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  March 1st, 2013 | Written by

Natural-Food Chain

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Supply-Chain Management Software Helped This Natural-Food Manufacturer Double Its Size

After experiencing extremely rapid growth over its 20 years in business, a mid-size natural-food manufacturer and distributor in the Northeastern United States needed to better manage its global supply chain. Its high growth, combined with demands from new big-box retail customers, required the management team to better understand, plan and quickly adjust to changes in its supply chain.

The company’s CFO and executive team determined that it needed more robust supply-chain management software to replace the spreadsheets and other manual processes it had been using to track vendor contract orders, raw material purchases and distribution of its end products throughout North America and the rest of the world. Just as importantly, the executive team needed the confidence to know exactly when and where it purchased raw materials for its snack foods in the event there was ever a recall. In short, it needed a supply-chain management (SCM) system to help track products from raw materials all the way through manufacturing, warehousing and distribution by its manufacturing vendors and third-party logistics (3PL) providers.

The CFO embarked on a nine-month initiative to evaluate, select and implement a new SCM system, which also included traditional ERP software functionality such as financials and inventory management. “The most important thing for us was to find a system to seamlessly integrate our supply-chain management across the globe,” the CFO says. After a three-month evaluation process, the company had defined its business processes and requirements, leading to the evaluation and selection of a mid-tier SCM system.

After choosing the SCM system, the CFO and his team then set out to implement the system over a six-month period. “Even though we were a relatively small company at the time with just 25 employees, we knew we faced some significant organizational changes as we required our team to move from spreadsheets to more powerful supply-chain planning software,” he remembers. As a result, the company spent considerable time developing customized training materials based on its specific processes and needs, which helped employees adjust to new business processes more effectively.

In addition, the company worked with suppliers, vendors and customers to ensure they were able to feed information into the system as well. For example, in addition to tracking purchase orders for raw materials in the new system, the company gave its contract warehouse partners access to its system so that they would have real-time visibility to know when and where their finished product was being received and shipped throughout the supply chain. This integration with the company’s vendors helped ensure that it had complete visibility into its supply chain, even though much of those activities were contracted out to other firms.

At the end of the day, the SCM software allowed the company to scale and double its size within a year. This growth has accelerated even further after additional investments from its private equity partners, who are looking to scale the company more aggressively in the next several years. “Without an effective SCM system, this growth would not have been possible,” says the company’s CFO.

Eric Kimberling brings to bear two decades of ERP selection, implementation and project management experience to his role as managing partner of Panorama Consulting Solutions, the world’s leading independent ERP consulting firm. His work helps clients in a diverse array of industry verticals maximize benefits realization from their IT and ERP systems.