Inter Link Foods builds its future on a TROPOS ERP system

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Leading cakes and pastries manufacturer Inter Link Foods plans to support ambitious future growth with their new TROPOS ERP system from SSI. The ten-year old Blackburn based company has risen to number two in the own label UK cake market. The investment of around 350,000 in the TROPOS system will help win new sales, drive down costs and achieve group-wide efficiencies.

Group Financial Director Chris Thompson says an information strategy is imperative for Inter Link Foods, following acquisition of ten food businesses in the UK and Europe in the past eight years. So far we have run the businesses using local management knowledge and legacy systems. We have now reached the size and complexity where we need a best-of- breed IT systems to help us manage the business more effectively at group level.

Inter Link Foods selected the TROPOS ERP solution following a visit to the IT Showcase for the Food and Drinks Industries held at Microsoft in November 2004. SSIs solution reflected our requirements - initially for 30 users but with plans to grow - and our need to go live fast, by the start of our financial year in May 2005. Their people had good experience of the food industry, and spoke our language. Importantly, TROPOS interfaces well with our other systems - Exchequer financials across the group, Ramesys Creations for product development, and a new business intelligence system. SSI will also manage the TROPOS system for us, through their remote systems management service.

Trevor Lewis, SSI managing director, says: We are very pleased that Inter Link Foods has chosen our TROPOS system to support their business operations. It particularly underlines the TROPOS position as one of the leading systems in this marketplace.

Inter Link Foods has been a high achiever throughout its history. AIM company of the year in 2001, its growth pattern continued with sales up 35.5% during 2004 compared to the year before. Chris Thompson sees the TROPOS solution as integral to continued success. Future growth will come partly from planned acquisitions, but consolidated information across the group will give us the chance to exploit new market opportunities and cut costs, he says.

A major objective of the strategy is to give senior management Key Performance Indicator information, so that the company can react faster to existing customer and new market requirements. TROPOS will provide the core information, presented as management information about business performance in areas such as customer orders, product-by-product manufacturing status and ingredient stock positions.

TROPOS, with a business intelligence front end, will give us fast information right to the desks of the companys management, says Chris Thompson. We are working increasingly closely with our retail customers, and its critical to our customer relationships to see our production positions real-time, so that we can agree production priorities with them dynamically.

Also important in meeting customer requirements is TROPOS integration with Ramesys Creations, the leading product innovation and development management system. Inter Link Foods have been using modules of Ramesys already, to meet some of its multiple retail customers demands for common file standards for recipe and ingredient information.

SSI have teamed up with Ramesys to offer a fully integrated solution, so Inter Link Foods will now implement more Ramesys product development functionality. This will position Inter Link Foods well for the expected increase in software standardisation demanded by the big multiples in future. It will also help the company to automate and speed up its recipe development for new product lines.

New product development is very important to us, says Chris Thompson. Customers want a stream of new products. We will be able to develop recipes and cost them real-time in the kitchens.

Apart from helping sales, the TROPOS based strategy is expected to deliver greater efficiency and cost savings across the group. Chris Thompson says: One of our objectives is to manage our margins more effectively. We need to know accurately the cost of production by product. TROPOS will give us that critical information to help us manage profitability across the range.

TROPOS will also be used to capture more detailed information on current stock holdings. Usage and wastage data will help purchasing teams know what volumes of ingredients to order, and drive keener deals as a result. Storage decisions can be made more efficiently.

Our business strategy is now aligned with our information systems, says Chris Thompson. That is key to our future success. Were feeling huge enthusiasm from our side now as people see the big potential benefits of TROPOS across the business.

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