With quotes from Jeff Sharp, Director of Accounts Payable at Waste Connections, Inc
Waste Connections is a premier provider of solid waste collection, transfer, recycling and disposal services. The company is built around the goals of improving the quality of the environment, delivering excellent local service, fostering customer trust and connecting customers with the future. It is the third largest waste disposal company in the United States and the largest in Canada.
Waste Connections is committed to providing communities with a local business feel through its decentralized business model. Waste Connections is also an acquisitions firm, averaging one to two acquisitions per month.
The Challenge: Fractured A/P Systems
Because Waste Connections is decentralized, the vast majority of its day-to-day operations happen in the field. Accounts payable (A/P) clerks and purchasing cards (p-cards) are scattered across local operating centers, field agents, acquired companies and corporate headquarters throughout the U.S. and Canada; roughly 90% of their A/P processing happens at individual operating districts.
As a result, Waste Connections faced significant challenges in A/P:
- Its A/P and p-card processes were disjointed, and its ERP data was separated from p-card data. This resulted in frequent errors; for instance, an A/P clerk might pay an invoice that an operations manager had already paid on a p-card, with no way to flag that mistake
- Information sources and vendor contacts were disorganized, with some data in field offices and some in corporate headquarters
- Every acquisition and merger brought legacy ERP databases and vendor files which needed sorting and cleaning to prevent overlap with their internal system
- Statement credits often went unclaimed, resulting in lost potential income
- The company struggled to manually audit its data through Excel sheets and did not have the resources to manage an internal audit
As a result, the company faced errors, duplicate payments and lost credits with no viable internal solution.
Waste Connections looked for a partner to address these challenges. They chose to work with Technology Insight because of their innovative solution, extensive experience with A/P challenges, personal touch business style, competitive pricing model and client-driven solutions.
“As soon as [Technology Insight CEO] Karl presented what the system could do, it was a no-brainer for us. We enlisted their services right away…. The pricing model Karl put together for us was so much better than any of the big competitors could offer us. It was so much more bang for the buck.”
The Solution: Datashark and Statement Audits
Technology Insight flew a team out to the Waste Connections corporate offices to pinpoint the needs of Waste Connections and fully understand what the A/P department needed from Technology Insight’s solutions:
“The personal touch and personal care that Karl and his team gave us had a different vibe from the other solutions out there. Other vendors would say ‘Hey let’s do this, let’s do that. We did this with this company.’ Instead, Karl [and the Technology Insight team] would say, ‘What do you want from us? What do you want our system to do for you?'”
After a comprehensive, hands-on review of the challenges faced by Waste Connections, Technology Insight implemented its DataShark software program. This program compares data from Waste Connections’ A/P system and its p-card system to find duplicate payments.
DataShark compares all of Waste Connections’ data from its ERP and p-card systems to find duplicate payments and locate money that can be recovered. The tool has been integral to the A/P department from its initial implementation to daily usage today.
The DataShark implementation process was seamless: Waste Connections provided Technology Insight with the necessary data in the appropriate format, and Technology Insight did the rest. This held true across international borders and among field offices, centralizing A/P databases without infringing on the company’s decentralized business model.
“[The Technology Insight team] was gung ho. It was, ‘Hey, here’s your data. Let’s get in the system and start finding money that you can recover.’ Definitely a smooth transition to DataShark.”
DataShark has also played a pivotal role in acquisitions. With every merger, Waste Connections sources all ERP data from the prior owners and uploaded it to the DataShark program. The program automatically investigates errors and identifies duplicate vendor master files across the two companies. DataShark scrubs the old ERP system and seamlessly aligns it with Waste Connections’ existing system.
When DataShark was fully implemented, Waste Connections encountered an additional challenge and turned to Technology Insight for help: the company was missing out on significant income from statement credits.
Waste Connections sources specific or custom parts for its machinery, especially trucks. When a part does not fit, Waste Connections is able to claim a credit on their statement from that vendor. However, the fractured system of field offices would often lose out on that potential income because Waste Connections did not have an efficient process for running statement audits:
“Being decentralized, no one really had a good handle on the vendor contacts to reach out to, which accounts we needed to look at… we didn’t know which credits were legit, which were current, how old stuff sitting on the books was…. We just didn’t have the resources or the manpower to do a statement audit of that magnitude for the entire company.”
Waste Connections enlisted the help of Technology Insight to run thorough statement audits without having to hire their own resource or create an internal process from scratch. Technology Insight ran the process and did the majority of the work; Waste Connections simply had to review credits identified and confirm them.
Technology Insight has since run regular statement audits for the company. Every two years, Technology Insight comes to the company headquarters to implement that process and recover credits within the A/P system. Technology Insight also provides continuous feedback to field offices to improve operational efficiency and prevent future lost income.
The Results: Financial and Operational Success
The benefits of both solutions were felt immediately, with strong financial results as well as improved operational efficiency.
From its first implementation, the DataShark tool found significant duplicate payment errors and thus money to recover, providing Waste Connections with immediate ROI. Throughout this long-term partnership — now well over a decade — DataShark has recovered or prevented nearly 2.5 million USD in duplicate payments for Waste Connections.
Moreover, the Technology Insight team’s collaboration has revolutionized operations for Waste Connections’ A/P departments:
“We have so much more insight into the data now… [DataShark] has changed the way we think about accounts payable and how things are being processed and paid — for the better. It’s changed the way that we communicate and train in the field.”
DataShark brought visibility into processing errors and duplicate payment errors, leading to improvements in Waste Connection processes so that fewer errors would occur in future. The Technology Insight team has also provided valuable operational assistance, including optimizing A/P training in the field and standardizing naming conventions.
The statement audits also quickly paid for themselves. Through the statement audit process, Technology Insight has recovered over 166,000 USD for Waste Connections in outstanding credits to date.
“Again, it was a no-brainer… The amount that they found paid for itself right off the bat. Not having to hire an accountant and the efficiency of that process is why we ended up doing that second solution with the Technology Insight team.”
The Technology Insight team has also helped Waste Connections improve operations, implementing systems for field agents to follow up on outstanding credits before the money is lost. They have worked to adapt training systems for the dispersed Waste Connection field agents so that new hires can operate within the system as efficiently as possible.
A Powerful Partnership
Throughout this partnership, Technology Insight has consistently worked to support Waste Connections in every way possible:
“The Technology Insight team cares. It’s simple, but they truly do. Karl and his team are always calling and checking in, asking what they can do to help out or how we can adapt our training systems.”
Rather than implementing a solution and operating in a “hands-off” model, the team has tirelessly worked to improve these solutions and more effectively tailor them to the needs of Waste Connections. This includes continuous feedback, custom system update requests, regular in-person visits, involved account managers and collaboration around necessary resources for upcoming events or projects.
“Technology Insight has been very innovative and easy to use. Their solutions have evolved as our company has evolved. It’s simply a great working relationship.”