The Albert Craiss GmbH & Co. KG from Mühlacker is one of the quality leaders in the forwarding and logistics industry. This is no coincidence, as the logistics service provider has invested a lot in the most modern IT in recent years. With the TMS (Transport Management System) from lbase as an industry software solution and our intex solutions for workflow and electronic document management from the EASY Software AG, CRAISS accelerates its forwarding business processes and can react immediately to customer enquiries, trigger invoices and credit notes more quickly, in short: offer its customers and partners the best possible quality. CRAISS therefore regularly achieves top ratings in customer surveys. The good service in accounting and document management is particularly highly recommended.
Matthias Diehm is commercial manager at CRAISS and has been in the company since 1996. The 48-year-old still knows the times when Mühlacker used to work with different IT software solutions, some of which the company created itself. But soon, in 1999, lbase was implemented as a central freight forwarding system. „This software simply covers all areas of our daily work“, says Diehm, „compared to other products, it offers the greatest possibilities for setting up workflows yourself – and that through our own logistics staff with IT background“. In combination with the EASY archive and workflow solution from intex and other solutions such as the telematics system from AIS, a holistic solution can be built. lbase provided the basis, but for the first ten years the company worked without a workflow and electronic archive. All forwarding receipts (around 2,200 daily at the headquarters in Mühlacker alone) had to be sorted and edited manually. The freight documents submitted by the freight carrier, i.e. bills of lading (CMR), delivery notes, pallet and weighing slips, etc., passed sequentially through up to five departments: Incoming mail, functional area, pallet department, accounting, storage. „Although only ten percent of the freight documents showed differences between the entered order and the actual transport volume that were relevant for invoicing,“ explains Matthias Diehm, „we had to check 100 percent of the transactions manually.“
Eight weeks from transport to invoicing
At that time, CRAISS sent invoices to customers mostly in a timely manner, irrespective of the availability of the delivery documents. However, how quickly this was done depended on how much time the responsible employee in the administration department was available at the time. There were only limited cross-departmental representation rules. It sometimes took up to eight weeks from transport to final filing of the documents. „That this is not uncommon even today is something we also notice time and again in discussions with other freight forwarders,“ says Matthias Diehm.
While searching for a DMS supplier, the IT manager at the time quickly came across intex. The iCenter interface between the EASY system and lbase was created by intex together with Imtech and has already been successfully used by many forwarding companies. At the beginning, a test system was set up. Six months later, after conclusion of the contract and organizational preparation, the real operation started – initially with the archiving of outgoing and incoming documents and the creation of a shipment file with assignment to lbase. In a second step, automatic invoice and credit memo processing was switched to productive mode.
Structured receipt of delivery documents guarantees fast processing
What has changed since the introduction of DMS compared to paper-based work? As before, the carriers deliver their delivery papers to Mühlacker or send them to the head office. „We are not a typical, hub-oriented general cargo forwarder,“ explains Oliver Sperandio, „we don’t see the vehicles in over 90 percent of the traffic, they are on their way throughout Europe and are therefore only available temporarily in Mühlacker. But the delivery documents are now already pre-structured, because every carrier receives a CRAISS loading order including barcode and additional separation sheets for each individual shipment. The barcodes on the documents contain the journey and consignment numbers and thus represent the connection to the order in lbase. The delivery receipts are thus structured hierarchically according to loading order, trip and the individual shipments, each separated by cover sheets. Non-CRAISS documents are additionally labelled with a document type-related barcode and then scanned with EASY CAPTURE. A separate tool from intex supplements the capture software at this point and ensures that the delivery receipts are combined into trip-related documents. CRAISS employees can search for a single document in the EASY ARCHIVE using both the trip number and the shipment number.
Travel and consignment-related documents
The advantage of this is that customer billing is always based on the individual shipment, but the carriers are usually paid per trip. „We can use it in lbase to display all delivery receipts for a particular trip with just one click,“ says Oliver Sperandio. Immediately after the scanning process, the delivery receipts are also available as a shipment file in the EASY ARCHIVE. In addition to the delivery documents, the invoices of the carriers are processed automatically. While the fixed transport partners of CRAISS are paid via credit notes, the foreign carriers submit invoices, which are to be checked. Today, this is also done fully automatically with the intex solution. The invoices are separated from the shipment file and scanned separately. The invoice reader FCI reads the invoice data via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and compares them with the master or order data from lbase. Intex has adapted the OCR software to the specific needs of the forwarding industry.
The invoice is compared with the data from the delivery receipts and the order in lbase and, if all plausibilities have been checked, automatically released for payment to the accounting software. CRAISS is currently running an additional project in which credit notes are automatically generated for its fixed partners.
Around 180 incoming invoices and 120 incoming credit items are thus processed daily at CRAISS via this process. If price variances or other differences occur in the course of the automatic comparison, the document is forwarded to the responsible dispatcher via the intex iCenter workflow. This person checks the transaction and then releases the document manually. The workflow is based on EASY-DOCUMENTS and is operated web-based via the browser.
Time between paper receipt and pallet booking reduced from 14 to one day
By automatically checking delivery receipts, invoices and credit notes with the intex solution, CRAISS was able to create considerable administrative potential soon after the system was introduced. The positive effect in loading equipment management is also immense: from an average of 14 days in the past to one day now, the time between paper receipt and pallet booking has shortened. Thanks to automated and uniform processes, today every employee in the administrative area is able to invoice almost every transaction. Accounts receivable accounting has become more flexible and faster thanks to direct access to electronic documents. Matthias Diehm also calculated that the process time between the performance date and the payment date in the course of the project has been reduced by 25 percent. This has a significant monetary impact: The logistics service provider increased its liquidity through earlier receipt of money, achieved positive interest effects and thus achieved the ROI of 1.8 years calculated at the start of the project even earlier – an important factor for an investment in the six-digit euro range.
Customers access freight documents via online client
intex has also integrated the electronic archive into lbase’s online client. This enables customers to enter their orders themselves, track shipments and view the transport documents in the archive. „This service is primarily used by smaller and medium-sized customers for whom it is not worth setting up an EDI infrastructure for order transmission,“ explains the IT manager. The intex iCenter uses CRAISS not only for invoice verification but also for designing workflows for staff requirements and hiring new employees. The archive was also integrated into the Microsoft Office products so that colleagues
can store consignment-related documents directly from Outlook/Word/Excel in the consignment file inEASY ARCHIVE.
E-mails are archived with EASY FOR EXCHANGE and the logistics provider uses EASY-CONTRACT for contract management.
Albert Craiss GmbH & Co KG was founded in 1931 in Mühlacker and is today one of the leading medium-sized logistics service providers in Germany. The trademark of CRAISS is the „Jumbo“: The company originates from the large-volume complete load area, but is also successful in the segments of partial loads and general cargo today. The headquarters of the internationally active group of companies is in Mühlacker. Other foreign branches are located in Prague, Poznan (Poland), Jászkisér (Hungary), Skopje (Macedonia) and Sibiu (Romania). The fleet of the third-generation company comprises 500 vehicles. In addition to the classic transport business, CRAISS offers comprehensive logistics solutions, e.g. in the form of complex logistics outsourcing projects, in which CRAISS takes over all processes for its customers from goods receipt to warehouse management, production supply and disposal as well as dispatch. The last pillar of the company is logistics consulting. Here, CRAISS supports its customers in optimizing their own logistics processes along the logistics chain.