Have you ever wondered how goods seem to magically move from country to country? Let’s raise a glass to the transportation and logistics businesses that help us transport essential goods, like Canal Barge. Founded in 1933, Canal Barge is a family-owned, independent marine transportation company headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana. As one of the most diverse marine transportation companies in the United States, Canal Barge moves highly valuable cargo to every single region in the world. They are known for providing dedicated logistics along the waterway between the Gulf Coast and Mid-America.
Director of Procurement and Strategic Relationships
Skye Durant is an experienced logistics and maritime business leader. As the Director of Procurement and Strategic Relationships at Canal Barge, Skye manages a range of functions including P&L oversight, customer relations, business development, operations, human resources, and logistics.
Director of Procurement and Strategic Relationships
Right now, somewhere in the waterway between the Gulf Coast and MidAmerica, there are vessels gliding across the sea transporting precious cargo from various parts of the world. These vessels have been a fixture of the Gulf Coast since 1933, and belong to Canal Barge - a historic waterway carrier of liquid and dry cargo that has been a fixture in New Orleans for decades.
While Canal Barge’s legacy and reliability have remained steadfast over the years, their processes have evolved and scaled with the times. After all, Canal Barge’s cargo today is more prized than ever, comprising goods from several Fortune 500 chemical and oil companies, refineries, construction companies, engineering companies, and the United States Government, among others.
To remain competitive and dominant in their market, Canal Barge has not only had to stare in the face of automation, but they have actively attempted to bend technological advancements to their will in the name of faster operations and efficient decision making.
After constantly having their manual processes challenged while also mitigating unfruitful risks with poor software, Canal Barge eventually landed on Procurify and has been one of our favourite, most unique partners to date. Skye Durant, Director of Procurement and Strategic Relationships at Canal Barge, granted us time to reflect on their journey with Procurify and look ahead to new horizons with Procurify as an ace in their deck moving forward.
In talking to Skye, one of the most prominent pain points for Canal Barge was processing times in their purchasing processes. The monotony and repetition of duplicate inputs and wait times for different touchpoints and confirmation was sinking costs and precious, precious time.
"Not only would we spend a lot of time coding invoices, there was just tons of double work. When we’d receive an order in a spreadsheet, it would have to be approved which would take a while and delay things. After being approved, it would then be sent out for pricing and that information would have to be retyped into an email, and eventually it would come back as a quote that you’d have to make a copy of."
After going through this arduous process just for approvals and quotes, the repetitive inputs and spreadsheet organization would reappear to haunt their purchase orders.
“To place an order, they’d then have to issue a physical PO (Purchase Order), and then have to go in and code every line item separately, and organize by accounting codes. We would then have to manually break up the order by the accounting code to the vendor, since things like office supplies might be mixed in with maintenance items.” With clientele demand increasing and purchase order volume scaling to the thousands, it became clear to Skye that there had to be a better way. “It was just too labour intensive, and it was not sustainable. We needed a change.”
In considering potential solutions, Skye began to scour the internet to find a versatile, affordable, and reliable platform. After all, they’d be rolling this out through all their vessels and implementing this software in departments that lack fluency in software and technology.
“We initially talked about Coupa as a solution for us, but really I felt like it was more complex. Procurify seemed like the perfect solution for what we needed. We didn’t want something overly complicated and difficult to install and implement, and other solutions had very high costs. Procurify was exactly what we needed and was very simple to use compared to other solutions on the market.”
Now that Skye had landed upon the right candidate, another challenge stood directly in front of him. A past experience trying to implement a learning management software had been a disaster and, as Skye puts it, “was truthfully an anchor around our neck for a while”. Even though he poured time into researching and evaluating Procurify as an all-encompassing solution, convincing his team of that was a different beast altogether.
“In our annual meeting with all their vessel managers that work aboard the boats that have their captains, we brought Procurify up. And these are the people that navigate the boat and are in charge of the supplies. We introduced it to them at that meeting and they were very fearful of change. They don’t like the computers, and they don’t like swapping things around. They were not not happy at all.”
After driving a hard bargain and with their situation being dire as they were “30 days behind on orders”, eventually they agreed to try Procurify. Canal Barge wasted no time during implementation, and began to utilize the platform in their processes immediately.
“As we rolled it out it was only a month to six weeks or so to fully implement Procurify. Our experience with Procurify by comparison was absolutely fantastic. The support team did a great job of getting us up and running.”
Canal Barge quickly mapped everything out and tested the system. Once they were satisfied, they began charting their course through their team even before the API was fully integrated. They wanted to move as quickly as possible to avoid the build up of paperwork during the transition, and with the help of Procurify’s support, they were able to do this successfully.
They even utilized internal educational videos to onboard vessels to get them to enter requisitions right away.
After turning their requisition processes around, Skye began to tap into the other features of Procurify to evaluate the other facets of the company’s spend culture. Now that he was able to easily access all of his vendor and order information in one consolidated platform, Skye began to hold meetings that he called “catalog summits”. These meetings would involve Skye meeting with members of his team and vendors, comparing the best quotes and prices and pushing their vendors’ bottom lines.
“We were able to get our requisition cycle time down from about about twenty nine days, and we were able to get that down to one day. That’s 96% percent faster which is a monumental improvement from our previous processes.”
“We’d have two buyers and we were able to go through and rationalize what we’re spending where, and then look at ways to improve and share the core objectives of the buyer rather than focusing on coding and just trying to keep up with the paperwork.”
Procurify allows Canal Barge to not worry about the manual processes anymore, and instead direct their focus to buyer relationships and evaluate the effectiveness of the products and services in real time. Moreover, Canal Barge is continuing to utilize Procurify’s reporting features to communicate with vessels so they’re aware of their own spend, too.
“We’re experimenting now with giving more feedback to the vessels about what they’ve been buying. Procurify’s reporting features haven’t been fully implemented across the board, but we’re noticing that when we do use it, we’re getting better visibility for the boats in terms of their spend. We’ve been successful thus far using Procurify to locate our rogue spend and reduce it almost immediately, and we want our boats to have that access too.”
As Canal Barge looks forward to expanding reporting through the entirety of their operations in New Orleans, they’re also looking to implement Procurify strategically within their Chicago based division.
“We’re excited to bring that visibility and those insights to Chicago and we’re gotten a quote on another URL for a different site address. We’re reviewing that now and we’re happy with where things are going.”
Additionally, Procurify’s implementation with Amazon Punch Out has unexpectedly optimized Canal Barge’s purchasing in ways they didn’t see coming. Ordering through Amazon used to be an inconvenience, but it seems those days are over.
“We recently shifted a lot of our buying to Amazon where we didn’t use them before because it was so cumbersome. Procurify’s integrations with Amazon make everything much easier, as now we just generate a PO, and the invoice comes in and automatically matches with the API in Lawson ERP. It’s just a really slick system that works very, very well. It’s definitely a success story.”
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