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The extreme diversity of the consortium makes the Hamm Reno Group one of the strongest and most adaptable players in the European footwear industry. The new holding – ranked second in the European footwear trade and first amongst the German footwear trade according to the number of outlets – continues to boom, both at home and abroad. The company's success is largely down to the right selection, set-up, and design of the outlets and the subsequent efficient management of the commercial real estate.
The historical business development of the Hamm Reno Group means that administration partly takes place in Osnabrück and partly in the Rhineland-Palatinate municipality of Thaleischweiler-Fröschen, where the real estate department is located. Usually in the past, whenever specialist departments in Osnabrück required structural information on specific branches a written request was made. Co-workers in the real estate department would look up the requested documents in the extensive document archives (each branch having one or even multiple files) and send them by email, or even by post, to the colleague making the request.
"A process that was both time-consuming and inefficient", says Manfred Gries, Group Manager Application Administration.
In mid-2013, company managers decided to digitize the real estate archives, which totalled some 80,000 documents.
"Digitizing the documents means we now have direct access. This not only increases work efficiency overall, but additionally protects the documents, some of which are business-critical. Now we can do a superfast keyword search of the digital documents electronically, opening up new functionalities in evaluating information", says Gries.
The AXXEDO AG in Herrenberg specially developed a customised solution concept for the existing SAP environment based on the ECM archive system Document Access for SAP Solutions developed by Open Text. The system is independent of SAP modules and can be easily integrated into the standard user interface of SAP modules. SAP users can also automatically link documents from the archive system with the existing SAP transaction data by means of the SAP ArchiveLink Plus connector.
The SAP ArchiveLink Plus has an additional key business advantage: The connector can be used to perform the powerful full-text search of Open Text directly from SAP. This means that employees today can conduct a keyword search and within seconds view all the relevant documents.
According to Gries, the archive system was easily implemented.
"Since all components are specially designed for use in SAP infrastructures, all the mosaic pieces fitted perfectly."
However, digitization of the real estate files proved to be a challenge. The problem was less the volume of paper documents involved and more that a significant number of documents were bound or available in larger formats. These include building plans, brokerage agreements, and notarial contracts bearing an official seal.
"In order to capture these documents efficiently, we decided to get a fast, powerful sheet feed scanner as well as an overhead scanner", explains Manfred Gries.
With this scanning principle, originals are placed with their backs to the scanning surface and digitized from above.
Zeutschel's zeta Office color scanner stood out from the rest in the selection process. A clear decision, and one jointly shared both by the IT specialists and the future users in the real estate department, says Gries. According to him, the zeta Office impressed through a successful combination of functionality and ease of use. High-quality images for downstream OCR processes were essential for the project. And the overhead scanner also beat off the competition in this field as well. The device communicates perfectly with the Open Text archive system via Zeutschel's "scan to file" interface.
After about six months of planning, implemention, and testing, the archiving solution went into productive operation in January 2014. The digitization of the archived materials is conducted using clearly defined workflows.
The existing paper files are reviewed by qualified personnel from the real estate department and prepared for scanning. Each document for subsequent digitization is created in the Open Text archive system Document Access for SAP Solutions and then a bar code uniquely identifying the document is pasted onto it. Marked like this, the documents either go to the sheet feed scanner or to the zeta Office, depending upon type and format.
Business-critical documents are again archived back into folders after scanning; paper documents with less relevance are destroyed.
The zeta Office scanner is connected to a network drive, which transfers the digitally captured documents via the "scan to file" interface and stores them in a TIFF file format. The Open Text archive system accesses the documents stored there, performs any necessary optical corrections, and then conducts automatic optical character recognition (OCR).
Once the files have been prepared in this way, the operator forwards them to the SAP system via the so-called Open Text Document Pipeline. The bar code is recognized in several automatic processing steps and entered into the corresponding index. The document is now a searchable PDF file. The final stage is to link it with the metadata created in SAP so that it is now either directly available to users or by using any form of search function.
After several months of productive operation, Manfred Gries draws a wholly positive conclusion.
"The digitization solution met all our expectations. Its success isn't just because of its technical functionality but also certainly down to the high level of acceptance by the people who use the system", sums up Gries.
Manfred Gries considers the investments have quickly paid for themselves.
"The colleagues in Osnabrück now have direct document access to broker agreements, lease agreements, ancillary costs or building plans, which has substantially increased efficiency in the level of cooperation between specialist departments such as accounting, marketing, and shop fitting. The analysis of data and the optional full-text search deliver many useful tips in planning the location of new branches."
The project has been so successful that it has spurred the Hamm Reno Group to review other application uses for the digitization solution and, hence, for the zeta Office scanner. The company is just about to finish implementing a contract archive for its in-house legal department and are discussing setting up digital archives for other departments.
The company was founded in 2005 through a merger of the Hamm Group and the RENO group of companies. While the main activities of the Hamm Group lie in the "wholesale" sector, Reno operates 550 stores across Europe in over 20 countries. Approximately 6,000 employees achieve annual sales of more than € 650 million through the sale of products such as shoes, clothing, and accessories. The company underwent a strategic realignment process in 2004 and is now known for its exclusive fashion brands. Modern software and an automated high rack warehouse highlight the high standards the group pursues.
With its scanning and microfilm systems, Zeutschel GmbH has played a key role for more than 50 years in the digitisation and digital preservation of valuable documents, both in libraries and archives as well as in industrial companies and public administration. The company is the world market leader in book Scanners. The range of software products and accompanying services under the "OSCAR" umbrella brand is extensive and supports libraries and archives in building up digital collections in the internet and in the realisation of digital services. The company founded in 1961, employs 65 members of staff and its products and services are represented in more than 100 countries. All Zeutschel products are "Made in Germany".