Milking the ERP benefits

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Food business Kerry supplies a wide range of products – poultry, milk and spring water – and also runs one of the largest fresh convenience food businesses in UK and Ireland. Its ingredients division is a global leader in the supply of food flavourings and coatings and as well as having its own high profile brands can boast many well known international names as customers.

In Europe, Kerry Ingredients is based in Bristol and has manufacturing sites in France, Poland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary. Its dairy and speciality ingredients business in Europe is serviced from the group’s flagship plant in Listowel, Ireland, and the group also has a European-wide fruit preparations business with facilities in the UK, France, Italy and Poland.

Following a company move from a bespoke IT system to Ross Systems’ iRenaissance, Kerry has re-engineered its business information systems by integrating its pan-European divisions under one IT system.

In addition, the system is improving customer service, stock traceability, shelf life management and cost assessments. The business now has in excess of 400 users of iRenaissance spread across 17 of its sites, having first implemented the software in 1992.

Kerry’s management has recognised the enormous investment it has in business information and has decided to exploit this asset to the maximum across the corporation by introducing common business processes.

Ross’s iRenaissance Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and supply chain management software was selected as part of a long-term strategy to implement a new corporate IT system. So far, the software is installed at 22 sites across the European locations as well as in Malaysia and New Zealand – more than 400 users are regularly using iRenaissance from these sites.

A major reason for Kerry’s successful growth is its ability to manage newly acquired companies quickly and efficiently. On average, it doubles in size every five years and its IT expansion plans provide management with the backbone to support its total operations.

Using Frame Relay, it has created a wide area network (WAN) linking manufacturing sites across Europe to a new central Compaq Digital server in Bristol, allowing Kerry to benefit from real-time corporate-wide information, and enabling it to continue its rapid growth in the food ingredients sector across Europe.

The Ross software, being totally integrated, allows Kerry Ingredients the flexibility to implement in phases, another feature that attracted Kerry Ingredients to iRenaissance. A typical phased implementation of iRenaissance at a new site will move from the planning stage to being fully live and integrated on all modules within four months.

Kerry’s continued growth plans will increase the implementation pace even further. Mike Cook, IT manager within Kerry Ingredients Europe, comments: “Because of the ‘openness’ and flexibility of the system, we are able to migrate data from legacy systems to iRenaissance quickly and easily. This means that we are in a position to report from iRenaissance within hours of starting the implementation process.”

Noel Liston, IT director of Kerry Ingredients Europe, adds: “Process improvement is the single biggest advantage. Because we are recording in great detail what’s going in and what’s coming out, it has allowed us to identify process losses, and that’s made a tremendous difference in some of our factories. It has also definitely helped us to improve customer notification and customer service levels in what is a very short shelf life environment.”

And he continues: “Master production scheduling is also a massive benefit managing the balance between demand and supply. We don’t make a product specifically on one site we may make it in France, Germany or Italy. Our new visibility of stock, and scheduling of production capacity and purchasing avoids idle materials in one site while we’re buying at another.”

The software also provides Kerry with regulatory traceability all important particularly in the food and beverage sector. In this respect, the ability to integrate ERP with shop-floor systems has also been key. This is right down to the plant stuff, Liston says: “On many of our sites we use batch type processes and are weighing micro amounts of ingredients. Using electronic scales and scanning the barcodes allows us to store the necessary level of detail on raw materials.”

For a company that was formed in 1973 with the commissioning of its first manufacturing plant in Listowel, Ireland, growth is not accidental in Kerry businesses. So whileKerry accomplishes its catchline “Building a Global Business”, iRenaissance plays a significant role in achieving its objectives from an IT perspective.

Cook concludes: “Choosing an ERP system is a complex and difficult task for any business. The real challenge, though, is in ensuring that the chosen system meets, not only today’s requirements, but is also flexible and dynamic enough to grow with the business in an ever-changing, geographically expanding and increasingly competitive business environment.”

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