With a long-standing history in the fresh produce industry,
leading wholesaler Fresh Direct modernised its ageing business
management system with Microsoft Dynamics AX in December 2003 to
maximise competitive advantage
In what is historically a high volume, low margin industry, the
new solution is improving business performance while making it
easier for Fresh Direct's growers and customers to conduct business
with the company.
According to Bruce Crossan, Fresh Direct Ltd General Manager for
Administration, Finance and IT, outdated technology, inability to
handle growth, and inadequate business information were the main
drivers that prompted the company to replace its legacy ERP
"We needed a stable ERP platform that could carry us for the
next ten years without having to worry about replacing the
software. In such a competitive and ever-changing trade, it's
important to stay focused on running the core business and gaining
operational efficiencies rather than worry about the IT
"We also want to provide growers with the best value proposition
given the industry's low margins."
For the future, Crossan says Fresh Direct is planning a number
of strategic technology investments, with the view to enable mobile
trading on the market floor within the next two years. It was
necessary that a new ERP system supported this ambition.
Partner expertise combined with Microsoft Dynamics AX's strong
functionality wins Fresh Direct's mindshare
After short-listing five ERP products, Fresh Direct chose
Microsoft Dynamics AX, supported by Auckland-based IT company Koorb
Consulting. While Crossan says the management team was 'very
impressed' with the product, Koorb's skills and expertise also
swayed the decision in their favour.
"While Microsoft Dynamics AX is a very powerful product and from
a strategic point of view is the best fit for the business, part of
our decision to adopt the system came down to the people at Koorb.
Right from the start, the team at Koorb were professional and
demonstrated a very good understanding of our business."
He adds that Microsoft Dynamics AX's flexible architecture made
it an ideal platform for handling the unique complexities within
the fresh produce industry.
"The system requires some degree of customisation and modifying
Microsoft Dynamics AX is a very cost-effective option. While it's
still a relatively new technology, it's got a proven track record,
long lifespan and offers B2B capabilities for the future."
Fresh Direct has also standardised its IT environment on
Microsoft technologies, right from the desktop through to its
server platform. By adopting Microsoft Dynamics AX, Crossan says
the company stands to "gain long-term cost savings by having a
seamlessly integrated front office and back office."
Outsourcing ERP system a strategic move
In addition, Fresh Direct chose to outsource Microsoft Dynamics
AX to application service provider GDC via a Citrix thin client
computing model. GDC are hosting the company's entire IT
environment, a strategic move that enables Fresh Direct to
concentrate on its core business.
"By using the ASP model, we can focus on the business and leave
the IT to the experts. It also means our long term total cost of
ownership is low," comments Crossan.
New found business intelligence driving business forward
Koorb commenced the project in July 2003 and by December,
Microsoft Dynamics AX was up and running. Thirty five users across
Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are using the system to
manage the company's financials and end-to-end supply chain, from
growers to pack houses and customers. Crossan says the
implementation ran smoothly with minimal disruption to the
"The project was on time and on budget and we're extremely happy
with how Koorb managed the implementation. Koorb's implementation
methodology involved users in the early stages of the project and
ensured their buy-in from the start."
Crossan says one of the more immediate benefits in using
Microsoft Dynamics AX is the depth of reporting, and improved
"I love the dimensional approach of the software - it gives us a
3D view of how the business is running.
"Already, we're spending less time gathering data and more time
using the quality data generated by Microsoft Dynamics AX to drive
our business forward. We have far greater transparency of our
Empowered with this new business insight, Crossan adds the
company has improved its sales forecasting. "It's very easy to
compile a forecast, whether by a seasonal basis or by customer and
Microsoft Dynamics AX is also helping the company identify
several weaknesses in its working practices, and make improvements
to operational processes.
"We're able to quickly resolve any business issues because of
the product's ability to access and analyse in-depth data."
Finally, growers and customers have also noted a positive change
since Fresh Direct adopted Microsoft Dynamics AX.
"Our documentation, such as invoices and delivery receipts, are
by far the best in the industry and the information supplied is far
more meaningful to growers and customers. In the future, we're
looking to move to electronic invoicing, which will put us another
step ahead of the competitors.
"We're striving to be a 'centre of excellence' so that our
customers and suppliers find it easier to do business with us,"
According to Nicholas Birch, Managing Director of Koorb
Consulting, "After the initial goal of establishing an accurate and
reliable information source Fresh Direct now have excellent
building blocks for the future."
"The pleasing aspect from Koorb's perspective is the ability of
our team and the Sure Step approach to facilitate the Dynamics AX
product to deliver fresh produce sales and supply a vertical
solution. Dynamics AX's adaptability is reassuring to those who
||Industry: Primary Produce/ Wholesale
||Project Type: ERP implementation
|Customer Size: Medium
MS Dynamics AX:
MS SQL Server 2000
Financials, Fixed Assets, Trade, Logistics, Master Planning,
Production and Business Analysis
Enterprise Resource Planning
Improved inventory management
Improved operational efficiencies, and cost-savings
More accurate sales forecasting
Increased supplier and customer satisfaction