Pedigreed Seed Certification Enters the Digital Universe

CSGA_CaseStudy_photoThe  majority of the food we eat today can be traced back to seed. Since 1904, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) has ensured the supply of high-quality seed in Canada. Its 3,500 members have been multiplying and producing some of the highest quality seed in the world using a quality assurance identity preserved system that is world renowned.

Certified seed is recognizable by the blue certified tag of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that accompanies each sale of seed. This tag means the seed and crop has been inspected by an officially recognized third-party agency, has been produced by dedicated Canadian seed growers according to stringent requirements, has undergone a carefully monitored production process, has passed the quality assurance requirements of varietal purity, germination and freedom from impurities and is ready for commercial use.

The Canadian seed industry represented a value of $2.15 billion to the Canadian economy in 2011.

Each year, CSGA processes 16,000 to 18,000 fields (approximately 1.2 million acres) to certify seed crops of 2,000 different varieties and more than 50 different species. Inspecting these crops at the correct stage of maturity each summer has traditionally involved 200 inspectors from 40 different offices of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over a 3,000-mile territory.

Recent budget cuts imposed by the Government of Canada forced CSGA to adopt Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) and replace federal government inspectors with third-party inspectors from the private sector.

CSGA was only given an 18-month window to implement the change and to transition its paper-based process to an electronic process. Laserfiche was the solution.

Breaking the Paper Habit

CSGA’s historical business process was often inefficient and redundant. Under ASD, CSGA would be faced with several new realities, such as:

  • Private inspections would now account for 90% of the acres being inspected
  • 24 new Private Inspection Services would pop up across the country. Combined this created over 90 individual inspection offices
  • Over 280 new inspectors would enter the field
  • The industry would see an increase in government monitoring and oversight
Doug Miller tin can of staples

Doug Miller shows four pounds of staples removed from scanned documents during a presentation at the Laserfiche Empower 2015 conference.

CSGA Operations Manager Doug Miller knew what needed to change but didn’t have the tools available to implement the change. “Our business processes were not optimized for ASD,” Miller remembers.

“It took an average of 15 days for a report to be submitted, and each report went through multiple stages of review and data entry. Our biggest fear was that 280 new inspectors would send us reports in 280 different formats. We realized compliance with ASD would be impossible without standardization.”

Laserfiche Assures a Smooth Transition to ASD

“We stumbled on Laserfiche by accident. We initially weren’t looking for a document management system and didn’t know about business process automation,” says Miller. “But the demonstration proved to us just how easy it could be.”

CSGA recognized that Laserfiche provided a standardized, digital, web-based and mobile platform that would make implementing ASD possible. With an incredibly short 18-month window to implement ASD, CSGA selected Laserfiche and started its business process re-engineering project.

This began with the re-organization and digitization of over 150,000 documents. The task took months of “sweat labor” where temporary employees were hired to remove staples and prepare the documents for scanning. In total, CSGA removed over 4 pounds of staples from these hard copy forms.

No Internal IT Needed

“We don’t have an IT department,” says Miller. “We normally contract out any technical work, but we found that with Laserfiche, we could do what we wanted to do in-house. Some of our best ideas were taken directly from Laserfiche Answers and the Laserfiche Solution Exchange.”

One idea that inspired Miller came from a Solution Exchange article about using Forms for automating HR processes. “Although we were not looking to use Laserfiche for HR, we liked the idea of using electronic forms to trigger automated business processes,” says Miller.

To achieve this goal, Miller took classes at the 2013 Laserfiche Empower Conference and found help in Laserfiche Answers. “A Laserfiche developer helped me design the framework in a conference class and I found all the required steps and code on Laserfiche Answers,” he says. “Concept to publishing was just 1.5 hours.”

Harvesting the Benefits with Forms and Workflow

CSGA SeedCert is the resulting web portal that serves as a focal point for the new ASD system.

  • Seed Growers request inspections online using Laserfiche Forms.
  • Laserfiche Workflow notifies staff to review pending applications.
  • Staff edits or approves the applications.
  • Approved applications are immediately forwarded to inspectors.
  • Inspectors access requests through the Laserfiche web client or mobile application.
  • Inspectors submit completed reports online.

“Government officials, inspectors and inspection services find everything they need on the portal,” Miller says. “Without this tool, the transition to ASD would not have been possible.”

In an industry where timing is everything, Laserfiche provided CSGA with the ability to efficiently manage the crop harvest timeline. By enabling online Applications and Inspection Reports submittal, CSGA was able to eliminate paper processing and the challenges of manual data entry, sorting, postage costs and long lag times.

“With the new electronic system, we are able to provide inspection results to seed growers within hours, sometimes within minutes, versus the previous two to three week delay.”

Effective Change Management

For ASD to be successful, seed growers had to be encouraged to adopt the paperless system. “We basically went province to province and talked to each of the individual provincial branches,” says Miller. “We told them about the new system, how it worked and why the change was necessary.”

CSGA’s straightforward approach, along with the user friendliness inherent in Laserfiche, worked brilliantly. Seed growers accepted the change and could see the benefits.

CSGA was pleasantly surprised when over 90% of applications were submitted electronically in the first year. This is a vast contrast to the prior year when only 27% of applications were submitted online.

SeedCert, powered by Laserfiche, has allowed CSGA to process and issue certificates up to ten times faster while eliminating manual data entry and postage costs.

CSGA continues to take advantage of new Laserfiche features. It plans to implement Laserfiche in the accounting department and begin automating the accounts payable and invoicing processes.

“Our wish list is always full when it comes to Laserfiche,” says Miller. “If you can think of it, Laserfiche can do anything.”

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