Naturally Best use SSI's TROPOS system to deliver customer quality and profitability

Potato supplier, Naturally Best will use the TROPOS system from Chelford company SSI to help manage and control its expanding business in 2006 and beyond. TROPOS will provide suppliers & customers with an as it happens' view of production and delivery which will assist Naturally Best in keeping the business on track.
Based in Boston, Lincolnshire, Naturally Best is one of an elite group of potato packers supplying the UK's supermarket chains. Mainly through the popularity of its versatile Vivaldi potato, sales have risen spectacularly between 2001 and 2004, averaging over 60% a year. In 2005, Naturally Best won a major contract from Sainsbury's, and the company responded with significant investments in new plant and equipment for grading and packaging. In addition the company is experiencing spectacular growth in supplying Hotels & Restaurants, who all want to feature Vivaldi potatoes on their menus.

To complement that investment and manage its rapidly growing business volumes, Naturally Best need to have an integrated view of sales, supply, production, administration and delivery performance. The company need to have information on an as it happens' basis, to satisfy stringent customer demands and to make sure it is operating efficiently and profitably.

According to company secretary Mike Pledger: "Our existing ERP system was based on after the event' reporting, which meant that before we could view meaningful information, we needed to complete paper work using the data collected. That was simply not good enough for the kind of operation we have become."

SSI helped define the detailed requirements and after intensive evaluation, Naturally Best committed to the 300,000 TROPOS solution. The company will use the full scope of TROPOS when the system is implemented at its Kirton Holme site during 2006.

TROPOS will provide better traceability of potato stocks, from the pre-graded stage all the way through the process to customer packs. This will enable Naturally Best to become more flexible in planning future pack formats. It will also improve potato classification and grading - a key requirement to meeting the precise specifications of Naturally Best's customers.

TROPOS will also help to combat wastage - a critical requirement as the company's order books grow. "Increases in production mean you have to stay on top of the business more than ever," says Mike Pledger. "Any errors have more costly consequences."

Controlling potato stock and supplier deliveries is also becoming critical as customer ordering and fulfilment becomes increasingly just in time'. "When we receive an order we have to create the product in the next 14 to 15 hours and ship it out on vehicles, so we need to have tight control over our stock and the deliveries from suppliers," Mike says.

One of the most exciting benefits of TROPOS, according to Mike Pledger will be "the linking of processes right back to the field and all the way through to the consumer." TROPOS will enable Naturally Best's customers and suppliers to monitor the production process through to delivery. "Customers will be able to see their loads being packed and their deliveries scheduled, and growers will be able to watch their potatoes go down the line."

Mike Pledger says that Naturally Best selected TROPOS to provide them with a solution because "it just kept overcoming the hurdles we put in front of it. We became increasingly confident during the evaluation period that it could do everything we wanted."

Naturally Best was also impressed with the SSI team. "We could tell the SSI people knew what they were talking about. Those we have met have been in the company a long time and we sensed they were committed to being there in the future. It was also clear there was strength in depth. The whole team contributed. They were not just relying on one systems designer or technical person."

The Naturally Best management team was taken to two of SSI's customers to see TROPOS in action. This strengthened the conviction that TROPOS was the right choice, according to Mike Pledger. "The people we went to see closely modelled what we were trying to do," he said. "It made us feel we were not attempting anything that TROPOS had not done before."

SSI Managing Director, Trevor Lewis says: "We are very proud that Naturally Best have chosen the TROPOS system. They have shown by their success that they consistently make the right business decisions, and SSI is committed to proving they have been right yet again."

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