Tree fruit and technology might not necessarily be two items you’d pair together, but Stemilt Growers is all about sowing the seeds of business through its digital transformation.
Cristian Wulf, CFO and CIO at the Washington-based, family-owned tree fruit growing, packing, marketing, and shipping company, recently shared why the company cherry-picked RISE with SAP to help it transform the core processes governing its business.
Since its foundation in 1964, Stemilt Growers went from being a one‑family business that managed and ran its own orchards to owning various orchards, managing independent orchards, and partnering with multiple organizations to market their cherries, apples, pears, and stone fruit.
With that growth came the realization that the company needed technology to help manage its expanded portfolio – “duct taping” a number of solutions from a number of software providers – until that duct tape simply wasn’t sticking when it came to having a consolidated view of the business at large or a connection point into the warehouse management systems of its partner growers.
“With this new ERP solution, we will gain access and a view into what all our partner warehouses have, what is ready to be packed, what is ready to be sold to match our customer’s needs,” Wulf said of the decision to go with RISE with SAP. “It was just the fit of bringing in leading practices and processes as SAP outlined to us.”
The newly implemented SAP solution will provide Stemilt with the tools and processes to make better decisions that will improve quality and flavor for the consumers, enhance service to Stemilt’s customers, drive value to the growers, and improve effectiveness while reducing waste.
As the business starts to lean into what is possible with its investment, Wulf said they’re taking a similar approach with how they manage these changes on the people and technology side. Business process owners and IT business partners are gaining skills to look at the business from a different perspective — as business analysts that leverage leading practices, implement new processes, reshape roles while leveraging the SAP technology as an enabler.
This change management process is essential in the journey, according to Wulf, because the company anticipates that this investment will bear some real fruit on the business side. “This is a business-sponsored and business-driven transformation. Across farming, warehousing, operations, procurement, marketing and sales, finance as well as enterprise-wide planning and analytics,” Wulf said. “This is not a technology, shiny object project; it is a business enabler to address the changing environment and playing field in our industry.”
Wulf anticipates that RISE with SAP will help the company make more informed business decisions, including making the shift from being a heavily supply-based business to one that can anticipate and meet the demand from some of their biggest customers. “Part of the reason to get this integration and an updated ERP is to get us closer to that balance of supply and demand, even anticipating our customer requests” he shared.
Stemilt Growers is already seeing the fruits of their digital labor with the SAP Transportation Management application for its outbound freight processes, which the company went live on back in April. With land, ocean, and air freight carrying fruit to various locations, Stemilt simply needed to have a broader view both of transportation and getting its products to the right places at the right times. With challenges related to COVID-19 driving the cost of trucking services up by up to 200%, it’s something the business saw impacting the bottom line.
After its go-live the first assignment of preferred carriers was opposite of what Stemilt thought they should do, the team dug in to see if their data points were correct. They were, and Wulf credits the system for “telling us that the market had changed how we looked at asset based and brokerage based carriers.”
As the company gears up to go live with their first phase of RISE with SAP in early 2023, Wulf dispelled the myth that SAP is just for large enterprises. “There are different solutions by SAP by market size,” Wulf said. “[It’s] a very strong fit for us.”