Case Study: Chocolate Potpourri
Over the course of twenty years, candy manufacturer Chocolate Potpourri grew their inventory list from a single item to dozens of them, all of which had to adhere to strict FDA regulations. The growth coupled with ever-more stringent FDA standards meant inventory control was now a major focus. A new software program was critical, but being a small company they needed a sophisticated solution that was within their small-business budget. SYSPRO was that solution. The company purchased SYSPRO and has since regained control of their inventory, reduced overstock through automated ordering and reporting processes and significantly improved customer service.
It began with Marcia Gordon baking toffee in her kitchen. Word got around how delicious it was so she started to find places to sell it. In 1980, a pastry chef at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, who was also a family friend, brought Marcia a box of truffles and taught her how to make them. They took off, and Marcia began selling her creations to party consultants.
In 1983, Chocolate Potpourri became incorporated, and in 1989 the company moved, literally, out of the house and into commercial space. Soon, more of the family became involved, led by Richard Gordon, Marcia’s son, who is now the company president. Today, Chocolate Potpourri produces 22 different varieties of the truffles as well as toffee and other specialty chocolates. They boast 20 employees and also manufacture their Veritas and How Sweet It IsGlenview, IL. Business is conducted through multiple channels, including specialty food stores and catalogue houses, mail order, the Chocolate Potpourri website and private label manufacturing. brands out of their facilities in
Chocolate Potpourri had been using a rudimentary distribution software package that provided absolutely no data relating to the manufacturing side of the business. It also required hours of labor for exporting data for reports and importing it back into the system. In addition, ingredient inventory levels were maintained on a “hit and miss” basis with inventory levels calculated visually, a procedure very prone to error.
Chocolate Potpourri relies heavily on orders placed on the company’s Web site by individuals as well as other companies. The procedure to enter and fill the orders was cumbersome. Orders were placed via email, necessitating their manual re-entry. The procedure was time-consuming and also prone to error.
The above inefficiencies prompted the company to seek an ERP solution with a single, integrated database that provided up-to-date, real-time data for utilization by accounting, manufacturing and distribution and for the purposes of efficient management decision-making. Another goal was to replace paper with electronic documents and eliminate manual data entry.
Based on those requirements, the company selected SYSPRO software to run on their Windows 2003 and Windows 2000 Small Business operating systems. They installed an eCommerce site built on the .NET platform that allowed for authorization of credit cards as well as other XML-based capabilities.
Each of the 22 truffles produced represents a unique job and Bill of Materials, and the SYSPRO module was implemented to help the company streamline each. Additionally, as an FDA-regulated company, the SYSPRO Lot Traceability module allowed the company to track the history – and future – of every ingredient coming into the warehouse.
Today, Chocolate Potpourri is gaining the efficiencies of an integrated, real-time database. Data need only be entered once, and it is immediately available to all departments. What’s more, this same data is available to the company’s Worldship Shipping System, so that shipment information is automatically entered and totally reliable. The result has also been a dramatic improvement in customer service thanks to a reduced order-to-delivery cycle.
The company also instituted a new feature where customers have the ability go onto the website and select each truffle individually and save the order so that it can be replicated later. “We allow the customer to recreate the candy store experience,” says Gordon. He goes on to note that, because of the automated ordering process, the first time the company sees Web orders is either on the shop floor or in the shipping department.
The SYSPRO software allows Chocolate Potpourri to automatically adjust inventory levels and sends email alarms to management when ingredient safety levels are reached. Production lines need never be halted due to the lack of a key ingredient. In addition, the Forecasting module gives the company a window into future, allowing stock adjustments to be made accordingly.
The results are indicative that a relatively small company can utilize big-time technology to enable it to compete on an equal footing with larger competitors and, at the same time, enhance customer service.
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