Bar Code File Tracking System Increases Employee Productivity By 50%

Source: Compsee, A Division of Control Solutions, Inc.
Apex Managers, Inc., a fast-paced, large-volume managing general agent for several insurance companies, increased its file room productivity and tracking capabilities with half its staff by installing a document management software program using bar code scanning. Established in March of 1993, Apex Managers specializes in processing and servicing residential insurance policies. The rapidly expanding records management firm services five insurance companies offering homeowner policies to Florida's residents.

All the paperwork necessary to establish and service customer accounts for these five companies is processed through Apex Manager's 52,000-square-foot facility in Rockledge, FL. This building was specifically designed to efficiently process large volumes of insurance policies. Long rows of open-shelf racks store approximately 500,000 files with new files being added monthly.

APEX services the policies from their inception through to the final mail-out of the policy to the insured. Apex's accelerated growth and desire to provide excellent service to its clients resulted in the need for an automated system that would track the movement of the hard-copy files throughout the operation.

Key to the operation are two large file rooms supervised by Doris Miller. She is responsible for tracking the half million insurance files on a daily basis. Any one of them could be in the hands of any of APEX's 180 employees. Now, thanks to the initiation of a new document management software and integrated bar code scanning system, Miller is able to accomplish this task by using only half the number of employees previously required, yet simultaneously increase its productivity.

Time-efficient tracking needed
When an employee making updates or alterations needed a file, employees were forced to go to the file room and complete a pink requisition form. "It was very time consuming," said Miller. Also, locating the files in the event they were checked-out proved to take a great deal of time. There are times when one or more employees may be working on the same policy, just different parts of it. If another request came in for the same file, we'd have to run around the building to locate it, since only the original user's pink request form was on file. Under this former system, when a checked-out file was transferred to a second or third party, that person was responsible for going to the file room and completing a pink request form. Then, this new request had to be filed and the previous request removed.

Better for Apex, better for the customer
APEX Managers needed a system to increase productivity and become more efficient. "That is why we went to a bar coding system. We wanted to improve the standards of our service with more efficient procedures in our file room. As a servicing carrier, the more efficient we are, the better it is for us, and our clients," said Miller.

So, APEX Managers began looking for a more efficient file tracking and requisition method. "We were basically looking for a check-in and checkout system in order to track files," said Miller. The solution came via an Internet search, during which Miller discovered DHS Associates, an Orange Park, FL-based, value added reseller (VAR) for Compsee, a national, automatic data capture manufacturer and systems solution integrator.

DHS provided APEX with a total software and hardware solution featuring a bar-code-based, Web-browser-accessible records management system. DHS is the developer of Total Recall Records Management Software™. The product automatically imports account numbers, names and related data from the corporate mainframe, avoiding re-keying data, it then tracks every activity involved with each file.

No more pink forms
In lieu of the pink requisition forms, "employees can pick up the telephone, call the file room and request a certain file," states Miller. When the employee gets to the file room, a file clerk can scan a bar code on the records with the Compsee APEX scanner. After a second bar code is scanned from a printed menu identifying the requesting employee, the files are released.

Now, when checked-out files are moved between employees, employees are given three choices:

  • They can bring files to the file room for a quick scan,
  • They can call the file room to indicate a different employee is in possession of the file, or
  • They can request a daily running sheet.
When an employee calls the file room, the file clerk scans the corresponding name on the bar-coded menu and hand keys the policy number into the APEX II scanner. This faster and easier process increases the employee's use of the tracking system. In addition, policy renewals no longer involve time-consuming filing and the completion of hundreds of requisition forms. Instead, computerized sheets indicate which files are to be pulled. "Now, we just pull the files based on the sheets and scan them to the renewal drawer," states Miller.

Data is downloaded hourly from the APEX II scanner to a Pentium 166 PC in the file room. Using a Sato 408-CL printer, Total RecallT™ prints bar code labels for each new file added to inventory. "Code 39 bar code symbology was used because it is a records management industry standard," said Steve Hyman, President of DHS Associates. The APEX II scanner was selected for several reasons; its ruggedness meant it could survive a four-foot drop to the floor and its ergonomic design makes it comfortable to use all day long. Additionally, its alphanumeric keypad makes it easy to enter file numbers and letters when a bar code is damaged or when a file is transferred to another employee without going back to the file room.

There are plenty of management benefits with the new system, too. "I can enter a file number in my PC to verify all my files, pull-up reports for a given day to show what came in, what went out and who it went to; check what time it was taken; and see when it is due back," said Miller.

Numerous reports give APEX information by company, use, file, etc. "I get daily reports on each insurance company we service, reporting how many files were moved in and out. I can also tell how many times one specific file has been moved in and out.

More than 150 standard reports are available from the Total Recall Records Management Software™ program. Among these reports are automatic tracking of current file status and the access history of everyone that touches a file. A Boolean search capability allows users to locate files based on a wide range of parameters. The data can then be exported to an Excel spreadsheet or a wide variety of standard formats like Lotus 123 or Word. It will also notify managers when files should be sent off-site for storage and when it is time for them to be destroyed. A Web interface allows off-site agents to request files through their Web browser.

As part of the total solution service, DHS also customizes reports and provides program support. Recently, when APEX needed a one-time report," Miller says DHS, "walked me through it step-by-step. They were very helpful. When we need assistance, they are always right there for us," said Miller. "Their technical support is excellent." Miller also gives DHS a top rating for the program's ease of use. "The WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) program set-up was very user friendly and that is what we were looking for."

She put together a manual for new employees to assist them in learning the system. "They use it as a guideline. I work with them teaching them how to use the scanners. It usually takes no more than one half hour to learn how to use it. The basic upload from the scanners to the system is done by the employees and they can follow those directions in the manual," stated Miller. "The biggest challenge we have faced was many of the people working in the file room had virtually no computer experience and were therefore apprehensive about converting to a computerized system," said Hyman. This is one of the reasons the DHS system was selected. "It is very user-friendly. I have a lot of people with no experience on a computer, however, they pick-up the bar-coding concept in just a couple of days. Total RecallT Recall™ makes it very easy for them."

Another advantage of the new system is the cost savings to APEX for not having to purchase the pink requisition forms. Most importantly, productivity in the file room was increased 50%. Before the automated data management system was installed, eighteen people were needed to process file room requests. Now, despite increased business and a heavier workload, only nine people are needed to process file room requests.

Miller is very happy with the decision to use the Total Recall Records Management Solution™ from Compsee's VAR, DHS. "I am very impressed with the system," says Miller. "It does everything we need and more to meet the needs of our growing company."