Case Study: Cabinet streamlines operations at Alabama Farmers Cooperative

With 70 retail locations and more than 2,300 total employees, Alabama Farmers Co
 is one of the largest farmer-owned agriculture related businesses in the Southeastern U.S.

That tremendous size – and the clout that comes with it – has helped AFC effectively serve its members for more than 70 years. But operationally, being such a large enterprise created more than a few headaches for the co-op and its staffers.

For years, AFC stored all kinds of mission-critical data on paper. Grain purchase agreements were on paper. Company vehicle records were on paper. Tax documents were on paper. Trademark documentation was on paper. Correspondence with legal counsel was on paper.

And accounting data from each and every one of the 70 retail stores was on paper – with each month’s stored in a mammoth binder.

AFC’s Paper Problem

Ask just about anyone at AFC’s Decatur, Alabama, headquarters, and they’ll be able to tell you about the binders. There were hundreds of them – hardbound three-ring books, four inches thick, with 20-odd tabbed dividers apiece. Bank statements, reconciliations, inventory control reports, journal entries – it was all in the binders.

Whenever one of AFC’s accountants needed to work on an individual store’s books, they needed to retrieve the right binder, lug it to their desk and, eventually, replace it in the correct location. Seeing two months’ worth of data meant grabbing two binders. It was inefficient, costly and unsustainable – and it was only the most visible manifestation of a major paper problem.
As a result, AFC went looking for a highly flexible, scalable and modern document management system. The solution needed to:

  • Revolutionize accounting practices for the co-op’s retail locations
  • Allow easy access to information at the home office and on the road
  • Offer simultaneous access to users statewide, while maintaining strict version control and security
  • Play nicely with multiple legacy technology solutions
  • Deliver a number of disparate, configured solutions for multiple departments

Fortunately for AFC, just such a solution existed – and the company that developed it was based only a short drive from Decatur. The company was Cabinet Document Management Solutions. And the solution was Cabinet SAFE – a complete paperless document management software solution designed to allow organizations to increase efficiency, improve security, save physical space and reduce their carbon footprint, all without fundamental changes to existing workflows and processes.

Finding Efficiency With SAFE Document Management Software

AFC first explored SAFE’s capabilities by tackling a number of minor document imaging projects. As confidence in the solution grew, more and more users came on board – and more and more operational tasks were moved to SAFE. Before long …

  • Contracts with grain suppliers were scanned in remote locations, and were made available at the home office instantly – rather than days or weeks later.
  • Human resources personnel created folders for each employee and job applicant, securely storing resumes, I-9 forms, tax documents and the like.
  • Executives used SAFE to house and access board notes, meeting minutes and other sensitive, high-level information.
  • Supporting documentation for (and legal correspondence regarding) AFC’s numerous trademarks got its own virtual filing cabinet, making it significantly easier to find necessary data.
  • A wide range of information and documents regarding company vehicles – tags, receipts, registration data, etc. – went into SAFE, helping AFC keep track of its fleet.
  • AFC used Cabinet’s integrated document sharing module to file sensitive paperwork with its credit card processing firm.

But for AFC staff, the most memorable application of the SAFE solution was digitizing all those binders. And with help from Cabinet’s professional services team, AFC was able to:

  • Scan, index and append metadata to each and every page in each and every binder
  • Create a digital filing structure mimicking the existing tabbed sections, ensuring across-the-board user adoption
  • Set up processes and integration points for effective day-forward use

Today, when an AFC staffer needs to find accounting data on one of the co-op’s retail locations, they simply open the SAFE desktop client, select the correct virtual folder and open the document. What once required dragging a heavy binder across the office is now accomplished effortlessly, in seconds. Plus, multiple users can now access the same documents simultaneously, and security of the sensitive data once contained in the binders has increased exponentially.

Today, when an AFC staffer needs to find accounting data on one of the co-op’s retail locations, they simply open the SAFE desktop client, select the correct virtual folder and open the document.

The results are even more dramatic during AFC’s twice-yearly retail audits. Personnel from the audit firms once needed to haul binders around to find what they needed. Now, information is shared securely ahead of time, significantly reducing the amount of time and effort involved in the process.

Across the Board Success

In just a few years, SAFE document management software has become an integral part of AFC’s operations. The home office runs more efficiently, allowing staff time to be focused where it belongs: on serving the co-op’s members and member associations.

“In a word, Cabinet SAFE has been great for us,” said Wayne Holt, AFC’s Chief Information Officer. “The solution is a key part of what we do at the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. I couldn’t imagine working without it.”

Want to learn what SAFE document management software can do for your business? Schedule a customized, no-strings-attached demo today.