Case Study: Application Development
Batory Foods is a leading national distributor of ingredients for food and beverage manufacturers and suppliers, servicing thousands of customers from a nationwide network of warehouses and distribution facilities.
Since the late 1990s, Batory has sold ingredients and pre-packaged goods to a customer that produces and markets items to hundreds of stores across the country. Customer orders were managed through paper order forms and an Excel spreadsheet; however, as the customer’s business grew over the years, the ordering process became more labor intensive for both parties, resulting in numerous issues. For example:
- The forms were only updated quarterly to reflect current inventory, resulting in the client ordering discontinued products.
- Modifications to the spreadsheet blocked automatic import of the data into Batory’s systems, forcing Batory personnel to manually manipulate the data in order to load it into their ERP system.
- Alerting the customer’s distribution centers of ordering deadlines was a laborious task, resulting in missed deliveries or scrambling to ensure orders arrived in time.
All of these factors generated a great deal of communication and manual workarounds to ensure customer satisfaction, resulting in long hours for Batory employees.
Batory saw an opportunity to modernize the ordering and distribution process by building a cloud-based customer portal for their customer’s distribution centers to be able to place orders over the internet. In addition, Batory hoped a customer ordering portal project would serve as a successful pilot to demonstrate the value of creating a more encompassing, enterprise-level ordering portal for all of its customers.
Lacking the resources internally for the ordering portal project, Batory Foods went in search of a technology partner and found that expertise in AIM Consulting.
AIM Consulting performed a thorough assessment of both the technology and business needs of Batory Foods and its client and presented four possibilities for the portal solution:
- Building and hosting a solution on Batory’s internal hardware
- Setting up an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform with cloud-based hardware and software to build and iterate on in a production-like environment
- Using Batory’s CRM and extending it for ordering capabilities
- Implementing a Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution
- Minimal platform/infrastructure implementations and long-term cost savings of not having to hire internal personnel to maintain and upgrade the solution.
- Extensibility and scalability of the PaaS platform. Heroku is extremely scalable to allow for additional customer load without any hardware upgrades so Batory can safely plan for future expansion of the portal.
How it works
Orders are created at the customer’s stores and roll up into master orders at the local distribution centers, where admins can view and manipulate the comprehensive data set for all orders. Local admins who oversee a large number of stores can input one set of store orders while awaiting orders from other stores. To eliminate confusion, the solution’s multi-tenant architecture allows different levels of users within each distribution center to view only the data pertaining to their orders. Regional admins can see multiple distribution centers. Once approved, Batory admins can view all orders, make adjustments as necessary, and process them through Batory’s ERP system for distribution.
The portal required minimal enhancements to the existing systems of both Batory and its client and little technical knowledge to use. The only technology requirement for the client is a modern web browser the equivalent of Internet Explorer 9 or greater, with all other major browsers tested for compatibility. Batory has full autonomy to self-service the administration of the portal.
After Batory rolled out the portal to its entire user base, two rounds of enhancements were made by AIM Consulting, increasing ease of use and adding further capabilities. Batory maintains an ongoing relationship with AIM Consulting to support one-off requests, bug fixes, and provide maintenance as needed.
Feedback on the portal has been universally stellar from Batory as well as its client. Whereas the former paper-based order forms and Excel spreadsheet had to be manually updated quarterly, the portal contains real-time, up-to-the-minute data, providing far greater visibility to users as well as efficiency for Batory. Discontinued items are automatically disabled in the portal so the customer can instantly see what products are no longer available.
The portal has bolstered the already positive relationship between Batory and its customer with automation in the system eliminating the need for excess email and phone communication, resulting in more manageable hours for Batory employees overseeing the order and distribution process. More accurate and on-time ordering has also improved efficiency for buyers and other distribution personnel on the customer’s end.
Following the success of the customer ordering portal, Batory chose to work with AIM on the development of the enterprise-wide ordering portal to serve its entire customer base. The project presents a tremendous opportunity for Batory to modernize its ordering and distribution process, reduce workload and ultimately offer a better customer experience than competitors.