International Pipe gains CRM, boosts productivity with Acumatica
International Pipe was founded in 1978 by Alfred H. Karchmer. In 1985, his son, Donald, joined the business and together, they spent the next several decades growing it into one of the nation's leading steel pipe distributors. 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.
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.
International Pipe evaluated NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics but chose Acumatica based on the recommendation of its IT partner, Advanced Systems Group, and because Acumatica delivered exactly what they wanted, McCalla says.
International Pipe implemented Acumatica Distribution Edition with Advanced Financial Management, Order Management, Inventory Control, Acumatica Customer Management, and Fixed Assets.
“Implementation was really positive,” McCalla says. “We took our time and hiccups were dealt with swiftly. Within two months post-go-live our issue whiteboard was just about wiped clean. That’s pretty good for an implementation in three companies.”
"Acumatica allows my focus to be more on the business rather than wondering where I go to find the information I need. Knowledge is power and the quicker you can get to the knowledge, the better off you are."
Scott McCalla , Chief Strategy Officer
International Pipe & Supply
Better Data-Driven Decisions at International Pipe
With Acumatica, International Pipe employees access critical data throughout the business within seconds and make much better decisions, decisions that are driving increases in revenues and profits and can be made from anywhere in the world.
McCalla, for example, is happier, much more productive, and enjoys telling new recruits how much they will love using Acumatica and its modern user interface.
“It’s been a significant enhancement for me, and I can attest to Acumatica’s ease of use,” he says. “With SouthWare, we lacked reporting functionality for the entire business – financials, sales or whether it was AR or AP. In Acumatica, there’s a lot more report functionality and it takes just a click to generate a report.”
Modern, Easy-to-Use Interface Replaces Archaic Codes
The owners use dashboards to see cash balances, the state of accounts receivable, and then can decide what data they want to drill down on at the click of a mouse rather than referencing secret codes to hunt around for the information and wasting a lot of time. McCalla says he has saved a significant amount of time using Acumatica’s dashboards, which serve up critical information when he logs in.
“Acumatica allows me to uncover pinch points quickly,” he says, explaining previously he had to painstakingly log in and out of each company, gather data from various silos, and then crunch numbers manually in the hopes of discovering problems. “Now, I’m just a log in away from everything I need. The time savings is significant.”
Previously, it took his team some 15 days to close the books for two companies each month. With Acumatica, he has shaved it to three to four days because he’s taking his time as they get used to the platform. He says the company will soon reduce that to two days to close all three companies.
“The intercompany module is super easy to use,” McCalla says. “It’s easy to bounce back and forth from one company to another without needing all new passwords, new user names, and different log ins. Now I can do a report that rolls everything up rather than wasting time manually tracking things on Excel and using a calculator.”
Ease of Use Drives Adoption
McCalla is so impressed with Acumatica’s ease of use that he’s touting it as a job perk. “It is a draw to say we have the latest and greatest ERP software on site,” he says. “That’s exciting to us and we’re already mentioning it in interviews. Before we wouldn’t mention a thing and we’d surprise them on day one by giving them the list of three letter code words and I’d just get the look: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
Acumatica’s user interface has led to high adoption, McCalla says. “The users were so tired of the old system. Once they realized how intuitive Acumatica is and discovered that if they got lost, there’s help available on each screen, so they weren’t going to get stuck, the buy-in was there.”
The sales team at International Pipe is divided along industry types rather than geography. Each person kept notes on their own spreadsheets and no two were the same. SouthWare lacked tracking on the customer and sales side, McCalla says. There was no process to track or share leads as they came in through social media or via phone calls and as leads increased, sales asked for better tools.
“With Acumatica, one of the big changes is that we can now track a lead to a customer with all the associated notes along the way so we can capture that information,” McCalla says. “With better information and improved reporting, we’re expecting to see better sales results and improved customer retention.”
Access from Anywhere
Executives and owners at International Pipe who travel to their 15 yards frequently are no longer required to print out reams of paper or struggle to access critical data while on the road. Previously, logging in securely via the company’s VPN was difficult and if someone had a newer laptop, he or she would have to crank up the zoom just to read the type in SouthWare, McCalla says.
“Acumatica was an absolute upgrade to the 21st century. It’s a dream to log in and get to the center of our business universe,” he says.
Fully Supported and Poised for Growth
McCalla had high praise for Acumatica’s team, calling it “an energized, smart, intelligent, and caring group of people” who has created a “cutting-edge” platform. “They understand ease of use and speed of business,” he adds. “They are willing to bend over backwards to make sure everything works to fit your business needs and works the best it can.”
A Modern Approach to Business Management
Acumatica has profoundly changed the way many at International Pipe operate daily.
“Acumatica allows my focus to be more on the business rather than wondering where I go to find the information I need,” McCalla says. “Knowledge is power and the quicker you can get to the knowledge, the better off you are.”