ERP Evolution at Silver Spring Foods
Ellis Huntsinger founded Huntsinger Farms, Inc. and its subsidiary Silver Spring Foods, Inc. (SSF) in 1929 when he started growing horseradish and other vegetable crops on a few acres of land near a fresh water spring south of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In the early days, Ellis prepared and bottled horseradish by hand in an old milk shed behind his house and sold it locally to help augment his income during Wisconsin’s cold winter months. Huntsinger Farms now grows horseradish in a five to seven year rotation with corn, soybeans, snap beans and other forage crops on over 9,000 acres of prime Wisconsin and Minnesota farmland. Silver Spring horseradish is the number one retail brand in the United States.
The world has changed a lot since 1929 and so has the way SSF runs its business. SSF recognized that its current Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) system could not handle its current business requirements and would be unable to evolve as the company continued to grow. While the incumbent system was initially presented to SSF as an ERP module designed for the food manufacturing industry, the company quickly realized that it required custom programming for functionality, which was excessively expensive and complicated. The system was slow and inflexible, and complex procedures were required to accomplish basic, everyday tasks. The standard built-in functionalities were minimal, thus investments in additional functionality, such as internal reporting, were required to keep the business running.
SSF evaluated its needs and requirements. The ability to support complex pricing structures, a solid and efficient MRP module, and the ability to tie into third party SQL based manufacturing control systems were priorities in a new system. Additionally, SSF determined that they were looking for a system that: tied together customer service, accounting, manufacturing, purchasing, and shipping within a single tool; had strong data mining and reporting functionality; was configurable without customization; had strong sustainable technical support capabilities; and allowed them to pre-define and maintain their annual ERP budget. After comprehensive research SSF narrowed the prospective vendor list to six providers. DEACOM, which required no customization, stood out as the only true single solution presented.
“DEACOM promotes their system as being configurable, but the fact is DEACOM will not introduce customized programming into the system. DEACOM was the only system we saw that met all of our requirements without needing to be customized. As a result of this, DEACOM was able to provide us with a ‘Not to Exceed’ implementation quote, which no other competitor was even willing to discuss,” said Noah Wallace, CIO at Silver Spring Foods.
Another benefit of installing a single, configurable system is the predictable quality and cost of ongoing IT support and maintenance.
As with any IT implementation, there were a number of different challenges faced by the team and a number of concerns that the client had regarding the mapping of previous business processes to the system.
“At the time of the review and implementation we were accustomed to a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that offered a table based location system. We had to accept what we perceived as a shortcoming of the system in order to move forward," said Wallace. "It didn’t take us long running DEACOM to realize that the table based location system was not necessary to our process. Deacom challenged us to think differently about our business process. They did not simply do as we asked; they reviewed our requests and challenged them where necessary. That process made us a stronger company.”
Due to the previous multiple system set-up, data conversion proved to be the most difficult part of the implementation, requiring Deacom and SSF to spend nearly six months mapping out the old ERP data structure.
“The data conversion task was far more complicated then both parties anticipated, but Deacom stuck to their original quote for the project and that meant a lot to our business,” said Wallace. “The day we went live, there were zero missed production orders out of over 6,000 and one delayed shipment, which we believe to be user- error, out of over 3,300. Deacom put a team on-site with us and were able to resolve any issues on the spot.”
SSF now has instant and real time access to every facet of its business, which greatly impacts the management team’s ability to make decisions based on timely and accurate information. Additionally, SSF has seen a significant improvement in inventory control, purchasing through MRP, Scheduling and Production. The company has seen a reduction in dollars lost due to material consumption issues that have now been resolved due to greater visibility. They now run a tighter inventory system because the MRP system allows it to fine tune material purchases to match current production needs along with forecasted sales and production schedules.
“Tighter inventory and reduced material loss all translate into lower costs. Lower costs allow us to quote new products competitively. That yields real dollars in increased sales,” said Wallace. “When we started the process we were looking for an ERP system but we ended up with so much more then we hoped for. Deacom works with us so we can spend our time on more effective business efforts. DEACOM has become an indispensible tool in every facet of our business.”