ERP system helps multi-sited pasta maker consolidate IT systems and streamline EDI

Following numerous expansion and an acquisition, Dakota Growers Pasta Company -- now the third largest pasta manufacturer in North America -- recently found itself with three non-integrated systems incapable of supplying management with consistent, reliable reporting. Hence, executives and IT managers began searching for a full-featured ERP system that could seamlessly handle Dakota Growers' present and future growth.

Cooperatively owned by more than 1,100 durum wheat farm families, Dakota Growers has pasta production facilities in Carrington, N.Dak. and New Hope, Minn., as well as its own durum mill attached to the pasta plant in Carrington. It also operates two company-owned warehouses and uses eight external public warehouses throughout the country. Although the process of making pasta is fairly basic -- grinding durum wheat into semolina; mixing water to form dough, extruding and drying various pasta shapes -- the undertaking becomes more complex when special shapes, ingredients and packaging configurations are required. As a result, the entire process at Dakota Growers is integrated from field to plate, allowing the company to monitor all processes from seeding and harvesting to product delivery.

However, "When we found out that we were acquiring another company, it was obvious that out current software could not handle a multi-site situation," recalled Scott Wiest, EC manager with Dakota Growers. "Our legacy system wouldn't have been able to handle the transactions, especially the e-commerce side. And we also had a time crunch - an inflexible deadline to be up and running on our system."

After evaluating the major manufacturing systems, Dakota Growers chose QAD MFG/PRO because of its value, customization capabilities, and quick installation time. Phase I of the implementation -- inventories, order entering, shipping and electronic data interchange (EDI) e-commerce -- was fully operational in less than 100 days. Phase II included financials and distribution. Starting with MFG/PRO version 8.6c, the company migrated to version 9.0 in September 1999. The system runs on HP9000 L-class boxes with 100 personal computers.

With the assistance of QAD Global Services and working with the QAD Consumer Products Development Group, Dakota Growers developed custom EDI gateways to connect with the many warehouses that don't have ERP systems, thus allowing the company to use EDI documents to communicate shipping instructions to the warehouse.

After the warehouse ships an order, a shipping advice notice is returned via EDI and the order is invoiced and closed in MFG/PRO. This process is duplicated in the movement of distribution orders via EDI documents.

Dakota Growers also customized its order process, again using QAD Global Services. An incoming purchase order received via EDI goes through a verification process that compares incoming purchase order information to against information stored in MFG/PRO. This process checks pricing, promotions, pallet configuration, weight, cubing and delivery date lead times. Any variances are reported via e-mail to the customer service representative that is assigned to the customer.

For Dakota Growers, the immediate and crucial benefit of the QAD solution was that it allowed for consolidation of three IT systems into one, with resulting simplification and reliability of transactions and reporting. And, Wiest adds, "If we acquire other facilities, they can be added very easily."

Overall satisfaction with the solution is high, he continued. Customer service representatives are now able to handle an account or a warehouse without the involvement of third-party logistics. Processing orders takes far fewer phone calls and e-mails. This efficiency has freed the customer service representative to focus on providing the highest possible service without the extra work of manually reviewing each order.

Dakota Growers will be implementing QAD's MRP/DRP modules soon and is reviewing plans to migrate to QAD MFG/PRO eB in the near future. The company plans eventually to take advantage of e-business developments within the food products industry. For instance, large grocery chains that purchase the company's pasta brands are using the Internet for purchasing from their suppliers. "I know that when we move ahead, it will be with QAD," says Wiest. "And we'll be looking closely at QAD eQ."