Over a six-month, Fresh Mushroom Europe (FME) transformed itself from a company in which processes were driven by assignments on paper to a company where all processes are supported by and registered in Microsoft Dynamics together with SI Foodware Fresh Produce. A total transformation of the international growers and trading environment in mushrooms, but also a challenge for Schouw Informatisering to bring this assignment to a happy end.
"Previously, not everybody worked with the software," says Nick van Dun, financial controller at FME. On the factory floor in particular, hardly anybody worked with computers. That is now totally different. All staff now work with the new software on a daily basis and, in addition, RF scanners are in use throughout the company, enabling us to gather data and enter it into the software in order to safeguard the logistics process. FME supplies its products to the retail and foodservice sectors, offering a broad range of fresh mushrooms.
"Mushrooms are an exemplary product," says Els Verburg, Quality Assurance manager at FME. It is thanks to the growing number of flexitarians that demand for mushrooms is growing. The product is often used by "people who consciously choose to go without meat for a day", Els explains. In addition to cultivated mushrooms, FME also supplies wild mushrooms. Europe is the market for that product. "For me as a Quality Assurance manager, the advantage of the new software is a no-brainer," says Els. "The system has many benefits from a food safety and traceability perspective." The quest for a new software package began approximately three years ago. "We did not work with all the functionalities of an ERP system, but used the software primarily for financial accounting purposes only," says Nick. A new software package was needed due to the growth of the company and the evermore important imperative of traceability. Ultimately - in the first week of May 2016 - implementation of the overall architecture of Microsoft Dynamics together with SI Foodware Fresh Produce kicked off. With very little customisation, the entire ERP system was installed and taken into use within six months.
"That went very well indeed," enthuses Mats Jacobs, consultant at Schouw Informatisering. He embarked on the project with a full-time team of four. "In order to restrict customisation to a minimum, it is crucially important that everybody, from project team to management, keeps a sharp eye on the support required for business processes. You then see that our standard SI Foodware Fresh Produce solution can safeguard a highly successful implementation. The project team met on pre-arranged days and set to work. This focus ensured we stayed up to speed and achieved rapid results."
"Once you get started, you have to complete the process," says Mats. "The Fruit & Vegetable sector is seasonal. You don't want to interrupt the process and then have to pick it up again a few months later." Apart from all the technical issues that disruption brings with it - for many months, all involved focus on other priorities out of season - it is simply not a good move from a customer perspective. "You need to enter the entire administration into the system. If you wait too long, you have to begin all over again," says Els. New products, adjustments to creditor or debtor data... everything needs to be processed in two systems for so long as the implementation takes.
Very little was actually registered in computer systems on the shop floor. Nowadays, all production lines are equipped with screens and every step of the process is recorded with the help of hand scanners. "Implementation on the factory floor always takes the most time," says Mats. "Office staff are often more accustomed to working with software. If there was one thing that turned this project into an interesting challenge, it was that we did everything at the same time, both in the office and on the shop floor."
Schouw Informatisering could take the lead in this process, because very little else was automated on the factory floor apart from the financial systems. "That worked well, because we earned the customer's trust," says Mats. Els adds that "we sometimes thought we may have to adjust our own production process, but in retrospect that was not the case." Nick is just as pleased with the partnership: "It's important that you feel a positive buzz when you cooperate so closely. The work has to be done in a short period of time, so everybody needs to pull their weight."
The challenge was even more significant due to the fact that FME operates two relatively autonomous subsidiaries. "We needed to keep all staff focused on the implementation process, and the efforts of FME helped in this respect." Both subsidiaries currently work within the same software package, even though there is a little leeway to accommodate the distinctions between them. Now that the system is up and running at both subsidiaries, thoughts can be turned to expanding the software. There are quite a few issues on the table, including the realisation of a growers' portal.
"Learning by doing is the best way to characterise the system," says Els. You discover more and more possibilities simply by working with the system." Mats fully endorses this principle. "When customers use the software, they understand much better how to work with and benefit from the functionalities because they have greater knowledge of the system." Schouw brings customers and third parties together in the Food Community to promote learning by doing. Sharing experience, transferring best practice. "Customers discover that the problems they face also occur at other companies. That boosts the confidence that all's well that ends well," concludes Schouw Informatisering's Joris Kolff. In addition, we work together with the Food Community to further develop the software."
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