Founded in 1893, Sunkist Growers is a billion-dollar, not-for-profit marketing cooperative owned by and operated for thousands of family farmers growing citrus fruit in California and Arizona. After five years of relying on a Tier 1 enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, Corporate Controller Heidi Wechsler and an internal team consisting of financial and IT personnel decided to identify a more cost-effective solution for running the business.
“Because the complexity of the previous system required us to rely on outside consultants, ongoing system maintenance and support proved too costly,” Wechsler explains. “The solution also did not give us enough flexibility when we wanted to make functionality changes. Using consultants generated high costs, and we were concerned we might degrade the system if we applied changes on our own.”
The Challenge: Robust ERP at a Lower Cost
In searching for a new ERP platform, Sunkist focused on finding a new system it could easily transition to. Sunkist also wanted its internal IT team to play a major role in the deployment, which would allow internal resources to manage ongoing maintenance and support in addition to system changes.
|Microsoft Dynamics NAV gives us the same robust capabilities as our previous Tier 1 ERP platform, but the cost to maintain the system has gone down dramatically, and we can now apply system changes using internal resources rather than outside consultants.|
| Heidi Wechsler|
“We were accustomed to the capabilities of a Tier 1 ERP platform, so we wanted to retain the robust features,” Wechsler adds. “We needed the same level of business process efficiency—but with lower maintenance costs and an easier way to add new functions.”
Sunkist found the answer to this challenge after turning to SCS, a Gold Certified Microsoft partner that recommended Microsoft Dynamics NAV. “SCS clearly understands our co-op business model,” says Wechsler. “They also demonstrated how Microsoft Dynamics NAV delivers functionality comparable to a Tier 1 ERP platform, but with much lower licensing and support costs.”
For the deployment, the Sunkist internal team and SCS collaborated strategically, with SCS providing initial configuration and consultation on Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Sunkist then completed the deployment and conducted training so that the finance and IT teams now completely own and manage ongoing system support.
Internal ERP Support Resources Reduced by 60 Percent
By deploying Microsoft Dynamics NAV, the Sunkist deployment team generated significant cost savings for the company. They reduced the required number of internal resources to support the ERP platform from five people to two, while also eliminating hosting costs because they deployed the solution on-premises.
The Sunkist staff also finds Microsoft Dynamics NAV much easier to use. “Because the user interface is similar to the Microsoft Office applications we’ve been using for years, it intuitively makes sense to our employees,” Wechsler explains. “They click less to find information, and there’s more information on each page. We also find it much easier to customize pages and add functionality on our own.”
Streamlined Business Processes Now Function in Less Time
Sunkist was surprised to discover that Microsoft Dynamics NAV actually improves certain functionality over the Tier 1 system. This includes vendor setup, which can now be completed on a single screen. The payment-release interface, which previously required as many as eight hours to execute, now runs in 45 minutes.
For expense reporting, Sunkist can now reconcile all worldwide currencies on a single form—a process that previously required different templates for foreign currency transactions. And as a billion-dollar company, Sunkist now requires just two people in accounts payable to cut checks. “We also appreciate how easily we can export data to Excel from anywhere within Microsoft Dynamics NAV,” Wechsler adds. “This makes it much easier for our staff to manipulate data.”
Internal Ownership Facilitates System Changes
Sunkist also discovered that Microsoft Dynamics NAV requires less time to deploy than a Tier 1 platform, which bodes well as Sunkist adds new business components. The company hopes to eventually migrate its 37 packing houses from a legacy system to Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
As for lessons learned, Wechsler says, “When somebody else does all the work, you need to keep going back to them when you need assistance. Because SCS was open to working with us on the deployment, we can now address our needs almost all the time with in-house personnel. The nature of Microsoft Dynamics NAV makes this approach possible.”
Project Success Attracts Praise from Senior Management
The ultimate payoff for Sunkist is the ability to efficiently mine for key performance data. In many cases, the staff doesn’t have to run reports—information is readily available across different divisions and different departments.
“For the first time, we can also see the possibility of running the entire company in just one system rather than two,” Wechsler says. “The Microsoft Dynamics NAV deployment is one of our most significant projects in recent years, and senior management is very impressed—especially where we came in on time and under budget.”
This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published March 2014.