When manufacturers see their operations grow in size and complexity, they should consider system solutions or upgrades that offer more adequate and extensive capabilities.

Cedarlane Natural Foods offers an easy solution for home-cooked wholesome meals with a wide variety of all-natural frozen foods. In 2004, the company was experiencing significant growth and its accounting system did not offer adequate manufacturing or inventory capabilities.

“With over 250 finished products and close to a thousand ingredients to make them, and running them in multiple locations, the company’s manual business processes were not efficient enough to keep up with the growing pace,” said Daniel Baroco, IT Director. “If just one ingredient is short then the whole process is disrupted, costing the company time and money.”

After reviewing six ERP vendors who fulfilled all of their basic requirements, mainly Windows-based solutions, Cedarlane chose xTuple, primarily because of the low cost. “We chose xTuple, at first, for the ‘wrong’ reason: price. But we kept it for the right reasons: because of the great product and company behind it,” stated Baroco. “I had scarcely heard of open source when I joined Cedarlane in 2004, but I was intrigued by the incredible savings offered by moving to an open source solution.”

Baroco estimates the company saved over $50,000 by implementing on clustered Linux servers alone.

Cedarlane went live in 2005 after piloting the software with six licenses. Since that time, the company has added on additional licenses, and is currently running over 40 concurrent users throughout the enterprise.

In addition to streamlining operations in accounting, inventory, purchasing, manufacturing and distribution, food manufacturers have very specific requirements. These include inventory control, lot control, location control to support the allergen and organic programs, expiration dates, etc. Traceability of ingredients is one of the key elements. As ingredients are mixed and converted into the finished product, they require a different lot number and have to be traced across each lot, from purchasing and receiving to sub-assemblies, to finished goods and shipping.

“xTuple allows us to seamlessly trace these ingredients and has the closest thing I have ever seen to a one-button recall. As a matter of fact, it’s so simple that our plant's quality assurance team runs two mock recalls each year, which is double the industry standard, I believe, of one recall or ‘fire drill’ per year,” added Baroco.

With deliveries to hundreds of supermarkets which generate thousands of electronic data interchange (EDI) invoices per week; Cedarlane also had significant requirements for automating this ordering activity with customers. The company worked with xTuple to develop a fully automated solution which allowed Cedarlane to do away with the paper-based method of invoice reconciliation. The xTuple system receives the standard grocery industry purchase order (form 875), creates the demand and the order in the xTuple production system, and automatically invoices the customer electronically, while creating a printed backup for Cedarlane’s own files.

“This used to be a very tedious process,” says Baroco. “Just solving that challenge alone makes xTuple all worth it.”

Additional benefits include:

  1. Visibility: Instantaneous reconciliation of invoices and purchase orders allows the company to generate reports and view the data in many different ways.
  2. Better Planning: Features such as Buffer Management which is a T.O.C. (Theory of Constraints) inspired feature that allows the company to stay on top of issues such as exceptions, changes, etc. This allows for proactive inventory management, and minimizes operational disruption.
  3. Flexibility: The same software is flexible enough to support a large-scale frozen foods business, and a regional fresh foods delivery-based business. According to Baroco, “It supports both our make-to-stock and make-to-order items. The Fresh, for instance, is a fast-cycle, made to order model, to provide the freshest possible to the customer. The Frozen, on the other hand, is made to stock to provide a quick response to customer's orders, where a day or two of shelf life has little or no impact, without carrying more inventory than necessary.”
  4. Performance: Because of Cedarlane’s multiple locations, many users are essentially remote and performance is important. Adds Baroco, “Xtuple on PostgreSQL w/Slony on Ubuntu has been performing admirably for years now.”
  5. Choice, Cross-platform compatibility: “When we started with xTuple we were a Windows shop. In fact we had one Mac user. Because that's what we knew, we quickly added screens and reports with Access and Foxpro and thanks to its ODBC compatibility, it was easy. Then we started moving to Linux. We would have never been able to do that if the main system that runs the company had us locked-in with a particular choice. Here we were running Windows, Mac and Linux seamlessly. We ended up going to all Linux in the end, but it was xTuple that gave us the power of choice. I can actually make database transactions from my Android phone, using the same application we use on the wireless terminals for the warehouse, now that's flexibility.”

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