Mille Lacs Grand Casinos goes paperless with the help of Minokaw Technologies and Laserfiche products
BY TIM WACKER, NBN COMMUNICATIONS
Somewhere around 2014 it became clear that the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s human resources department needed help processing paperwork.
Trucking folders full of new employee on-boarding, health benefits and tax forms from the tribe’s Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley to corporate headquarters, a 55-mile trip, was becoming too costly for the tribe’s fast-growing business arm Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. And not every document that went on the truck found its way to the proper location.
Faxing wasn’t much better—sometimes documents had to go back and forth, and around the fourth time through the fax machine they became unreadable. The records that were not too faint to read or lost in transition would often sit awaiting approval from administrators buried in paperwork and unaware of the pending workload.
“When someone who needed to approve a contract was out of the office, it would just sit there on his/her desk,” said Lance Dutcher, the business solutions architect for Minokaw Technologies, a subsidiary of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “Sometimes it took three months or more to get a contract approved. And then there were often multiple copies of those contracts for the different departments working on them. Legal didn’t know what corporate had and corporate didn’t know what legal had. One hand did not know what the other was doing. We were spending too much time keeping track of paperwork.”
Time was not the only thing lost. Contracts that were not approved on time often carried with them a 10 to 15 percent penalty, which cost the tribe untold sums of money. Dutcher said the cost was incalculable due to the different provisions in the contracts for entertainers and vendors.
The casinos were growing rapidly, and the growth brought more HR forms and contracts. So Dutcher looked for a way to eliminate the paper as well as all of the issues associated with it so Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures could effectively scale the business.
The first step was the purchase of a Laserfiche enterprise content management system, which enabled Dutcher to store digital images of HR documents from both of the casinos as well as headquarters in a single electronic repository. The conversion provided immediate and tangible benefits.
Lost documents were a thing of the past as was the time consuming process of shipping records back and forth. Employees no longer had to deal with faded and lost paperwork. Now the staff quickly locates any files by searching key terms and phrases, rather than digging through file cabinets and transporting files between locations via truck.
By using digital rather than paper documents, the casinos were able to sharply reduce the overhead costs of printing, shredding and storing more than 45,000 pages annually. Additionally, no more staff time was wasted looking for lost or misplaced documents.
The conversion to electronic files was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of savings, however. The newly digitized documents also allow for better business process management through the Laserfiche ECM system. The system allows the casinos to design electronic workflows around digital documents, automating many time-consuming manual tasks and eliminating much of the casinos’ manual data entry—a common source of human error—as well as copying, mailing and the physical routing of documents.
Dutcher began his effort in the human resources department, which had been manually moving paperwork from place to place. The department used the ECM system to automate the routing of documents to the necessary personnel as they were reviewed, approved and processed.
“Once we finished automating human resource processes, we realized that electronic content management could save us so much more than the time spent in document search and retrieval, which represented a significant savings in itself,” Dutcher said.
The next step was to automate contract review and approval, which was a very similar process to the one used for HR, according to Dutcher. One contract that had cost the tribe $100,000 annually was eliminated completely in this process. All were produced much more timely, eliminating the majority of the late charges, Dutcher said.
Dutcher designed the new processes to automatically send notifications if approvals are late, helping managers identify any bottlenecks in the approval process and take corrective action if warranted.
“We eliminated the paperwork-waiting-on-administrators’ desks problem,” Dutcher said. “And we’re still working with the system to automate many more processes.”
The paper-based systems are eliminated, so they are maintained in a much timelier manner. Seeing the vast improvements in time and cost savings with HR and contracts, Dutcher created some 600 new workflows, providing a variety of benefits.
Marketing is benefiting from faster approval time for entertainment contracts, advertising copy and agreements with media outlets, according to Dutcher.
Additionally, Mille Lacs has been able to take advantage of a remote workforce for some of its needs. For example, rather than have all of its lawyers at its headquarters, Mille Lacs now uses the services of some attorneys in California and other locations.
“We were never able to do that before,” Dutcher said.
He adds that the ECM system will provide other advantages as he builds new workflows for other areas. The success Dutcher has had has encouraged top executives at Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures to allow Dutcher to expand Minokaw’s services to other Ojibwe ventures and to other tribes across the country.
“Laserfiche is well known throughout the Indian gaming community,” Dutcher said. “Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures will benefit greatly as Minokaw Technologies expands.”