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Natures Way Logo

Natures Way Marketing Ltd


Fully integrated live stock and lot traceability business management solution provides Natures Way with a significant competitive advantage.




Company background


Natures Way Marketing Ltd was originally set up in 1991 Stephen Barnes and David Langmead. The initial aim was to market locally grown produce from the Chichester Plain. Since then, the company has grown substantially to become one of the UK’s largest suppliers of fresh produce. The company now provides a wide range of fresh and prepared produce to major supermarkets, food processors and wholesale markets throughout the UK.


From its Chichester location, the company is ideally placed to take advantage of produce grown on Chichester Plain. The company is also located within easy reach of major ports of entry for fresh produce from around the world. Operating from a state of the art purpose built temperature controlled 25,000 sq ft facility; Natures Way Marketing has a superb environment to facilitate the conversion of raw basic commodities to higher value products. These are ideally suited for the retail and catering markets.


The key to the company’s success is the commitment to quality together with an innovative approach in meeting the requirements of its customers. This facilitates the production of bespoke solutions that ideally meets the needs of the client. However, the growth and success of the business placed increasing strains on the variety of systems in use within the business.


“Like most people in the fresh produce industry, we had a variety of systems and processes in place to manage the business” explained Managing Director Stephen Barnes. “However, the data was held in disparate places throughout the company. These varied from manual systems, to spreadsheets, to financial systems.  This made it extremely difficult to get updated information on products and customers. With the fast moving nature of the business coupled with the growing demands of the retailers, we could see that it was no longer viable to continue to operate in this way. What we needed was a centralised store of information that all personnel could update and access. In short, we needed one version of the truth as a means of improving company efficiency”


The Business Need

The company needed a dynamic, powerful, modern company wide business management system capable of meeting the very specific requirements of the fresh produce industry. Furthermore, the system needed to be flexible enough to meet the business procedures of Natures Way Marketing. “We have highly refined processes developed over the years that suit the way the company works” explained Natures Way IT Manager Mike Fletcher. “We didn’t really want to change or replace them with rigid methods of working dictated by a new IT system”.


The key business need was to facilitate company wide access to dynamic stock information. “This was quite an ambitious target” explained Fletcher. "We were aware that many other fresh produce companies had invested heavily over long periods of time to achieve what is the “Holy Grail” in the industry. However, few had succeeded due to the fast moving nature of the sector together with the way in which most ERP systems worked”.


Apart from live stock, the company needed full traceability of all lots to comply with customer and regulatory requirements. The system also needed to capture all quality control information at every stage of the process. From a planning viewpoint, Natures Way Marketing needed full visibility of supply and demand to facilitate more accurate product forecasting. Incoming orders had to be captured via a variety of sources including EDI. Once captured, the system was required to manage all pack house operations throughout the fulfilment process.


Natures Way Marketing also needed a solution that minimised paper handling throughout the business. “Paper handling and retrieval is an expensive overhead within any business” explains Stephen Barnes. “In an ideal world, we wanted to move towards a paperless office environment. Instead of posting invoices and purchase orders, we also wanted to e-mail them directly from the system. Apart from the handling costs, we also wanted to reduce postage while being able to instantly e-mail documents that the recipient had misplaced.”


The Selection Process

Having carefully evaluated a number of system options, Natures Way selected the Microsoft Dynamics NAV based LINKFresh® solution from Anglia Business Solutions. “We were impressed with the underlying Navision technology platform” explains Fletcher. “The two tier dynamic architecture that instantly updates the system with every transaction is particularly suited to the fast moving fresh produce industry. Three tier batch oriented systems are simply too slow to track items that can sometimes be processed through the business within a few hours”.


“We were also very impressed with the LINKFresh® fresh produce functionality designed by Anglia. The design showed an in depth understanding of the needs of the industry. The integrated .NET mobility solutions were the icing on the cake as they provided our people with instant updating and access to produce and customer information”.


The Solution


Microsoft DynamicsTM NAV provided the core of the LINKFresh® solution. The system is a fully featured enterprise resource planning (ERP) package from Microsoft. This application is now the chosen solution for over 45,000 companies worldwide.


The LINKFresh® foundation and supply chain modules were deployed to manage all of the operational aspects of the business. LINKFresh® is an official Microsoft add on application specifically designed by Anglia to meet the needs of the fresh produce sector.


The LINKFresh® foundation module contains many enhancements to the Microsoft DynamicsTM NAV inventory system to accommodate the unique requirements of a fresh produce business. Specific fresh produce inventory attributes are accommodated, for example:


- Raw materials
- Intermediate products
- Finished goods
- Produce type variety and grade
- Brand / Mark
- Size & colour
- Retailer & packaging brand
- Packaging specifications

Provision is also made for recording and tracking details such as: item & lot level attributes, traceability attributes, third party inventory & consignment inventory.


The LINKFresh® Supply Chain Module provides the tools needed to constantly balance demand with supply using the powerful planning board functionality. The Supply Chain module also accommodates replenishment rules, grower accreditation schemes, supply specifications and self billing.


The mobile applications from Anglia’s .NET based surround technology suite were implemented to provide the mobile workforce with quality control and stock movement information. The mobile applications are used to scan and monitor all stock movements in real time as they happen.


LINKFresh Handheld screen showing Mobile QCLINKFresh hand held screen showing packing applications

Fig. 1: Handheld devices showing screens for mobile QC and Packing Applications.


A powerful integrated planning board manages the demand and supply of all produce. This provides advanced notice of supply shortfalls or surpluses as circumstances change. The planning board supports both raw and packed produce as well as intermediate products.

screenshot of powerful integrated LINKFresh planning board

Fig. 2: The powerful integrated planning board functionality.

All incoming documents are scanned as they arrive and are available from one central source throughout the business. These include delivery and picking notes, QC reports, sales and purchase invoices and proof of delivery documents.

screenshot of LINKFresh showing scanned documents

Fig. 3: Electronically held scanned documents

A suite of standard and tailored reports provide accurate and timely management information on customer and product trends. The reports flag key commercial issues, as they happen, enabling Natures Way management to take early, corrective action.


The Benefits
The LINKFresh® deployment provides the company with a totally integrated business management system that reflects events as they happen. This enables the company to improve customer service by more efficient management of the supply chain process.


“Having on-line access to live stock records provides Natures Way with a major competitive advantage” says Steve Barnes. “It enables us to see what comes in and from where, who handled it, where it is now and where it went. The planning board helps us to quickly highlight shortfalls or surpluses in supply. We can now react more quickly to either situation which helps us to minimise waste.


Centralised access to the scanned documents such as QC reports, proof of delivery and supplier invoices has significantly improved efficiency while reducing administration costs. Being able to e-mail documents straight from the system has saved on handling and postage. The reports from the system provide timely and accurate information on product and customer trends.


From a financial viewpoint, I am also pleased to report that, as a result of having real time access to accurate data, we have been able to increase our gross margins by between 4% & 5%. This is a significant commercial return on investment in a low margin business. Having now experienced how the LINKFresh solution has helped us to manage in a highly demanding sector, I could not now imagine operating without it”.


Hardware & Software

Operating System
- Windows CE.NET 4.2
- Windows Server 2003
- SQL Server 2000
- SQL CE 2.0

- 802.11b networking
- Barcode technology
- DataLogic Viper.Net Handheld scanners

Development Environment

- Microsoft DynamicsTM NAV 4.0
- Visual Studio .Net 2003

Anglia Components

- LinkFresh®
- Drizzle Mobile Database replication components
- DataMaker rapid application development tools
- Flatbed Scanning Components


- Business Consultancy
- Project Management
- Windows 2003 Server Set-Up & Optimisation
- SQL 2000 Set-up & Integration
- Workstation/Handheld installation & Optimisation
- Microsoft DynamicsTM NAV & LINKFresh® Bespoke Design, Deployment & Testing
- ASP.NET Development

For further information contact:

Anglia Business Solutions Ltd
Harston Mill
CB22 7GG

Tel: 01223 873400
Fax: 01223 873401



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