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Aptean Food & Beverage ERP Case Study: SunWest Foods

Aptean Food & Beverage ERP Case Study: SunWest Foods


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Aptean Food & Beverage ERP Case Study: SunWest Foods

Mar 24, 2021


  • SunWest Foods Replaces Data Silos With Real-Time Business Knowledge

When president and CEO Jim Errecarte founded SunWest Foods in 1986, it was “with a phone and very little money.” Now regarded as California’s second-largest rice and wild rice producer, the company mills up to 80 tons per hour at seasonal peaks.

SunWest Foods buys rice and wild rice from 350 California farmers, then packages, distributes and sells domestically and internationally.

Today, SunWest employs 100 staff in three processing/warehouse locations in Biggs, California, and a marketing office in Davis, California. The company’s largest milling facility encloses 125,000 square feet and 30,000 metric tons of storage. It has its own rail spur, 250,000 square feet of blacktop and pollution control equipment scrubbing 240,000 cubic feet of air per minute.

“Unequivocally, the impacts of our patchwork system were many extra steps and rushed business decisions based on incomplete reports we couldn’t wait for.”

Jim ErrecartePresident and CEOSunWest Foods

The Challenge

SunWest Foods had been using a medley of disparate programs that demanded multiple manual re-entries of each order–some up to ten times–wasting time and creating errors. Staff worked weeks compiling business-pivotal reports from the patchwork of programs and formats.

Earlier information solutions at SunWest were stifling ideals of easy internal and external communication. A combination of Peachtree, TradeWinds, FileMaker, Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office Word solutions peppered through facilities and departments and gave staff mismatched electronic formats.

They had different user interfaces, data entry patterns, and report screens, which gave rise to disparate procedures from one facility to the next.

“It was all stops, starts, and new paper for every task,” says Errecarte. “We could enter the same data up to ten times. To create reports I needed, staff had to compile data from 15 to 20 reports in other programs. It’s a tribute to them they worked so hard and got it done.”

At some facilities, keeping production records required what Heather Schroeder, SunWest Vice President, Finance and Administration, terms “one constant, hectic scramble.”

“Because we receive some rice under five different names,” she explains, “it was tricky to get accurate inventory, plan restocking and blends, or promise deliveries. To guarantee deliveries, we had to tie up money in overstocks. Our conglomeration of reports and spreadsheets always needed tweaks and fixes.”

SunWest Foods main challenges included:

  • Repetitive manual data entry and processes

  • Fragmented, disparate systems

  • Different processes by each facility

“We were overdue for one cohesive, end-to-end solution to encompass purchasing, sales, production, distribution, finances and trend prediction.”

Jim ErrecartePresident and CEOSunWest Foods

The Solution

Providing three plants with transparent, easily accessible, end-to-end information required a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that encompassed every step, from predicting needs, through milling control, processing, lot control, palletizing, export and bulk shipments, organics handling and certifications, toll milling and specialty distribution requirements. The system also had to track shifting rice prices and availabilities.

After extensive research of ERP offerings from several vendors, SunWest Foods selected Aptean Food & Beverage ERP which, according to Schroeder, “was the most capable solution, and it felt the most familiar.”

“Competitors’ screens and structures looked alien and hard to learn. Aptean’s Food & Beverage ERP solution, built on Microsoft Dynamics, slips into staff’s current knowledge of the Microsoft Office productivity tools everybody uses,” she added.

“Aptean had instant answers to our business challenges. Other vendors had to retreat a few days and put on their thinking caps. Aptean already understood our business.”

Julie BatesInformation Technology ManagerSunWest Foods

The Results

With Aptean’s food-specific ERP, SunWest has achieved a range of significant benefits, including:

  • One centralized solution for a single source of truth

  • Optimized plant operations

  • More productive and empowered employees

  • Financial clarity

“Every step in the sales, marketing and distribution is more effective and more efficient,” says Schroeder. “And we’re finally on top of our distribution. In just our marketing entity, Aptean Food & Beverage ERP has saved us the cost of an extra hire,” Schroeder continues. “We’re thrilled at these new efficiencies.”

Whereas orders were once entered 6 to 10 times, Bates says, “Now, sales orders flow through every entity and department with no re-keying. One-time order entry has cut admin time by 80%, freeing up 30 staff hours per day at peak times. Errors that manual re-entry always causes are gone. Perfect orders are now the rule.”

In addition, each new efficiency in manufacturing propagates its benefits throughout the company. Staff and executives find inventory, see detailed millings for the last month, and assess each business process in real time to target changes and trim costs.

Schroeder adds, “We make smarter, more accurate purchasing decisions. We’ve cut down short, expensive mill runs from once a month to less than once a quarter. We see our levels and we pre-stock bags and rice, so orders aren’t held up.”

“Suppliers appreciate not getting the panic calls we used to make when we ran out of supplies,” continues Schroeder. “Now, while I’m on the phone with a supplier, I pull up purchase data I need and discuss it. We save lots of steps that way!”

The leadership team efficiently generates reports in Aptean Food & Beverage ERP without diverting others from their tasks. The team receives the data four weeks sooner and in user-friendly formats, which is invaluable for running a dynamic food and commodity business.

“There is no rational reason to not upgrade yesterday,” Errecarte advises CEOs coping with fractured systems. “Once Aptean Food & Beverage ERP was installed, we saw we should have done this five years ago. You’ll grow more easily with integrated ERP from Microsoft,” Errecarte continues. “It continually gains usefulness. And our total cost of ownership is in the same realm it was.”

“Working from timely information we can trust has absolutely brought in new money. My commodity buy-sell decisions are smarter now. In our business, real-time information is everything.”

Jim ErrecartePresident and CEOSunWest Foods

Ready to Supercharge Profitability in Your Food Business?

By streamlining processes, integrating data and improving efficiencies, the right food ERP system helps your business reduce costs and gives you the reliable, real-time data you need to make smarter day-to-day and strategic decisions—helping you boost profitability.

To achieve these benefits in your complex food business, you need a purpose-built food ERP solution with out-of-the-box functionality to solve your unique challenges—from food traceability and allergen management to warehousing and demand forecasting. Aptean Food & Beverage ERP is that solution.

What’s more, our specialized food software ecosystem is supported by teams of in-house experts, with thousands of proven implementations under their belts. So we can be an expert partner throughout your digital transformation journey.

To start enhancing your food business with tailored software, contact our experts today to see the software in action or get pricing information.

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If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, we’d love to help.

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