Last month, ERP provider SAP hosted 15,000 customers, partners and journalists at its annual user conference, SAPHIRE, in Orlando, FL. Although the software has been known to be difficult, time-consuming and expensive to install, Richard Ogburn, SAP vice president for small- to medium-sized enterprise solution center reports that the company has been addressing this issue with a variety of implementation aids.

SAP Turns its Focus to Food

Ogburn discussed SAP's investments in implementation templates. For core applications, those used identically in most industries, Ogburn says SAP's Ready-To-Run program is targeted at getting a company to the pilot stage in weeks. He estimated that a customer could go live for core applications in as little as three months using the Ready-To-Run program.

Ogburn also expressed SAP's understanding of extending implementation aids to address specific industries. For example, SAP partner KBMS has extended its product offerings, implementation tools and methodologies to serve the food industry. Unique among software providers, KBMS' management team consist of executives with operational experience in the food industry including the former managing director for Liboza holdings NV, a multinational beverage group; the former president of Tropicana-Dole Beverages International; the former co-managing director of the Sunnyland Group, a European beverage multinational; and the former vice president of a dairy company.

SAP quotes impressive implementation times and cost, but these must be compared to other vendors' accomplishments in a specific business to be meaningful. In addition, while rapid implementation is important, any long-term trade-offs in running the business must be recognized and weighed against the objective of a rapid implementation.

Bakery Sees Impressive Results from SAP Implementation

Although not presenting at the SAP users meeting, Tasty Baking Company Chief Information Officer Autumn Bayles reported impressive results using SAP products. The cake maker is now enjoying lower finished goods inventories, decreased returns due to fresher products and less product going to what Bayles called "thrift" or discount retailers who take product nearing shelf life limit to sell at a reduced price. According to Bayles, these gains were derived from a better connection between production and demand that considers current and future inventories before manufacturing is planned. She stated that the company is now focusing upstream, attempting to reduce both work-in-process and ingredient inventories to achieve similar efficiencies with working capital.

Marketing to Teens under Review

The Federal Trade Commission is preparing to report to Congress by July 1 on new rules governing marketing of food products to teens. Among the comments submitted to the agency was an appeal from the dairy industry to exempt healthy food products, like milk, from marketing limits. Industry officials say it's one thing to limit promotional activities on over-consumed beverages and snacks that add calories but little or no nutrition, and quite another to limit advertising for milk and other healthy foods that are under-consumed by kids. Congress is under increasing pressure to take action to reduce what some health and consumer advocates see as an alarming increase in obesity and related health problems.

Aseptic Bags Tap into Foodservice

Restaurateur-turned processor Charles Dale believes shelf-stable foodservice products are poised to replace frozen and refrigerated ingredients, and his new Stock-in-a-Box soup stocks will ride that wave into the nation's restaurants.Full story.

29th Annual Plant Construction Survey:
Measuring Up to a Higher Standard

Basic plant operating standards are now coupled with mandates to reduce costs and increase innovation, raising the stakes for all manufacturers.Full story.

Masters of Innovation

Process and product innovation-and engineering's role in mitigating its risk-formed the subtext of this year's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo.Full story.

Set Your Sites on Incentives

Revitalized market access, quality labor, lucrative enticements, weather-site selection isn't what it used to be.Full story.

Where Technology Meets Technique

Human problem-solving abilities are central to changeover improvement, but don't shortchange technology's role in slashing downtime.Full story.

People, Plant and Industry News

Sara Lee Food & BeverageappointedBrad Patricksenior vice president of human resources. He joins Sara Lee Food & Beverage from The Gillette Co.

At the cost of $20 million,Polymer Packagingis moving to a 75,000-sq.-ft. facility in Massillon, OH. This facility will be modified to house manufacturing operations and an additional 10,000 sq. ft. will be constructed to accommodate corporate offices and quality and R&D labs. Polymer will be adding three additional three-layer and seven-layer blown film co-extrusion lines to augment its current capabilities in the new manufacturing operation.

Camden Culinary, a subsidiary of theSchwan Food Company, acquiredHoliday Foods, a Hollywood, FL-based wholesale manufacturer of specialty hors d'oeuvres. Holiday employs more than 100 people and operates an 80,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in Hollywood.

Hassan Nathahas been named chief financial officer forJones Soda Co. Natha joins the company with more than 20 years of public and private company experience in finance.

MeadWestvacois acquiringSaint-Gobain Calmar, a manufacturer of plastic dispensing and spraying systems, for $710 million in cash.

Construction ofPrater-Sterling'snew Test & Toll lab in Bolingbrook, IL, is nearing completion. The 8,640-sq.-ft. facility will be divided into two separate units for a more modern and well-equipped testing environment.