Between 1994 and 2003, Lafarge North America was in a growth mode. Through a series of acquisitions, some quite sizable, the Herndon, Va.-based building materials supplier managed to more than triple its revenues, topping $4 billion by the end of 2002. Kudos perhaps, but now its finance executives faced a real challenge: How do you assist a suddenly large global organization–with treasury in one location, accounting at another and field operations at a third–to operate efficiently and cost effectively?

Treasurer Kevin Grant had little choice but to look for new ways of doing almost everything. For the new Lafarge, "coordination and communication are critical," explains Grant. But to find the time to coordinate and communicate, Grant knew he needed first to embrace another c-word: It was time to consolidate.

The 24-year finance veteran plunged the company into an 18-month project, now roughly two-thirds completed, to streamline treasury operations. Eventually, banking relationships will shrink to around 20 from about 60 , and a Selkirk treasury workstation will replace a lot of proprietary bank software that had to be linked manually in a spreadsheet. It's too soon to say how much time Lafarge's treasury staff will save, but the first small chunk of workstation applications that was implemented in January saved an estimated 12 hours of staff time alone, reports Beverly Krantz, assistant treasurer. "By using a workstation and automating much of the posting, we will free up time to take care of that coordination and communication," Grant adds.

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