Imagine having to know a secret code system to navigate your daily software application, a code system with no rhyme or reason. Or having to manually calculate what your month-to-date sales or expenses were because your ERP only handled data on a year-to-date basis.
In an age where nearly everyone points, clicks and swipes, operating on such an antiquated system can be frustrating. For years, the team at International Pipe & Supply struggled on such a system; they used SouthWare ERP.
Scott A. McCalla, Chief Strategy Officer at International Pipe, remembers the day he joined the Oklahoma City-based company and was handed the code list he was told he’d have to memorize. He also remembers the stunned look he’d get from new hires over the years when they learned they had just stepped back into what can be described as the era of Microsoft DOS.
“SouthWare was incredibly difficult to use,” McCalla says. “It wasn’t point and click. You had to know secret codes like F3 this time but F12 on the next screen. The software was really, really, really difficult to train and it didn’t give us the basic reporting we knew we could get with other software programs.”
International Pipe sells prime and non-prime carbon steel pipe and welding, cutting, and cleaning services to the construction industry through International Pipe, Bison Pipe, based in Twin Falls, Idaho, and newly acquired BigFoot Pipe & Piling, located south of Seattle.
No Process to Track Leads
Two and a half years ago the sales team demanded better tools to track prospects and customers. Each salesperson tracked prospects and leads on their own spreadsheets and each did so differently. It was hard to track conversations, keep detailed notes and track a prospect’s interactions with the company.
“We looked at Salesforce, but it was a short conversation,” McCalla says. “The big question for us was ‘Why go piecemeal?’” From experience with JD Edwards, Cognos, and other software, he and others knew it was expensive to take best-of-breed applications and try to make them talk to each other.
“If you’re going to upgrade, make it all the same package so you have one place to go for help,” he says.
In addition to sales tracking capabilities in a robust CRM, the new ERP needed to have “an inventory system that would bend and flex,” McCalla says. That’s because International Pipe was outgrowing the complicated spreadsheet it used outside of SouthWare to track inventory.
The company sells its pipe, which can be new or used, by length, weight, and diameter, among other specifications, stored in its yards around the country. The pipe inventory is not tracked by SKUs but intelligent inventory part numbers so the company can optimize what it has in stock.
For example, when a customer needs a 20-foot pipe of a particular diameter, but International Pipe doesn’t have that length in inventory, it can create one by cutting a 35-foot pipe. That one pipe becomes two, and a new inventory number is created for the remaining 15-foot piece.
One can imagine the difficulty manually searching a giant spreadsheet first for a 20-foot pipe with the right specs, not finding one, and then trying to find something longer to create a 20-foot piece. Then creating a new part number for the remaining piece and inserting it into the right place in the spreadsheet.