenge, the firm, which began as a single store and now operates exclusively on the Internet, installed SAP's Business One business management software in June 2011. Today, customers can choose from thousands of paper, ink and design combinations and enter their orders online.
The company currently offers more than 170,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units), but is able to process orders immediately and, in most cases, have them ready to ship within 14 minutes. In fact, Envelopments sends out 80 percent of its orders the same day or the next day.
Tom Johns, vice president of business development and operations, says the Business One software is the foundation of the firm's emerging real-time business operations. "The ordering system and business processes help simplify things and eliminate a tremendous amount of stress—particularly for brides who tend to be in a hurry and very demanding prior to a wedding," he explains. "It's a huge plus simply from a customer service standpoint."
The system relies on an integrated SQL database to provide powerful analytics capabilities. "The software allows us to understand orders and production in a much deeper and meaningful way," Johns says. "We are able to group together products and batch jobs in a way that dramatically improves the efficiency of each machine and the operation as a whole."
As a result, the firm has reduced its on-hand inventory by about 40 percent and trimmed administrative overhead by more than 50 percent.
Envelopments is enjoying a new era of digital business. For instance, the system generates a new SKU on the fly whenever a customer enters a unique order that doesn't reside in the system. It then becomes a standard for future use.
The system also allows customers to upload artwork and manage the design development process along the way. Envelopments links the artwork to a specific project and, as a result, is able to manage inventory and projects more effectively. The company is currently rewriting its Website in HTML5 so that customers can place and track orders from their iPads and other tablet devices.
Envelopments has achieved such significant gains and cost savings through the business management software that it has been able to pass along some of the savings to its customers in the form of lower prices.
Smith sums it up this way: "We are a paper company that operates in the digital age." More than that, it operates efficiently and cost-effectively.