Geest boosts supply line with Softline Enterprise BMS
Geest SA, a supplier of fresh fruit products to the international market, is seeing immense benefits from a recently-completed implementation of a business management solution (BMS) undertaken by Softline Enterprise and its partner, ALK Systems Integrators.
Owing to the critical nature of its just-in-time business model, Geest chose Softline Enterprise's Sage Line 500 solution for its materials resource planning (MRP) and logistics strengths, as well as its ability to link with its customers' Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) requirements.
A further module for quality control - which interfaces with the Line 500 software - was developed by ALK Systems Integrators. The BMS implementation uses Microsoft SQL Server as a back-end to the Sage Line 500 software, and typically hosts around 15 concurrent users.
"Our requirements were quite different to most manufacturing operations in that our processes are not that complex. We make pre-packaged fruit salads and other such products, so fundamentally from a manufacturing point-of-view, it is a simply a matter of cutting-up fruit. However, dealing with fresh produce demands keeping track of inventory and ensuring it comes in and goes out as quickly as possible is key to our business," says Nigel Wilkes, finance manager at Geest SA.
For example, a simple logistics problem which could lead to an undersupply of a single raw material - such as a particular fruit variety - could lead to hundreds of thousands of rands in lost business opportunity.
"To avoid such incidences, stock planning is absolutely critical. We get orders to deliver 20 tons of packaged melon balls per week and to supply that, we have to place orders with farmers some 20 weeks in advance - and commit to buying that produce," says Wilkes.
"But we also need to be able to assess our yield from our raw materials - literally per piece of fruit. Therefore, we need to keep track not only of which farmer is supplying which produce, but even which field it was grown in so that should we be getting a lower yield than we expect, we can address it."
Keeping track of stock is another major challenge for Geest. It may take delivery of 50 tons of mangoes, in different stages of ripeness. The company must therefore be able to keep accurate account of which can be used immediately and then predict when the rest will ripen.
Geest assessed several competitive options, but the combination of Softline Enterprise's Sage Line 500 and ALK Systems Integrators ultimately proved the optimal choice.
Remarkably, the company had - prior to the deployment of Sage Line 500 - been performing all of its various procedures manually. That meant there was a considerable opportunity to create an ideal infrastructure without having to interface to legacy systems.
Geest has deployed finance, purchase ordering, distribution and inventory control modules and also makes use of EDI interfacing to its customers.
"We're seeing major benefits because we can now timeously import sales orders into Sage Line 500 and estimate our sales for the week. We have also increased visibility about what we are doing on a daily basis, which has had a significant impact on our bottom line," says Wilkes.
"As for EDI, we get orders from our clients, which will then be modified in the afternoon, again the following morning, and then shipped by noon. We used to do this manually, but with EDI, it is dramatically simpler to manage orders - in fact, we have reduced the time spent on an order by 80%. The importance of this cannot be overstated when you consider that we get up to 100 orders per day."
"This was an interesting implementation for us because there was an entirely unique set of customer requirements, including a completely new module which we had to develop," says Andre Kleinhans of ALK Systems Integrators. "Without any legacy systems to take account, we were able to roll-out a new end-to-end system that gives Geest a much better real-time view of where its business stands."