MAVEN AND SAP BUSINESSOBJECTS YIELD FRUITFUL BUSINESS INSIGHT FOR BERRY GARDENS
“ We have a proprietary ERP system, developed specifically for this marketplace, which we recognise as being operationally very effective. But it couldn’t yield the type of reports we needed to fully understand our business. ” James Judge, IT Manager
Why soft fruit relies on hard data Berry Gardens is the UK’s number one berry and stone fruit production and marketing group. With sales of £193 million and a market share in excess of 30% during the UK season, Berry Gardens is a year-round business supplying all of Britain’s leading retailers. Key to its success has been establishing a strong, cohesive supply chain. As a co-operative, Berry Gardens is wholly owned by its community of UK growers who rely on it to distribute their produce to retailers, as well as providing a route to market for overseas growers out of season. On a daily basis, Berry Gardens has a complex logistical puzzle to solve within a narrow window of just three to four hours. At the crack of dawn, up and down the country, its scores of growers are in the fields picking the berries. They feed back information about their respective harvests, which is entered into Berry Gardens’ Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system by around 7am. In parallel, eight of the UK’s biggest grocery retailers are submitting their requirements to Berry Gardens for the next 24 hours’ trading. The Berry Gardens team has the complete supply and demand equation in its hands by 8am, leaving just three hours in which to determine how to service the requirements and get the right orders in the right punnets with the right labelling, ready to ship by 11am.
Berry Gardens at a glance Sales:
£193m in 2010
Market Share: 30% Solution:
SAP BusinessObjects Edge
155 users across 2 sites plus 63 UK growers
Left to right: Managing Director, Maven Solutions Finance Director, Berry Gardens IT Manager, Berry Gardens
The need for visibility as events unfold The soft fruit market is time-critical, with only a matter of hours in which to get product from field to shelf. The ability to react rapidly to the specific lead times and quality standards of each retail customer is therefore critical to Berry Gardens’ success. With a morning’s turnover often running into the millions of pounds, access to up-to-the-minute information is vital to their success. However, as a highly sales-focused organisation, Berry Gardens had neither the time nor the resources to provide its internal team and growers with the visibility they needed to actively manage individual and overall performance. James Judge, IT Manager at Berry Gardens, explains: “We have a proprietary ERP system, developed specifically for this marketplace, which we recognise as being operationally very effective. But it couldn’t yield the type of reports we needed to fully understand our business. All the reporting requests were funneled through our IT department – and with over 150 information consumers across two sites and an IT staff of just two, demand was overwhelming. We typically used to spend at least a couple of man days a week solely on report-writing. To avoid the bottleneck, some business users resorted to exporting data from the ERP system and manipulating it in Excel or Access but, not surprisingly, this increased the likelihood of introducing errors and inconsistencies into the results, so the output wasn’t always reliable.” Matt Brand, Berry Gardens’ Sales Administration Manager, reveals how these limitations affected both his team and the growers. “The problem with dumping the data into a spreadsheet was that it only represented a snapshot of what had already happened, when what we needed was real-time insight. We’d send the growers printed reports on a weekly basis, then at the end of the season, create ‘stat packs’ for them. Printing these out,
The right-sized solution for a growing business binding them and distributing them was time-consuming and laborious. It meant the growers only ever got a retrospective view of their performance, and they would often have to call us for clarification of what the figures actually meant.”
“ The problem with dumping the data into a spreadsheet was that it only represented a snapshot of what had already happened, when what we needed was real-time insight.”
Matt Brand, Sales Administration Manager
Nick Allen, Finance Director, completes the picture: “With the ERP system unable to handle our financial accounting processes, it used to take us three and a half man weeks to produce the month-end reporting because of the difficulty in extracting data in a usable format. And because of our limitations in presenting the figures, board-level discussions ended up being bogged down in granular operational detail, rather than focused on the customer landscape or bigger, strategic issues.”
Berry Gardens had evaluated a number of solutions and determined that SAP BusinessObjects offered the optimum combination of business intelligence and performance management functionality for their needs, packaged specifically for the demands and budget of a mid-size business. It was intended from the outset that it would be rolled out to end users, rather than being solely an IT tool, to support a pervasive information culture within the company. Berry Gardens was introduced to Cheshirebased Maven Solutions, an expert partner in SAP’s ecosystem that lives and breathes SAP BusinessObjects. All its staff are accredited by SAP and the company fosters close, enduring associations with its clients. Maven works predominantly with growing businesses to simplify complex requirements, empower the workforce with self-service access to information, and eliminate the kind of labour-intensive manual processes that constrain growth. Describing Maven’s appointment, James says: “Maven had a good understanding of what we wanted to achieve because the team had already worked on similar implementations for beverage companies. We chose them for their pragmatism, straightforward approach and eagerness to roll up their sleeves and deploy the right solution for our business.” From initial consultation to implementation was just a matter of weeks. “Maven were able to install the SAP BusinessObjects software, create a Universe, interrogate the ERP system and provide IT with detailed training on Universe administration in just ten working days,” James reports. “They also provided training for a number of our non-technical users to enable them to become self-sufficient in accessing information and producing interactive ad hoc reports.”
For the majority of users and role profiles, however, formal training hasn’t been necessary. According to Matt Brand, “the tools are so intuitive that people are generally able to familiarise themselves very quickly with the new environment through logical pointing and clicking.” This is a distinct advantage when extending access to the system to the grower community. “Once SAP BusinessObjects had been deployed internally, our Sales Administration team visited the growers over a six-week period to roll the system out to them and improve supply chain transparency,” he adds.
“ Because of our limitations in presenting the figures, board-level discussions ended up being bogged down in granular operational detail, rather than focused on the customer landscape or bigger, strategic issues.” Nick Allen, Finance Director
Benefiting from pick-your-own analytical insight For the business Describing the impact of SAP BusinessObjects on Berry Gardens, James says: “More than 20% of the company’s workforce is now using SAP BusinessObjects daily in one way or another. We positively encourage people to have access because it promotes informed decision-making over guesswork. It makes it easy to tap into the live data that used to be trapped within our ERP system, including sales, ledgers, quality assurance and production.” “For those who simply want to consume information, we have a number of preformatted standard reports that can be scheduled for automated delivery – that takes the manual effort out of distributing the latest figures. Integration with Microsoft Office applications means non-technical users can work with information in their familiar, everyday environment. Those who are looking for answers to more investigative business questions can use the tools provided within SAP BusinessObjects to explore and interact with the data more comprehensively or perform ad hoc queries to understand the business by any dimension. The net result is that we’ve managed to completely remove the bottleneck in IT.
“Nowadays, I only get asked to produce a complex report about once a month on average, if that,” James smiles. The benefits ripple across the business. In the finance function, Nick Allen says: “we have reduced the workload to produce our month-end accounts by one man week per month, which is already helping to repay our investment in SAP BusinessObjects. We’re also able to take a more sophisticated approach to management information by using pre-built dashboards to communicate at executive level. As well as providing a visual representation of the business to support better decisions at the height of the growing season, the predictive capabilities enable the board to focus on longer term strategic planning.” Perhaps most importantly, the insight from SAP BusinessObjects has given Berry Gardens the ability to react faster – an imperative in a business characterised by weather dependency, tight timescales, rigorous quality expectations and fluctuating supply and demand. James sums up the contrast: “Five years ago, the sales and procurement office was working from 5am to 10pm. Today, with the integration between SAP BusinessObjects and our tuned ERP system, they can knock hours off both ends of the day. Their working window is now 7am to 5pm – that surely says it all.”
For the growers Articulating the impact of SAP BusinessObjects on the producers who own the consortium, Matt Brand says: “Our 63 participating UK growers each have a personal portal which they can access securely through their standard browser – it feels more like surfing the web than using a software package. Ease of use was a key consideration when we were evaluating different business software vendors, to ensure widespread adoption among the growers who are soft fruit specialists, not IT experts.” Growers can access their individual historical data right up to the last 12 hours, across different dimensions such as volume, commodity, variety and brand. The tools in SAP BusinessObjects enable them to navigate their own data using intuitive keyword searches, and perform ad hoc analysis without needing to understand the data, where it’s located or how it’s structured. “The growers have really come to trust and rely on the insight – once when the internal network went down, we were inundated with calls asking when the portal would be back up again. That was very gratifying because it showed how much of a difference SAP BusinessObjects is making to their lives,” adds Matt.
“ Maven is a lean, agile company, dedicated to providing cost-effective solutions that deliver what they promise. Working with them means you get full value from your software investment.” James Judge, IT Manager
Conclusion 2011 has been an exceptional season for sales of soft fruit in the UK, with double-digit sales growth leading to berries knocking apples and bananas off the top spots in the sales value league for all British fruit sales. In just over a decade, Berry Gardens’ turnover has risen from £20m to almost £200m. Summarising the impact of SAP BusinessObjects on Berry Gardens, James admits: “We would previously have struggled to meet that kind of demand growth, when we were hampered by delays and a lack of detailed understanding of our business. SAP BusinessObjects has enabled us to monitor our operations in real-time and transformed the way we ask and answer questions as a business. The solution is flexible enough to accommodate changes to our business processes and across the wider market over time, and its scalability means I can’t envisage that we will ever outgrow it. Maven have delivered additional reporting and analysis capabilities in the last 18 months and our users are also developing their own content internally.” What would be James’ advice to other organisations contemplating a similar business intelligence and performance management deployment? “Maven is a lean, agile company, dedicated to providing cost-effective solutions that deliver what they promise. Working with them means having the support of a like-minded partner that understands your business challenges and dynamics, so they can ensure you get full value from your software investment. SAP BusinessObjects is not a one-shot wonder for us: with Maven’s help, we’re on an open road, always looking for opportunities to apply its capabilities to driving our business in ways we never imagined possible”.
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Berry Gardens Executive Summary