Heart healthy and business savvy

La Tortilla Factory kicks product innovation and efficiency up a notch with new business software.

Having one system to drill down from actual sales orders to raw material receipts simplifies tracing and the entire process at La Tortilla Factory. The bill of materials screen serves as a window into ingredients, which can be tracked to their sources. Source: Deacom, Inc.

Three decades ago, the Tamayo family imported a piece of its Mexican heritage to the rolling hills of Sonoma County, CA, with the start of La Tortilla Factory. Today, the business flourishes, and traditional flour tortillas are just a small fraction of the company’s many specialty baked goods. In 1997, La Tortilla Factory was the first of its kind to introduce fat-free and low-carbohydrate tortillas nationally.

Before La Tortilla’s products hit national food stores, the company delivered exclusively to local grocers, creating a high volume of sales transactions with small-quantity orders. The baker used three separate software systems to manage its business: one for invoices, accounts receivable and sales reporting; another for financial reporting; and a third for formulation, inventory and purchasing. This disconnected system setup broke down as the company took on larger-scale customers with fewer sales transactions and orders with greater quantities.

“Each unit in itself was functional, but the system together was fairly rigid and couldn’t handle our entire business once we went national,” says company CFO Stan Mead.

Purchasing and sales order entry weren’t integrated, and checks and invoice payments were all keyed into the system as payables. Subsequently, reports on the same data within a two-week time period often produced different results. In addition, the company’s recall procedure “was that of a paper trail.” It could take several employees the better part of a day to locate a particular batch and track it through inventory and distribution.

“Without integration, we had difficulty importing data from one database and entering it into another,” says Mead. “Manufacturing and distributing food nationally demand software that uses less paper and allows us to have better control and understanding of our business data. We had to establish process controls, and we knew we could do that with a user-friendly, Internet-accessible system that integrates sales, purchasing, production, inventory control, accounting and reporting.” La Tortilla Factory also needed to handle formulation and lab management, and have a Web portal for customer and remote sales access.

From a field of 56 food-specific ERP vendors, a team of 10 employees selected DEACOM ERP software in June 2006. “Our level of sophistication from an IT standpoint was very primitive,” says Mead. The company knew how to invoice, take orders and pay the bills. “Other programs made the assumption that we already knew how things should work on a larger scale. For us, that was foreign.”

La Tortilla Factory chose to implement the ERP system in two phases. Finance, purchasing and sales order entry were installed three months after the software was selected; production, inventory, lab and formulation functionality went live in early 2008.

Today Mead reports the company has noticed a sharp increase in efficiency with the single, integrated system. “Our receiving and purchasing processes have become very precise. With the new ERP system, there’s a requirement for accuracy and consistency in those processes. Because of that, we’ve been able to better define our employees’ jobs.”

Having one system to drill from recipes down to sales orders cuts the length of La Tortilla’s recall process in half.  “In a matter of hours, we were able to trace back sources of ingredients,” says Mead. But the most valuable aspect of implementing the DEACOM ERP system has been the resolution of data integrity and visibility issues. 

For more information, Susan Shaw, 610-971-2278, ext. 15,

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