Fresh Produce Group primes analysis capability

Fresh Produce Group implemented Adaptive Planning’s cloud-based performance management application to improve planning and forecasts

Fresh Produce Group primes analysis capability
Fresh Produce Group primes analysis capability

By Anna Game-Lopata | April 30, 2013

Fresh Produce Group implemented Adaptive Planning’s cloud-based performance management application to improve planning and sales forecasts.

Established in 1991, Fresh Produce Group (FPG) has quickly grown into one of Australia's largest fresh produce providers.

From offices in Australia and Asia, the company deals with local and overseas growers, sourcing more than 40 produce varieties ranging from commonly consumed vegetables to exotic fruits.

Given the nature of the produce and the ever-present potential for spoilage, it's a business that relies heavily on quality control, care and timeliness at every stage of the value chain.

A technology savvy company, FPG recognised in 2008, it was time to replace numerous business software systems with a single, integrated platform to underpin all its operations – from farm to packing shed to logistics and delivery to the customer.

The business turned to the cloud for inspiration and by year end had implemented NetSuite ERP (enterprise resource planning system).

Within 18 months, the solution was contributing to a 100 percent increase in the company's net profit margin, and to savings of approximately $1 million per year.

Chief Financial Officer, Mark Wilson says decision to go with a cloud system was a conscious one.

"We're a large company," he says.

"We have a turnover of potentially $200 million per year and employ 200 people. The cloud offered us a solution that didn't require a lot of capital investment and which still allows us to scale up fairly easily without having to invest heavily.

"It is easy to maintain and allows our small IT team to spend the majority of their time on systems enhancement and development, rather than having to worry about the infrastructure side of things."

However there remained one problem.

"When you work with any financial system, the information is all backwards-looking; it's historical," Wilson says.

"If you want to look ahead and carry out financial forecasting or detailed analyses, you tend to have to use a different system.
This was the situation we found ourselves in," he says.

To get around the problem, Wilson's team had been relying on spreadsheets. Information was extracted from the ERP then manipulated within Microsoft Excel.

The process worked but it took time and was open to errors through corrupted formulas or mis-keying. In 2010 Wilson decided he needed a more professional solution.

"We began to look for something that would integrate with NetSuite and that could replicate the master data in areas such as our product SKUs, bills of materials, customer data and divisions," Wilson says.

"We wanted to be able to plan and analyse across all those data fields."

Recommended by Netsuite, Adaptive Planning’s cloud-based performance management application offered the solution.

"Some of the other software packages were prohibitively priced whereas Adaptive Planning had a scalable licensing structure that kept costs lower for us," Wilson says.

"Crucially, it also offered full integration with NetSuite."

Another part of the appeal of the solution was its openness to customisation.

"Each Adaptive deployment is built from the ground up," Wilson explains.

"All your customers, the structure around them, all your business units have to be set up in the software.
It's not hard to do by any means and it ensures that Adaptive replicates your exact business framework.
This makes it very flexible."

Quantifiable time savings
Wilson says the use of Adaptive Planning has brought greater integrity to FPG's reporting processes.
Through automation, it is also delivering significant time savings.

"The time required to create end of month reports has been reduced by a day," he says.

"We've saved another day in forecasting.
Sales reporting by category and customer to budget used to take a couple of days at the end of each month.
Now it takes just half a day."

"Adaptive gives us the ability to easily change the structure of reports.

"We also have more flexibility in terms of the modelling and inputs into financial forecasts.
We can use different assumptions for "what if" analyses and model different scenarios for budgeting and forecasting."

Right now, the main people using Adaptive Planning are sales management, finance and executive management.
Logistics staff also refer to the reports when looking at operational volumes and production information.

However, Wilson is hoping to tap into additional efficiencies later this year when he introduces the system to sales staff.

While sales still upload their forecasts from Excel spreadsheets, Wilson aims for them to ultimately upload their own forecasts into the Adaptive Planning system and produce their own reports.

"We're not at that stage yet, but we would like to do it in time for the new financial year," he says.

Rapid and easy deployment
Deployment of Adaptive Planning's application
began with the general ledger.

"We found it very easy to implement and very easy to use," Wilson says. "Adaptive simply sucks the information out of NetSuite and integrates it with our future plans."

Wilson's team uses the system to generate board and executive management reports, and to create financial reports such as the balance sheet, cash flow, and profit and loss.

In phase two, FPG began using Adaptive Planning for sales reporting and planning.
The software was set up to incorporate all of FPG's product lines, customers and bills of materials.

"There were a lot of attributes to build in," Wilson acknowledges.
"All the work was done by one of the Adaptive partners in Australia, ABM [Advanced Business Management].

"It wasn't expensive and we ended up with a system that reflects exactly what we wanted, and that is easily maintained by our own IT staff."

"In the last few years, since taking on NetSuite and following the integration of Adaptive Planning, we're seeing the results in better business information through more accurate analysis, planning and forecasting," he says.

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