About 60 miles west of Columbus, Ohio, situated along the banks of the Muskingum River, lies a picturesque town of 25,000 known as Zanesville, Ohio. Rich with history, Zanesville was a notorious a hub for bootlegging activity during the Prohibition Era. These days, the town is known for a far tamer vice—it’s home to the New Bloomer Candy Company, which was founded in 1879 and has been delighting children and adults of all ages with their signature chocolates and candies ever since. A few years ago, New Bloomer realized there was one area of operations in need of significant modernization: their legacy computer system and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
As a small, seasonal business, New Bloomer’s orders vary greatly depending on the time of year. From January to September, bagged candies are in high demand, while chocolates are the most popular products during the holiday season. In order to ensure they have enough resources to fill orders from one season to the next, the company must diligently monitor inventory levels and compare them against the lead time of the orders they receive. If there isn’t enough product on hand, employees must be able to determine how much they need to import from other suppliers, or what ingredients they need to purchase in order to manufacture additional products on-premise.
In the past, the homegrown system New Bloomer used did a poor job helping staff meet this challenge. Knowing they needed a better way to run the company’s manufacturing and planning processes, New Bloomer began to evaluate new ERP solutions and chose Epicor Tropos.
One of the biggest immediate benefits of Epicor Tropos was a vast improvement in employee communication. New Bloomer has two separate locations: they repackage imported candies at one facility, while chocolate products are manufactured at another facility five miles away. Both facilities need to communicate effectively in order for things to run smoothly. In the past, however, all communication took place via phone, which slowed things down significantly. With no access to crucial data, such as how much of a certain product was on hand, employees had to rely on managers to look up the information they needed in the system.
With a new ERP system, all employees have real-time access to all information they need. This includes work orders, current inventory levels and when orders placed for additional ingredients are expected to arrive, which lets staff know when they’ll have enough materials in stock to fill customer orders.
The ability to view all of this data has helped improve the New Bloomer’s relationship with their customers. Employees can now provide up-to-date information on work orders at any given time, so customers calling in for details can be immediately informed of any shortages or delays. The system also helps New Bloomer avoid any repercussions from shortages by allowing them to easily substitute one product for another so a sale can still be completed.
Another significant benefit is the system’s lot control abilities. In the past, racks of outdated products would pile up because New Bloomer’s old system wasn’t able to alert them when items were near their expiration date, which cost the company anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 per year. Now, Epicor Tropos delivers two sets of reports periodically: one for items that have expired, and one for those that will expire soon. This allows New Bloomer staff to quickly move products that are close to expiry so they don’t lose money, and has greatly reduced the amount of products they have sitting in their warehouse at any given time.
As a result, the company was able to reduce their inventory from $1.6 million at the end of 2011 to $1.2 million at the end of 2012, largely due to Epicor Tropos. “The system helps us control our inventory better so we’re not bringing in truckloads of product we don’t need,” says New Bloomer Controller Michael Montgomery. “We’re doing a much better job there.”
With Epicor Tropos, New Bloomer has not only modernized company operations and made their business more efficient—they’ve also given their employees greater control over their jobs, which has led to a renewed sense of pride.
“[The staff] own their jobs because they know where the information is and they can look it up themselves,” Montgomery says. “We’ve changed the culture here, just with this new ERP system, because now people have more knowledge than they’ve ever had.”
Case study by Victoria Garment, courtesy of Software Advice, a trusted resource for buyers of MRP systems