James Steidl - Fotolia
How to get customers the products they want when they want them is an issue that all companies face. Reducing supply chain complexity often means looking within.
Here's how three companies are trying to do just that.
Blount Fine Foods reimplements ERP to reduce supply chain complexity
Blount Fine Foods Corp. is a soup and sauce manufacturer based in Fall River, Mass.
The company's customers include grocery store chains, food service distributors and other vendors that sell soup to consumers, said Mike Backus, director of enterprise information systems at Blount. The soups are sold across the United States under the Blount, Legal Sea Foods and Panera Bread brands.
Today, Blount's technology team is transforming its information systems, including reimplementing Sage X3 to take advantage of the platform's supply chain and logistics features to reduce supply chain complexity. Blount had implemented Sage X3 in 2005, a system specifically designed for process manufacturers, to handle its growing business.
Before Blount's technology team started the reimplementation project, the company had more than 100 Access databases that were all "spider-webbed together" and integrated with Sage X3, Backus said.
Blount will soon use the Sage materials requirements planning module to better manage what products it needs to make, what raw materials it needs to buy and where the company needs to ship products as well as to cut down on a lot of manual labor, Backus said.
"We also want to use Sage to reduce waste, get the right order quantities, get the right minimum stock on hand and reduce cuts, which is when we're not able to ship customers' orders in full -- maybe because we don't have enough of the product on hand, for example," he said.
The company also plans to add some new functionality, including adding in the customer relationship management module of Sage X3 and putting in a new electronic data interchange system
"We're trying to get more personal with customers and have more information about their needs and wants as well as make our business more efficient," Backus said.
The Wenger Group uses ECM to streamline its supply chain
Based in Rheems, Penn., The Wenger Group is a 75-year-old, family-owned manufacturer of poultry, swine and dairy feeds and ingredients. The company also provides eggs and egg marketing, flock services and pullet growing in the mid-Atlantic region.
Michelle Lombardo SmithLaserfiche business analyst, The Wenger Group
The Wenger Group operates eight feed milling locations in Pennsylvania and one in Maryland.
One supply chain challenge the Wenger Group faced: Its legacy paper-based processes couldn't consistently capture operations data in a timely manner.
The paper records produced from its manufacturing processes were stored in various physical locations, limiting access to the documents, said Michelle Lombardo Smith, Laserfiche business analyst at The Wenger Group.
In 2015, Wenger Group decided to deploy an enterprise content management (ECM) system with a workflow component to streamline its supply chain by automating some of its processes and capturing the data associated with its processes. The next year, Wenger made the move from paper-based to digital document management using Laserfiche's ECM system.
"The importance behind the automation is the audit trail, the tracking, the automated approvals, report generation and the data collection that we can get out of Laserfiche that we didn't have in the manual process," Lombardo said.
The Wenger Group uses the workflow and electronic forms functionality of Laserfiche's ECM system to capture all its key documents in one electronic repository. These documents include its safety data sheets that provide the list of chemicals at the company's mills as well as the ingredients used in the animal feed. That information is now automatically routed to the appropriate mills and electronically filed, making it easier to locate.
In the past, the company kept its manually updated safety data sheets in binders in each of its locations, Lombardo said.
"We had to be able to provide those safety data sheets [as required by law], and it was quite labor intensive," she said. "Now we can identify the chemicals by location as well as the different tiers of ingredients, so we can easily identify where something might be if we needed to do a recall on a particular item."
The Wenger Group has realized other benefits from automating its documentation, including increased customer satisfaction and reduced staff time.
For example, scanning and processing delivery tickets within a day of delivery has enabled the company to reduce its invoice processing time from six hours to three, Lombardo said. And the company was able to increase its customer goodwill because there were fewer invoicing errors.
Although Wenger Group isn't currently using any tools outside of Laserfiche to streamline its supply chain, the company is planning to implement a new ERP system.
"We want to move our ERP to the cloud because we're going to be moving to an Office 365 environment eventually," she said. "We're going to expand our portfolios so that we can be more disaster-resistant and able to recover more quickly."
Perfectly Posh focuses on an agile supply chain
Based in Salt Lake City, Perfectly Posh is an 8-year-old skincare company that provides products to its group of demonstrators who then host in-home or online parties, participate in vendor events, host fundraisers or sell online with their own Perfectly Posh websites. The company also sells direct to consumers on its website.
Perfectly Posh manufactures what it calls naturally-based pampering and self-care products, including soaps, hand and face creams, face wash and body scrubs.
"We try to allow individuals to purchase our products or sell our products any way they choose," said Jonee Woodard, the company's COO.
For example customers may want to buy direct, buy wholesale to resell or function as third-party e-commerce companies.
What that means, though, is that Perfectly Posh has to have an extremely agile supply chain to get its products to its customers as well as function in a very efficient way to process all the orders in real time, she said.
Some of the company's orders are very large, maybe thousand dollar retail orders, while others are only single-unit orders, Woodard said. But, either way, the company has to process them effectively and efficiently. And that's where NetSuite comes in from an ERP standpoint and an order processing standpoint, she said.
"And, more importantly, from a plug-and-play standpoint where I can plug in best practice tools in the front end, such as our Salesforce e-commerce website, and the back end that NetSuite plays effortlessly with," she said. "NetSuite also plays nicely with our proprietary order management system."
On the analytics side, Perfectly Posh uses Domo as its business analytics tool, which plugs in with NetSuite, Woodard said. On the fulfillment side, Perfectly Posh's third-party logistics provider, VisibleSCM, is also able to plug into NetSuite.
"We pass orders through to Visible and they ship them extremely efficiently and then they flow the transaction details back to us, which we then send to our customers," Woodard said.
It's absolutely essential that all of these tools operate in real time and transmit to NetSuite because there isn't time to upload or download orders or upload or download purchase orders or figure out inventory, Woodard said.
"NetSuite is really the backbone and soul of the entire organization that lets us know where a product is from the purchase order all the way down to the final-mile delivery when it has been delivered to the consumer," Woodard said.
Before Perfectly Posh implemented NetSuite in 2016, it was running its supply chain operations on a hodgepodge of different tools that didn't work well together, she said.
In addition to working well with the company's other supply chain tools, NetSuite fit the bill for Perfectly Posh because it was best in class in terms of stability, scalability and the user experience, according to Woodard.
When thinking about reducing supply chain complexity, it's important to plan for the future, Woodard said.
"The number one thing I would say is when you're developing an agile supply chain, don't [look at] what you need now," she said. "[Look at] at a system that can scale up or down to what you might need tomorrow."