business development manager, Adobe Systems Canada

From paper to PDF, from cumbersome manual processes to streamlined automated ones – the Windsor-Essex County Housing Corp. (WECHC) is reaping the benefits of going electronic.

When George Robson, WECHC’s vice-president of capital and preventive maintenance, began using the company’s Web site as a resource for posting tender notices for maintenance contracts, he had greater plans in mind – electronic documents.

Organizations are looking to extend their business process to suppliers, contractors and vendors. They need a seamless way of interfacing their document processes with their partners without having to impose additional technology or requirements.Mark James>Text Previously, it would take at least four hours to assemble 30 sets of about a 100-page tender package, which contractors pick up and pay for at the WECHC office. It contains bidding information including scope of work, material specifications, general conditions, and blueprints.

WECHC is a provider of public housing and private rent supplement programs for families in need. It maintains over 3,500 public housing units in Windsor and Essex County.

Tasked with maintaining and upgrading the units, WECHC was faced with the challenge of streamlining tender processes, which had become costly and labor-intensive task. The process changes had to be implemented without imposing an additional expense on the contractors, Robson explained.

The Internet seemed like a good place to start.

“Once they got comfortable with picking up the notice through the Web site, I started assembling the package for [contractors] to pick up [electronically],” he said.

Using Adobe Acrobat software, WECHC started transforming tender documents from various other formats – such as MS Word, Excel, and AutoCAD – into PDF. This enabled the company to e-mail the entire tender package to contractors for free.

The same software also allowed Robson to digitally sign the tender document making it an official WECHC document.

A vital factor in choosing Acrobat is the security feature, according to Robson. He needed guarantee that contractors are not able to alter the documents they receive.

WECHC’s switch to electronic documents led to more contractors viewing tenders and increased number of bids. This translated to dollar savings for WECHC as more bidders submit proposals with more competitive costs, Robson said.

In ten years and with less than $10,000 invested, the number of approved bidders almost quadrupled to 259 contractors, Robson said.

“[Previously], the contractor would have to drive into our office and pay a fee [to get the package]. Now we give them away electronically,” Robson said, adding this was instrumental in raising the number of bidders.

To view the tender package, contractors have to download the Acrobat Reader from the Internet. Acrobat Reader is free software that can be obtained from Adobe’s Web site.

Mark James, business development manager for Ottawa-based Adobe Systems Canada, said Acrobat Reader effectively allowed Adobe to deliver its software products to customers.

He said with close to a billion copies of the Reader deployed, it serves as a ubiquitous tool empowering the Adobe Acrobat software.

“Organizations are looking to extend their business process to suppliers, contractors and vendors. They need a seamless way of interfacing their document processes with their partners without having to impose additional technology or requirements (on them),” James explained.

He said many companies that generate high volume of documents usually maintain a warehouse for hard copy filing.

Maintaining files electronically could spell huge savings for the company as it eliminates the need for additional storage space, James said.

The PDF, he said, provides a universal format that is able to maintain and represent the characteristics of the document type such as contracts, forms, proposals, and CAD drawings.

“What Acrobat provides is a homogenous means of information interchange between customer and clients,” James said, adding that Acrobat’s ability to complement most software products in the market is one of its greatest strengths.

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