In Gourmet and Data Heaven

If you’d like to serve your guests an appetizer of bruschetta with a wonderful dressing made of olives and capers, a main course of a juicy steak or swordfish with a delicious sauce made of mangoes and ginger, and a crowning dessert of vanilla ice cream with warm raspberry sauce, you’ve found the right partner in Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods. The company makes gourmet sauces and marmalades along with all kinds of mustards. Outstanding and internationally acclaimed creations of Fischer & Wieser include The Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, a sweet and sour mixture of raspberries and chipotle peppers, and the delicious Brazos Blackberry Jam.

Bringing two worlds into harmony

“To create unique food products that move people to share the taste with others,” is the motto of the family company headquartered in Fredericksburg, Texas (USA). Every day, the company’s cooks and nutrition specialists fiddle with new recopies or refine existing recipes and products. With success. The midsize company has grown extremely rapidly in the past seven years, partly through acquisitions.
But the growth has taken its toll. The cooks were always creating recipes for new sauces and marmalades, but snags developed in other parts of the company. The problems primarily affected financial accounting, warehousing, requirements and sales planning, and product delivery. For example, the company processed some orders and warehousing with Microsoft Word documents and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
As a result, the company didn’t accurately know which products were in the warehouse and which ones had been ordered at any given time. It didn’t know which products might be awaiting delivery to customers. Although the legacy solution displayed the goods as available for delivery, they had not yet been produced in many cases. Some goods were delivered late or not at all. “The inventory listed by the system and the actual inventory were two different worlds,” says Case D. Fischer, CEO of Fischer & Wieser. “And we also had a lot of problems with audits because we couldn’t provide any accurate business figures. We couldn’t determine if we were plus or minus.”

Examining more than 100 suppliers

About two years ago, the management of Fischer & Wieser decided on a complete modernization of its IT landscape. “We needed integrated software that comprehensively mapped all company processes: customer inquiries, manufacturing, delivery, warehousing, and billing,” says Jenny Wieser, COO of Fischer & Wieser, as she summarizes the requirements. With the new solution, the family owned company wanted to achieve three important goals. First, the company wanted to provide management with correct and reliable information in real time in the future – information on financial key figures, orders, warehouse stocks, and production requirements, for example. Second, the company wanted to unify its previously inconsistent and unstructured data so that it could optimize and accelerate business processes. Third, the new software should serve Fischer & Wieser as a secure investment and sustainable foundation for future growth.
The company used these requirements to evaluate more than 100 software suppliers, including Microsoft Great Plains (now Microsoft Dynamics GP). Fischer & Wieser saw the product as a solid accounting package, but one that omitted production-specific functions. It also lacked the required integration with the accounting, production, and customer relationship management (CRM) areas of the firm. According to CEO Fischer, “an unintegrated suite would also place a tremendous burden on our administrators – and we absolutely wanted to avoid that.”
It was only logical for the marmalade manufacturer to choose SoftBrands, an SAP business partner headquartered in Minneapolis, to implement SAP Business One along with an integrated add-on solution, Fourth Shift Edition. “The solution did more than fulfill our requirements better than other software. As the implementation partner, SoftBrands also brought along a strategy to help us scrutinize, correct, and improve our business processes,” says Fischer about the decision.

Overcoming obstacles and teething problems

Implementation lasted only two-and-a-half months, from the middle of May 2005 to August 1, 2005. During the first phase of the project, the gourmet specialist made sure that the new solution processed the required transactions as desired. The second and third phases of the project involved data integration, process management, and training of 35 users. For six weeks, the implementation team spent more than two days a week transferring data from the legacy system into SAP Business One and testing the solution offline. The business operated as usual during the implementation. “When we turned on the new software, our customers didn’t even notice the conversion,” emphasizes Wieser.
But some obstacles still had to be overcome during the implementation of SAP Business One and Fourth Shift Edition. For example, the somewhat poor quality of data in the legacy system created some problems during data transfer. And the new software ran relatively slowly when it first went live. Jenny Wieser traced the slowdown to an indexing problem that was soon solved. “Those were simply teething problems,” says Wieser.

Tracing batches

To manage production processes and to produce up-to-date business reports, the preconfigured business processes (best practices) contained in the SAP software and in Fourth Shift Edition proved a godsend. “With their help, we’ve achieved a high degree of process security and, above all, information security,” emphasizes CEO Fischer. “And we can now plan and calculate scheduling and purchasing exactly.”
Jenny Wieser corroborates the situation with many examples. A simulated recall used to take several days because a majority of the work was manual. Today, Fischer & Wieser can exactly trace a batch of blackberry or strawberry marmalade and determine within seconds whether or where a particular pallet of marmalade was shipped. The new software also enables the company to meet the strict demands of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Exact information makes good decisions

What’s most important is that SAP Business One and Fourth Shift Edition seamlessly exchange data and information. The comprehensive information flows create high-quality information that in turn creates a strong foundation for secure business analyses. With SAP Business One, the management of Fischer & Wieser not only obtains up-to-date and detailed key figures on profit and loss accounting, cash flow, and liquidity, but also – thanks to Drag&Relate functions – reports on the sales of specific product lines (sauces and marmalades) or individual products. “We can now analyze and evaluate individual areas of the company from different perspectives and thus manage the entire company more effectively,” says Fischer. “That’s tremendously important in light of our plans for future expansion.”
Today, all production data is mapped completely. This mapping enables additional opportunities to optimize warehousing. The production of the company’s specialty food products follows the first in, first out (FIFO) procedure stored in Fourth Shift Edition. The oldest stock, which was placed into storage first, is also consumed first. “That’s how we can effectively manage the use of ingredients, reduce waste in ingredients, and save money in purchasing,” says Wieser. The use of goods and the cost of goods for production used to be estimated roughly, but they can now be calculated exactly.
The company also expects savings opportunities from significantly improved warehouse management. External auditors inspect the warehouse several times a year. “In May 2005, the difference between our actual warehouse inventory and the inventory listed in the system was more than 30 percent,” explains CEO Fischer. Based upon the processes defined in Fourth Shift Edition for exact inventory management, Fischer & Wieser was able to reduce the difference to about 2 percent just 3 months after going live with the new software. “In plain language, we reduced the frequency of inventory turnover and lowered the average time in the warehouse. Overall, these abilities reduced our capital commitments,” emphasizes Fischer.
The implementation of SAP Business One with Fourth Shift Edition was the prelude for a series of additional projects that Fischer & Wieser wants to undertake with SoftBrands. These projects include linking CRM functions and introducing barcode technology into production and the warehouse. Wholesale customers should also be able to handle their orders with a Web portal in the future. Fischer & Wieser eventually wants to link its online store to SAP Business One over an interface to guarantee a comprehensive process flow from an online order to delivery.

Dr. Andreas Schaffry
Dr. Andreas Schaffry