The Anthony Marano Company is a major produce distributor based in Chicago, Illinois. The company prides itself on its ability to provide same-day delivery and works hard to maintain a streamlined operation both through technology and process improvements. Most recently, the company deployed Microsoft Dynamics AX for its robust development environment, enabling the Anthony Marano Company to support an agile business. By using the new solution, the company has implemented continuous business improvements, most notably the capability to calculate landed costs and automate bank reconciliation, both of which have led to significant improvements in productivity and business insight. With Microsoft Dynamics AX in place, the Anthony Marano Company has continued on a path of manageable growth, bringing new enhancements to its business without increasing overhead costs.
||In terms of the IT agility it provides us, Microsoft Dynamics AX is simply unmatched by the other ERP packages out there.
Chief Technology Officer, Anthony Marano Company
From the heart of Chicago, Illinois, the Anthony Marano Company
distributes produce to retailers in the surrounding Chicago metropolitan area and parts of Wisconsin and Indiana. The company has approximately 300 employees and is the largest full-line produce distributor in the Midwest, with more than 400,000 square feet of fresh produce in its facility. In the highly competitive produce distribution market, the Anthony Marano Company differentiates itself from its competitors by its ability to deliver produce on the same day a customer orders it.
Providing same-day delivery has required the Anthony Marano Company to maintain a highly responsive and efficient operation. Currently, the company handles a couple thousand invoices a day and receives, at a conservative estimate, around 600 truckloads of produce a month. To grow to this point, the company has taken advantage of the latest technology to help ensure that it can maintain its high-quality services while keeping administrative overhead under control. Working with the company since 1996, Chris Nowak, Chief Technology Officer of the Anthony Marano Company, recalls the company’s evolving IT environment. “When I first started, we relied on a highly customized accounting solution that had become impossible for us to customize and support, so we made the decision to go with a packaged solution in 1998 and used that until 2009,” he says.
During this time, Nowak and his IT team made Microsoft products and technologies a major part of the IT strategy and followed a virtuous cycle development strategy wherein they rolled out small IT improvement projects and areas of functionality into production, tested those changes with employees, and implemented ongoing improvements both at a technology and process level. To help in the implementation of major technology deployments and initiatives while keeping its IT team lean, the company relies on experts from Microsoft Services
for strategy, planning, design, deployment, and implementation support and a few, select Microsoft partners. Driving its most recent string of IT projects, the company identified two major areas for improvement in 2009, which included:
- Streamlining purchase order processing and landed-cost settlements. Because the price of produce fluctuates with the market, the Anthony Marano Company must be able to adjust the cost of goods sold on a purchase order after the company makes a sale. In the past, adjusting the cost required multiple screens and happened in batches. And because the process was manual and labor-intensive, it was prone to error, requiring staff to run a report afterwards to double-check their work.
- Automating bank reconciliation. To keep administrative overhead down following ongoing growth, the Anthony Marano Company needed to be able to automatically import an electronic bank statement file into its business management system to automatically clear and reconcile outstanding checks. With its prior system, a task like this required clerical staff to perform data entry.
||When you undergo a project like this, you want to know you are getting the right software through the right vendor. By choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX and working with Microsoft Services, I had complete confidence that the project would be a success.
Chief Technology Officer, Anthony Marano Company
At the same time that the Anthony Marano Company looked to bring further capabilities to its employees, Microsoft released Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009
. Although the solution included a full range of enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities, it also boasted a robust development environment. “With Microsoft Dynamics AX, we get an object-oriented solution, are able to code in X++ by using Microsoft Visual Studio, and can use Visual Studio Team Foundation Server to provide a stable, multideveloper environment to support our virtuous cycle development strategy,” says Nowak. “In terms of the IT agility it provides us, Microsoft Dynamics AX is simply unmatched by the other ERP packages out there.”
Implementation and System Overview
Although landed-cost settlement and bank reconciliation capabilities were top-of-mind, the Anthony Marano Company understood that it would first need to get up and running. To deploy the solution, Nowak and his IT team of only three worked closely with Microsoft Services experts to perform architecture, design, development, data migration, and performance reviews and to reduce the risk of deployment by taking advantage of implementation best practices. “When you undergo a project like this, you want to know you are getting the right software through the right vendor,” says Nowak. “By choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX and working with Microsoft Services, I had complete confidence that the project would be a success.”
The teams deployed the General Ledger, Bank, Accounts Receivable, Sales Orders, Accounts Payable, Purchasing, and Inventory modules. As part of this effort, the teams also migrated a year’s worth of purchase order transactional data and master data to Microsoft Dynamics AX. Incorporating the solution into the company’s overall business management platform, the teams also integrated the Accounts Payable, Purchasing, Accounts Receivable, and Sales Orders modules with a legacy warehouse management system and legacy transportation system. Currently, 20 people in accounting use Microsoft Dynamics AX. To meet the Anthony Marano Company’s most recent requirements, the teams also worked to deliver the following customizations:
- Lot settlement screen. Through a modified purchase order screen, as seen in Figure 1, employees can now account for landed costs, including material costs as well as landed third-party miscellaneous charges, for produce as soon as it arrives. Employees can then update costs as they change, even after the inventory has been sold. “Every time we make a change to the price of a product, it’s changing our general ledger, updating our profit and loss, and changing our month-end revenue numbers,” says Nowak.
- Bank reconciliation automation. Microsoft Dynamics AX automatically imports bank statement files and automatically clears and reconciles outstanding checks.
|Figure 1. The Anthony Marano Company uses the lot settlement screen to |
account for landed costs.
With core ERP functionality and customizations in place, the Anthony Marano Company is now implementing additional areas of functionality, including the add-on solution Positive Pay. In future work, the company aims to take full advantage of electronic data interchange to enhance its ability to negotiate prices and quantities with vendors and retailers alike.
As the Anthony Marano Company continues to grow, the company has the flexible platform that it needs to drive ongoing improvements and changes now and in the future. Says Nowak, “In addition to the agility it has provided our business, the best part of Microsoft Dynamics AX is that it’s an enterprise-ready product from Microsoft. We know that the product and the support for it will be available now and in the future.”
To ease the implementation of Anthony Marano Company’s financial management solution, an experienced team from Microsoft Services dedicated itself to helping ensure the success of the project. In addition to sharing deployment methodologies, the team from Microsoft acted as an extension of Anthony Marano Company’s organization, providing high-quality implementation, application customization, and project management services. Because of this, the Anthony Marano Company benefited from proven best practices, increased capacity, lower risk, and the flexibility to respond to the changing needs of its industry. Says Nowak, “Microsoft Services brought a deep knowledge to the implementation that enabled us to ease the implementation and meet our needs for very-specific customizations, all while lowering the risk of such an initiative.”
Improve Business Insight and Vendor Relations
With landed costs updated regularly, the Anthony Marano Company now has insight into how the business is doing at any given moment, leading to faster decision making and improved vendor relations. Says Nowak, “As soon as we pay for a lot, we have a complete profit and loss for that purchase. It’s the decision point that our department heads use as they are selling the next load of produce. And now we’re capturing more information than ever before, and it’s all broken down by vendor and check number, providing us with a more encompassing picture of the business.”
Adds Nowak, “Now, we can provide our vendors with a more thorough and up-to-date lot sheet report that shows them how well we did in selling their products. And we can now settle our finances with them a couple days faster, greatly improving our relationship with them.”
Reduce Manual Effort, Improve Productivity
||Thanks to the efficiencies we gained by implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX and the customizations we made, we have avoided adding office personnel as our business grows.
Chief Technology Officer, Anthony Marano Company
By eliminating much of the need for manual data entry, the bank reconciliation and lot settlement customizations have both led to major improvements in productivity. Says Nowak, “Thanks to the efficiencies we gained by implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX and the customizations we made, we have avoided adding office personnel as our business grows. In fact, we have been able to move staff from data entry to sales support.”
Ease IT Administration
With Microsoft Dynamics AX in place, the company continues to maintain a lean IT team of only three employees. “Being able to bring in Microsoft Services and partners when we have a specific need has enabled us to keep our IT team small and simply maintain the solution by using Visual Studio and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server,” says Nowak. “With all these tools available to our team and a solid partnership strategy in place, our responsiveness to new requests from the business is usually very quick.”
With an agile IT environment, the Anthony Marano Company continues to bring new functionality to production. “As we have grown over the years, Microsoft technologies have been there to support us,” says Nowak. “The addition of Microsoft Dynamics AX to our business lets us approach the future with even more confidence, knowing that we have the IT infrastructure in place to support us. For example, as food safety guidelines become increasingly stringent, we know that Microsoft Dynamics AX has the robustness and flexibility to help us meet changing compliance and reporting guidelines.”
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
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