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Valley Grown Salads logo

LINKFresh provides VGS with significant efficiency gains

Company background

Valley Grown Salads (VGS), based at Roydon in Essex, supply locally grown and imported tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers to three leading supermarkets. The company occupies a 30,000 sq ft pack house in a 2.5 acre site in Roydon with a further 10 acres of glasshouse in Lea Valley and 600 acres of growing area in South East Spain. This ensures all year round supply of produce to their customers. VGS operate its own fleet of refrigerated transport and are LEAF Marque accredited.

The Business Need

The main business need was to use information technology as an aid to productivity throughout the business. VGS operates in the high volume low margin fast moving fresh produce sector. Its legacy systems were struggling to cope with the regulatory and traceability issues now demanded of the food industry.

As a result, the company operated a variety of disparate paper and electronic applications to manage the movement of produce throughout the organisation. This led to significant duplication of data as information was manually transferred between systems. Apart from the increasing administration costs, it was becoming difficult to gain access to useful management information on customers and products.

The ideal scenario was to have rapid access to stock information in real time. This would provide the management team with useful customer and product trend information. In addition, there was a need to monitor the performance of growers as a means of improving quality. Furthermore, the company wished to reduce waste and increase efficiency as a means of competing in a highly competitive sector.

The Solution

Having carried out an extensive market evaluation, VGS chose the Microsoft Dynamics NAV based LINKFresh™ solution from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Anglia Business Solutions. The solution encompassed the LINKFresh modules for Foundation, Supply Chain & Logistics during the initial phase.

These were augmented during the second phase by the integration of advanced mobility applications. These dynamically recorded all stock transactions as the produce moved through the supply chain. The specific system elements are as follows:  

Sales Order Processing

 The previous method of sales order processing represented a major challenge to the VGS administrative team. The EDI interface runs over a standard 56k modem and the order data collected needed to be manually extracted and re-keyed to manually managed spreadsheets, order sheets and pallet labelling. This resulted in up to 2 hours of lost time each day. 

Each of the 8 daily orders could combine up to 14 different products and the quantities required. This potentially produced 112 order lines.  As there was no interface from the EDI system with any of VGS’s systems these were re-entered manually to the required areas of the business. It included Weekly Stock Sheets, Production Orders Board, Production Print Labels, Production Order Sheets, Distribution Load Sheets, and Distribution Load Tickets. Excluding the needs of the technical & QC departments it involved potentially 672 manual order line entries per day.

This highly labour intensive error prone manual process was replaced by the sophisticated order handling facilities within the LINKFresh suite. The solution directly links to the EDI system and a single data entry automatically disseminates information throughout the company. This includes the whole cycle of forecast, procurement, goods receipt, stock, inventory updates, EDI, manual sales order processing, production, packing orders, labelling orders, transportation load and distribution planning.  

The integrated EDI solution handles all the customer cross references and item EAN no’s. Any errors on EDI files e.g. incorrect EAN no’s, can be viewed by VGS in an error log within the system. VGS can also directly create EDI invoices for customers where appropriate. This happens seamlessly in the background and creates an EDI file which meets both Kewill Invfil8 and Invfil9 file standards  

Stock Control

A key element of the VGS Procurement, Sales and Production cycle was the VGS Stock Control Sheet.  This Microsoft Excel based system was used to collate all of the required operational stock information for each week. It included Opening Stock (taken as an actual stock count each day at 12.00pm), Work in Progress, Due in Tomorrow, Net Total, Daily EDI Order Totals and Net Daily Stock Balance. 

While the sheets provide the required critical operational information for each week, it was a static information grid. There was no integration with any of VGS’s other data systems and had to be updated manually. The management of this spreadsheet took up a significant part of each employee’s day. In addition, daily rotation checks maintained the proper usage and cycle of stock from the racking system.  Again this information was not system based and required constant manual intervention.

Under the previous system, goods were received at 4 loading bays at the Nazelow Nursery. Each vehicle carried Goods Received documentation, grower’s tickets and delivery notes. These were checked against the daily expected receipts schedule. Produce was then passed through their initial QC inspection for acceptance. Once received, items were placed within the racking system in accordance with the rotational requirements and appropriately labelled with manually produced colour labels. These recorded the day, date and quantities received. When racked, the Warehouse white board was updated with the location, and quantities.  Subsequently the information was transferred to paper based stock forms. The whole process was unwieldy, highly labour intensive and lacked company wide transparency.   

Anglia deployed its LINKFresh Warehouse Management module to replace all manual and paper based systems.

The Microsoft Dynamics NAV based LINKFresh Mobile Warehouse Management solution was implemented to refine this vital element of the supply chain. The mobile applications handled produce receipting, pallet enquiries, quality control (QC) and consumption.  

The Receipting Module handles the intake of goods from a PO receipt. Details such as Packaging Specification,   Unit of Measure and Quantity Received are captured. For ease of use, rather than the user having to select from a long list of packaging specifications, the solution prompts for the entry of outer, inner and quantity. It then automatically creates the specification record.

In addition the user also has the ability to print pallet labels. This module allows an operative to receipt goods into store. It also provides an overview of outstanding and receipted deliveries per day.

The Pallet Enquiry Module allows for a given pallet barcode to be scanned which displays a summary of the pallet information. The information is dynamically extracted from the appropriate Item Card within the central NAV LINKFresh solution. From here, pallet labels can be reprinted as required. 

The Mobile QC Module enables the users to perform Quality Control procedures for goods intake and also on final dispatch. The module has been configured to perform any required combination of QC tests depending on the product and/or the customer.  

The Consumption Module records consumption from the grader or production lines in real time. Waste is recorded against product going to market and product checked back into stock. For a given pack job, the user can repeatedly record pallets (either full or partial) consumed for the selected pack job.  The results recorded are dynamically updated in the central NAV LINKFresh solution with full traceability being maintained for all pallets consumed in this way.

Open Price Trading

VGS send small quantities of produce to market for market trade at open price. Although making up a small percentage of their total business, it was time consuming to administer as recording was manual.   

Today the LINKFresh solution provides a sophisticated but easy to use application for the open price sale of consignments to the market trade. This enables VGS to manage, monitor and report profitability on all of its market trade operations. Additionally designated suppliers can also supply VGS on and open price basis

The recently deployed LINKFresh Trading Board was designed to show all inbound and outbound stock movements and current stock position on a single screen.  It also facilitates the buying and selling of stock directly from the main screen.

LINKfresh Trading Board

The purchaser/buyer can see all rolling stock values for any given time period from this one screen. The layout of this screen can be configured as required. It enables the user to choose from pre-defined item sets including sales, purchasing, production, and transfer or forecasting data to assemble an accurate overview of the current stock position using live data.

Produce items are summarised on screen with details presented underneath as the user clicks on the relevant cell. The user can trade directly from this screen. Buying and selling from here will create provisional orders. These are amalgamated and can be turned into firm sales/purchase orders later in the day.

“Visibility of dynamic stock information on the trading screen has provided us with a very useful aid in reducing waste” explains Ian Parrot. “We can immediately see when we have to react to potential stock surpluses and reduce our write off exposure”.

Production

Prior to the introduction of the LINKFresh suite, the Production Department had no software based operational system. A paper based procedure used a combination of weekly stock sheets and disparate forms. Manual recording processes were used for recording of warehouse picks, raw materials, produce consumption, outputs of finished product and traceability information.   Issuing instructions to the warehouse and pack lines while managing the whole process was highly labour intensive.

To meet the production challenges within VGS, the standard LINKFresh Supply Chain and Operations Granules were deployed for the full data capture and automation of the production cycle. These replaced the various paper based processes with a single fully integrated solution.

With LINKFresh, the Production Manager can see all of the day’s orders from the Production Summary screen. This information can be for a single day or customer or a range of days or customers. The Production Manager can cut and dice the information as suits him so he can make the best decision on production loading.

He can create packing orders directly from this screen and can overwrite the suggested quantities to incorporate pack-ahead’s or to accommodate inaccurate proposed quantities. Specific Lots used can be recorded in ‘Real time’ or in a batch posting.   Second class output and any waste is also captured at this stage. Posting the packing order consumes the stated product and produces finished goods which can either be immediately allocated to a pallet or allocated at a later stage. Gang labour can also be attributed to the packing order at this stage.

The complete system has refined the production process, eliminated much of the paperwork and provided company wide visibility of order progress. In addition, it has provided the production team with a degree of agility that was difficult to achieve with the previous systems.  

Transport Management

VGS are required to deliver daily to between 4 and 12 depots.  They undertake the haulage of both their own and 3rd Party produce. This involves consolidating incoming loads and re-distributing as required and using customers own transport for back hauls.

Previously all logistics were planned by hand and processed manually with items allocated to loads by destination. Standard documentation was issued with each vehicle including Vehicle Load Sheet, Delivery Notes, Proof of Delivery and Drivers Manifest.

The LINKFresh Logistics Module was deployed to meet the requirements of VGS providing for all load planning and transport schedule requirements.

In operation, the Transport Manager can see all of the ‘Requests for Transport’ from the sales team.  They can be grouped by day, by pick up point, by ship to customer/address etc and the days’ transportation activity can be planned.

‘Loads’ are created and represent one vehicle journey, but can comprise of multiple pick ups and/or multiple drops.  Pallets are assembled from the day’s production. Specific Lots used are tracked onto the pallets as well as pallet type and any other packaging. The days’ loads that were created by the Transport Manager have the pallets allocated to them as well as vehicle/Driver details

“The integrated LINKFresh logistics system has greatly improved how we manage our delivery processes” said Ian Parrott. “Better planning means fewer road journeys. This has minimised our expensive fuel costs while helping the environment”.  

Finance

To manage their financial system needs, the VGS finance department previously used the Intellect Financial System by Cognition. This provided base level General Ledger and Sales and Purchase handling. However, the system was not integrated with any of VGS’s other systems or processes.

This meant that all input to the system was performed manually.  Previously, an invoice run was performed 3 times a week and then repeated for the EDI system.  It was estimated that an additional 5-6 hours per week were consumed in the re-keying of invoices.

The implementation of the powerful Microsoft Dynamics NAV Core Financials totally eliminated all requirements for duplicate entry. The financial solution has also provided comprehensive reporting and management accounts information in real time. This covers all areas of VGS’s operation including Purchase, Sales, Production, Technical, QC and Distribution.

Having a world class financial application at the core of the LINKFresh suite has provided VGS with a powerful management tool in a highly competitive market.  By being seamlessly integrated with the operational processes, vital product and customer profitability information is available from the system. 

The Benefits

The Microsoft Dynamics NAV based LINKFresh solution from Anglia Business Solutions has led to significant efficiency benefits across VGS’s entire organisation. 

The introduction of the Warehouse Management and Trading Board element has enabled VGS to significantly reduce wastage and to manage stock more efficiently. Ian Parrott, VGS Operations Director comments, “The automation of the capture of data required to manage stock control was a key win for the organisation.  Replacing the VGS Stock Control Sheet has completely removed the requirement for duplicate data entry. Consumption of stock is automated through the mobile solution so the stock situation is always live on the system.

Our Stock Controller previously spent 25% of his time manually managing the Excel Stock Control Sheet. The introduction of the LINKFresh solution has eliminated this workload. This has allowed greater focus on the management of supply and demand resulting in an improved customer service”.

Ian Parrott continues, “VGS also wanted to make its operations as environmentally friendly as possible.  The LINKFresh Transport Management and Logistics Module allows us to ensure that every time one of our vehicles takes to the road, its load is optimised for the maximum number of deliveries using the most efficient route possible.  This allows VGS to use fuel economically which is a major concern with the ever-increasing diesel costs. It also helps to reduce our impact on the environment with fewer journeys.”

The introduction of the totally integrated end to end LINKFresh solution has also provided VGS with immediate and easy access to performance data, and with time historic data, as each day, week, month and year of purchase, sales and invoicing data is entered.  Previously this was hugely labour intensive using spreadsheets. VGS can now efficiently monitor supplier performance, supermarket mandatory contribution statistics or consignment profitability data. It also facilitates the production of management information on sales and purchasing trends as well as identifying potential up-sell opportunities. 

Ian Parrott summarises, “Overall the LINKFresh solution from Anglia has enabled us to greatly improve efficiency across the company. We have reduced administration costs, improved stock management, refined our pack house operations and become more environmentally friendly”.     

Commenting on the success of the deployment Managing Director Jimmy Russo commented “Changing our whole internal way of operating to become more efficient was never going to be an easy task. However, the partnership between David Williams, VGS IT Manager and Anglia worked tirelessly to achieve an excellent business led solution that was delivered within budget. We are now very well placed to compete in a very demanding sector using LINKFresh as a commercial aid”.     

Product & Services

Hardware & Software

- HP DL380 Server

- Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003

- Microsoft SQL Server 2003

- Back-Up Exec SQL Agent

- Microsoft Dynamics NAV Ver 4.03

- LINKFresh V1 – LINKFresh Foundation, Supply Chain and Logistics Modules

- LINKFresh Mobility Suite

 

Services

- I.T Infrastructure Audit & Wireless Survey

- Business Consultancy

- Project Management

- Windows 2003 Server Set-Up & Optimisation

- SQL 2000 Set-up & Integration

- Microsoft DynamicsTM NAV & LINKFresh® Bespoke design, Deployment & Testing

- LINKFresh Mobility suite – design & deployment

 

For Further information contact:
Anglia Business Solutions Ltd
Harston Mill
Harston
Cambridge
CB22 7GG
UK

Tel: +44 (0)1223 873400
Fax: +44 (0)1223 873401
Email: linkfresh@angliabs.com

 



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