Rapid growth can be a good problem to have. But Canal Insurance, a Greenville, S.C.-based underwriter of commercial trucking insurance, found out the hard way that rapid growth can cripple workflow processes.
Following five years of double-digit growth, Canal Insurance ($500 million in written premium) was left with massive amounts of new policies to be stored. According to Adrian Brown, CIO and VP of IT for Canal, the workflow process was a huge problem; paper storage and secondary storage sites made it time-consuming and difficult to do business.
Working with mainframe technology, relates Brown, the workflow process was frozen. "We had somewhere around 28 people running files," he says. To adapt to the growth, "We decided to catch up on 20 years of technology," Brown says.
Brown and his team targeted optical imaging solutions. The technology would eliminate physical storage issues, streamline workflow processes and minimize the time and money spent searching for files.
In August 2004, Brown began his search for a solution, considering three vendors. After a visit to another insurance company to see Advanced Solutions' (Conyers, Ga.) ImageRight in action, Brown chose the product. "We looked at other companies, but [their solutions] were much more generic," he says. "We could have made it work, but it would have taken months and months to implement."
Canal Insurance implemented ImageRight on Oct. 11, 2004. Since the implementation - which Brown says cost around $200,000 - Canal Insurance employees have noticed something unique: empty space. The company stores files for a year and a half. Now that those files are online, space is plentiful. And as the old paper files empty out, the company is seeing a rapid decline in the amount of paper lying around the office.
The implementation itself was a breeze, according to Brown, who notes that it took just seven weeks from purchase to implementation. The ImageRight solution integrated well with the carrier's Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Windows and SQL Server environment. Information held within ImageRight can be accessed easily within any Windows application the company has running, Brown says. "As far as adaptability within a Microsoft environment, no problem."
From a disaster-recovery standpoint, ImageRight solved a huge liability for Canal Insurance, adds Brown. Documents that might otherwise be lost in a fire, for example, are now stored off-site. The software automatically sends a new file to the off-site storage location and keeps a copy in the company database. "If this place were destroyed, we could absolutely rebuild taking those CD-ROMs and rebuild the entire imaging space again," Brown notes.
The one concern from the start was that the switch to imaging software might overload Canal employees. However, the company found that the solution has actually reduced employees' workload, and the implementation allowed the company to cut staff. The 28 people who had been hired to handle files manually were no longer needed and other staff that were handling files were reassigned to new areas within the company.
According to Brown, ImageRight has exceeded his expectations. "My hope was within two weeks of going live, you would not be able to pry this technology out of employees' hands," he says, adding that it's amazing to see employees using the technology as though it had always been there. "It was made for us," he says of the solution. "It was made for insurance."
Case Study Profile
Canal Insurance (Greenville, S.C.; $1 billion in assets).
Lines Of Business
Commercial trucking insurance.
Advanced Solutions' (Conyers, Ga.) ImageRight content management and workflow automation software.
Replace an unwieldy file management process.