Virtual Produce solution integrates easily with new tech to unify this century-old company’s diverse infrastructure
“You don’t always know in the beginning, when you’re trying to solve today’s business problems, what problems are waiting for you in the future.” Truer words were never spoken. These were spoken by Ryan Meier, IT Director for Loffredo Fresh Produce of Iowa. When his company shopped around for a new accounting package, they chose Silver Creek Software’s Visual Produce, in no small part because the solution is designed to change with the times.
Loffredo Fresh Produce invested in Visual Produce in 1999, which may seem like a long time ago. But for a company founded in 1892, those two decades or so are like the blink of an eye. Guisseppi Loffredo started out growing and delivering fresh produce to hotels and restaurants in downtown Des Moines, IA. Four generations later, the company has six distribution facilities in the north central U.S. It recently opened a new company, Produce Innovations, which manufactures more than 300 SKUs of value-added and fresh-cut produce. In total, Loffredo Fresh Produce and Produce Innovations have more than 250,000 square feet of space, with 180,000 square feet of it fully refrigerated.
These Days, It’s All About Integration
With software applications getting ever more sophisticated and specialized, companies tend to shy away from the one-size-fits-all infrastructure model and, instead look for solutions that “play well with others.” Visual Produce is that kind of solution, interacting with the other specialized solutions Loffredo Fresh Produce continually brings online.
“We use Visual Produce for accounting, but we’ve integrated other, more specialized systems for inventory management and routing,” says Meier, “but we do all of the core accounting and order management work in Visual Produce.
He said that Loffredo uses SQL reporting services, which ties in to Visual Produce. “From a technical standpoint, we really like that Silver Creek Software tables are pretty easy to understand. We’re able to tap into the data in Visual Produce and use it to generate the reports on our own in SQL.”
Although Silver Creek Software does make APIs available, Meier says that in most cases IT is able to connect directly to the Visual Produce databases and write reports off of those.
Visual Produce Has Its Hooks Into WMS
Like many large produce companies, Loffredo Fresh Produce has also implemented a Warehouse Management System (WMS) and specialized routing software. Meier says Silver Creek Software worked closely with his IT department to write integrations between Visual Produce and the WMS.
“Our client service representatives use Silver Creek Software’s order management capabilities. They’ll take orders in Visual Produce and then pass them on to our routing software, and then from the routing software back to Visual Produce. Once the routes have been optimized, they’ll send the orders to the WMS to be picked.”
Meier says that once staff has finished and they know exactly what they’ve picked, they’ll send those results back to Visual Produce. At that point, he says, accounting will invoice the orders and send them to the Accounts Receivable Department.”
“It’s the same things with purchase orders,” Meier says. “Our buyers interact with Visual Produce every day, in fact it’s their primary software application. They’ll take orders over the phone and, once the orders are out, they’re sent out to the WMS. Once we receive the product, those real numbers come back to Visual Produce and then to our Accounts Payable Department.”
“We outgrew our IBM system in 1998 and implemented Visual Produce shortly thereafter. Since then, our business has grown way over 300% in volume and now supports five regional warehouses in neighboring cities and states. We have upgraded to new versions several times as our growth has demanded. With Silver Creek Software continually working with our key personnel to enhance our system; we haven’t skipped a beat!”
Visual Internet and EDI Enable Customer Online Purchasing
In terms of overall benefits, Meier says the biggest advantage they see is in the automation of order processing. Customers are able to order online through Visual Internet, another Silver Creek Software product Loffredo uses. Meier estimates that about 50 percent of all customer now place their orders online or through the company’s EDI.
He says work order management is particularly important for its manufacturing business. “Being able to look at the yield and the raw materials that are going onto the floor, and monitoring the finished goods is a big hairy animal, if you will. Twenty years ago this company was using spreadsheets to track work orders. In the last few years we’ve worked with Silver Creek Software quite a bit to dial into our work order system.”
Working Together to Keep The Wheels Turning
Meier says Loffredo Fresh Produce has a very good relationship with Silver Creek Software, and not just because they work together to address his IT needs. “No software is perfect,” Meier says. “But the next best thing is being able to work closely with the solution provider to solve issues as quickly as possible.”
“We understand how the development process works. You can test code five different ways, and it works. Then you release it to production and everything seems to work. But sometimes you find those corner cases where the code doesn’t work. We always do our best to try to isolate what specific path is causing that issue. That gives the Silver Creek Software developers the ability to focus on solving the problem, rather than trying to reproduce the problem.”
Meier says it’s really all about solving the problem quickly so the company can continue to buy, sell, and ship. “I appreciate the fact that we can have business conversations with them. With some companies, we end up speaking to people who don’t really know how to speak developer language.”
Software That’s Complex, But Understandable
For all of Visual Produce’s complexity, Meier says, it is refreshingly easy to get the hang of it. That’s important to Loffredo Fresh Produce because the company depends on supervisors and managers to train staff in the company’s ERP.
“The trainers are able to demonstrate how to use Visual Produce and, since the learning curve is pretty short, staff is able to start using it right away. Everybody has their own functional areas, and the way the Visual Produce modules are broken out makes it pretty straightforward to start using it no matter what your role is. If you know how to enter a sales order, you pretty much know how to enter a purchase order too.”
Preparing for the Future
Market demands tend to impact specific companies in specific ways. As such, Meier says, it’s hard for any solution provider to anticipate the needs of every customer. “But just knowing that if we did have a situation come up the Silver Creek Software team would be able to come up with a solution, we take great comfort in that.”