The Bakery Cos. Case Study
Beth Westjohn, CPA, serves as the Controller and Vice President of Finance for The Bakery Cos. In her role, she leads the accounting team and has been instrumental in implementing financial systems in each of the plants operated by The Bakery Cos.
Driven by the ever-changing needs of their clients, The Bakery Cos. is a growing family business of baking and storage solutions, focused on anticipating and exceeding the demands of the wholesale bakery industry through trusted relationships, state-of-the-art equipment, and an untarnished record for quality. The Bakery Cos. manufacture buns, English muffins, frozen dough, artisan products and biscuits, serving 40 states east of the Rockies and the Caribbean islands.
As the business grows, so must the technology
Ms. Westjohn shared her experience working with Kerr Consulting in their initiative to modernize their financial systems. She explains, “Our director of enterprise technology, Hunter Wilkinson, and I have led the initiative. Between the two of us, we have managed the project. We had been planning the project for two years. I’ve handled most of the financial requirements, and he’s been responsible for ensuring that the needs of Operations are met.”
“This project was one of the initiatives we began a year or two ago to support future growth. As this business grows, the technology supporting the business must grow, too. We’ve grown from a small business to over $100M this year and we anticipate more, so we needed to enable that growth.”
Integrating systems and acquisitions
Four years ago, the Bakery Cos. purchased their Atlanta facility (the Masada Bakery). It was a substantially different facility than the other plants in the Bakery Cos. portfolio in that most of the other facilities serve a small number of customers with custom bread lines in a high-efficiency facility. Kerr stepped in and quickly collaborated with us to ensure our go-live was successful and on schedule. Atlanta was quite different in that it had a very large number of customers and its own direct store delivery.
Ms. Westjohn expands on the problem, “None of these facilities had integrated systems. We had lots of systems, but they were all siloed. Some had batching systems, others had financial systems that met the needs of the specific facility and we were able to do what we needed to do. However, we felt we really could gain efficiencies if we had an enterprisewide system.”
“Once we bought the Masada Bakery in Atlanta, we had a lot more data to manage. The Atlanta plant has 2000 customers and the other plants have 20- 30 each. The Atlanta business has 1000 or more invoices corresponding to 1000 or more deliveries a day. We needed to streamline our processes and enable greater scale. Knowing how hard it was to integrate this facility into the rest of our business, and knowing we want to grow further and purchase other businesses, we knew we needed a change. We wanted something to support both objectives — to enable us to consolidate the businesses and integrate acquisitions better.”
How they came to work with Kerr consulting
Ms. Westjohn explains how they came to work with Kerr Consulting, “When we began the selection process, we interviewed different vendors with our requirements. We contracted with Sage as our preferred software provider. Sage has a strong partner model, and they introduced us to Kerr Consulting, who has been with us through our entire journey. I’ve been working very closely with Laura Biddle, our Kerr implementation consultant and she has been nothing but awesome.”
No major IT project moves forward without some challenges. This is why it’s so important to have a partner that is responsive, that you can trust. The Bakery Cos.’ project was no exception however they had the right partner to assist them. In response to an issue with one of the process flows, Kerr stepped in immediately with additional experienced resources. Within 24 hours, Kerr associates were working with the Bakery team to quickly familiarize themselves with The Bakery Cos. business processes. Kerr and the team quickly resolved the issues to ensure The Bakery Company project was a success. Standardizing processes… creates synergies between the plants. We have absolutely benefited from this standardization.
Ms. Westjohn and her team agree. “Kerr stepped in and quickly collaborated with us to ensure our go-live was successful and on schedule. We’re still working through some issues, which are always part of a project like this, but it’s fiddly stuff, not business continuity issues. If it weren’t for Kerr, we wouldn’t be as far along as we are today.”
Benefits of the project
Now that the Bakery Cos. is over 60 days into the activation of their Sage Enterprise Management implementation, they have begun to reap the benefits of the project. One of the first benefits came from implementing more efficient and standardized processes at every plant. Ms. Westjohn elaborates, “There are differences of course, but there are basic processes in every plant that are fundamentally the same. Standardizing processes gives us the ability to move staff from facility to facility as needed. This creates synergies between the plants. We have absolutely benefited from this standardization.”
She adds, “We’re also getting better visibility to our people. We’ve really been able to see that we had some undiscovered gems in our staff members. We have one team member who has developed into a complete rock star and leader. He has been noticed because of his unbelievable commitment to the success of this project. He took the most challenging distribution center, and he did not give up - he was there until the job got done. It’s so exciting to see people grow and succeed like that!”
This project has given The Bakery Cos. better visibility into their business. “The data is tremendously important to us! Before we had to go through some ‘MacGyver’ machinations to get what we needed. Now that’s over - we have one place to go for data for the entire enterprise and it’s accurate in real time,” says Westjohn.
Our new system facilitates collaboration throughout the team
There have been some benefits to this project that were unanticipated. The Bakery Cos. has seen a significant increase in collaboration across teams and plants – a real bonus. Ms. Westjohn reflects, “We’ve seen collaboration benefits as well,” Ms. Westjohn says. “As a result of the integration and standardization of processes and data, we have people from our different plant locations coordinating with each other in a way they never did before. We have operations managers across plants collaborating with each other on projects and best practices. The teams share video training, and really get benefits from that - joint problem solving, leveraging training across teams, and improving operations.” As a result of the integration and standardization of processes and data, we have people from our different plant locations coordinating with each other in a way they never did before.
“The new system has given everyone the ability to see the interdependencies in the business. In the past, team members understood physically what had to happen each step of the way, but they didn’t necessarily have visibility to how those steps were reflected in our business systems. Because the system is so well integrated, and it supports both our financial needs and our operational needs - it’s a financial system and a control system. Now our staff has greater visibility into how their jobs relate to others and how their work is mirrored in the system. They understand the interdependencies between functions much better. If each step isn’t completed in the system, the next process in the operation can’t move forward. The collaboration is amazing.”
When asked about cost savings, Ms. Westjohn replies, “It’s too early to measure that, but we do expect to in a few months. We now have the visibility to better track and optimize our costs.”
She adds, “Another goal is to centralize some of our business functions beginning with purchasing. There’s a substantial opportunity for savings here. Today most of our functions are decentralized. We feel we have opportunities for savings by centralizing and optimizing purchasing and sales order management. We couldn’t do that before because we had several plants taking orders. Now it all comes from one system, and that should render savings.”
"Kerr has been great for us"
Ms. Westjohn and the team at the Bakery Cos. are very satisfied Kerr Consulting customers. She praises the team, “I could go on about how great Kerr has been for us. We have nothing but respect for every person we’ve worked with from their team. They’ve helped us with reports, workflows, system setup, technical issues, and Laura from the implementation team has been awesome. I could go on and on!”
Kerr understands that the Bakery Cos. is a family business and their business is their passion as a family. The team at Kerr Consulting is equally passionate about helping companies like the Bakery Cos. with business management systems to facilitate their growth.
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