Gerber Juice Case Study
How Gerber Juice is winning contracts because of the competitive edge new technology has given them.
GerberEmig is the largest fruit juice company in Europe providing manufacturing, warehousing and distribution. They produce the equivalent of two Olympic swimming pools a day, namely 1.6bn litres a year and have 1 million square foot of warehousing, both ambient and chilled.
The company has factories in France, Germany and Poland and in the UK, Gerber Juice probably have the most advanced food factory in Europe.
Gerber Juice works with many of the large supermarkets, producing own-label products. They also work with major independent brands as well as producing their own.
Several years ago, despite having moved into a brand new facility, Julian Starling, the Group CIO, recognised that business processes across the company simply had not improved. A key part of this was the exchange of information with Partners (customers and suppliers) occurring in a variety of ad-hoc ways – e.g. voice, fax, email, paper, etc. There was no clear record of what had been exchanged with each Partner, who sent or received it, or whether any of it was ever read.
Faced with ever more demanding Partners, Gerber Juice were receiving increasing demands for data, exacerbating the issue. They realised that they had to review the way they worked with their Partners. So they asked themselves some key questions:
- How do we exchange information with our Partners (suppliers or customers)?
- How do we make ourselves invaluable to our clients as a service business?
- How do we make our company easy to work with?
Gerber Juice needed to work in a more flexible and responsive way, ensuring that none of their relationships were constrained due to the inflexibility or inefficiency of its technology.
The initial project with Ixxus was to set up a portal which would become the predominant method of communicating and exchanging data with Partners. Following the agile methodology, Alfresco Document Management (DM) was used to create the ‘Partner Portal’, to link with the company’s current ERP system. Ixxus started by looking at where there was scope for improvement and ways to automate the current process flow. The exchange of information was key to this project since Gerber Juice wished to control the routine exchange of data through their Partner portal. Applications could then be developed within this portal to automate current processes which would link back to the company’s existing ERP system.
High level business process flow
Following this review, Ixxus and Gerber Juice identified areas for improvement and a phased project plan was produced as a result.
Alfresco is used to drive the portal through which Gerber Juice can liaise with their Partners. It affects the use of various processes in the whole business process flow as follows:
Ixxus developed an application within the portal which allows Partners to book delivery slots at loading bays in the warehouse, whether the Partner is bringing in raw materials or taking away finished goods. This not only liberated Gerber Juice staff time but also gave Partners more control and made them feel empowered. The booking system uses web services to link to the ERP system and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS).
Gerber Juice receives orders in a variety of ways depending on the sophistication of their customers. Larger companies might send orders via EDI, however others use the phone, email, spreadsheets, etc. So Ixxus developed an application called ‘Fax to EDI’ which automatically puts faxed orders into Alfresco. The order is automatically sent through to Kofax, an image processing engine, which picks out the order details. This then produces a piece of XML which Alfresco converts into an EDI message. This is then loaded through the EDI system. If there are any exceptions, Alfresco has a very simple workflow portal that ‘Order Processing’ can look at so that the order can be queued manually.
Proof of delivery
The automation of this process is also done using Kofax. The haulier takes away a delivery document which is signed at the destination; this piece of paper is then scanned by the haulier and the soft copy is then sent back to Gerber Juice. The image is put through Kofax and automatically filed on the relevant Partner portal. This allows the Partner to immediately see the document with any handwritten annotation about the goods. This has not only speeded up the order/invoice process but has also helped to improve Partner relationships.
Gerber Juice are in the process of filing all invoices into Alfresco from the ERP system, and subsequently will make these available via the Partner portal. The portal then has the added benefit of being used as an archiving system for invoices and any other documents deemed to be valuable.
The portal currently manages approximately 100 different report formats a week. These are created by Business Objects, Excel and various in-house systems and automatically posted to the underlying DM system. Alfresco has not only removed a lot of administration work around the organisation, but has also significantly increased the delivery speed of data to Partners. A significant added benefit is that everyone knows where information is from, so people talk about the same set of numbers.
The next phase of the project could be to facilitate the exchange of forecast data using the portal, with automated workflows delivering the information rapidly and efficiently.
Gerber Juice have been an Alfresco Enterprise user now for 3 years. The portal project was phased over a period of two years. Alfresco allows Gerber Juice to customise their service for each user at each Partner; as Julian Starling stated ‘the use of Alfresco has been all about targeting customer intimacy’.
By automating a number of the business processes Gerber Juice staff time has been freed up from administrative tasks, allowing them to focus on what really needs attention. A lot of shuffling of paper and interaction in an uncoordinated way has become streamlined and Alfresco is now a focal point for all Partner interaction. The system is used to manage content across the group, which also means that whenever there are any staff losses or holidays, files can be found.
The company now has around 100 Partners and 200 portal users actively using the Portal, and are adding a new Partner every week. The company has the ability to react quickly; in fact the responsiveness and flexibility of the services and capabilities that Gerber Juice can offer Partners has been incredibly powerful, and ultimately has contributed to them winning new business. Being good at IT has been fundamental to the ongoing success of Gerber Juice.
“For Gerber, working with Ixxus has been an extremely beneficial relationship. The quality of the analysis, design, implementation but most of all the ongoing support and subsequent development mean they have been fundamental to us successfully delivering our business strategy.” Julian Starling, CIO, GerberEmig