Cedarlane Natural Foods

CedarlaneEvery day, millions of Americans sit down at the table to enjoy delicious meals created and distributed by Cedarlane Natural Foods. The California company has been growing steadily since its inception in 1982. Fueling its growth and brand recognition are new business partnerships, for example Cedarlane's launch of the Cedarlane/Dr. Sears Zone brand, an exclusive line of frozen omelets, burritos, lasagna and other meals prepared according to the guidelines of the popular Zone Diet.

Cedarlane's management recognized that the company's manual business processes were not efficient enough to keep pace with current and expected future growth. Invoices were generated by computers on an old "green screen" system but printed out on paper for routing and filing. It was a long, tedious process to reconcile invoices with deliveries. Retrieving data for reports and audits were especially time consuming, since the data had to be sorted manually from a printout of thousands of invoices.

In early 2004, Cedarlane launched a search for a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to streamline its business operations.

We looked at ERP solutions from six different vendors and from every angle. xTuple was the only vendor that didn't require thousands of dollars for implementation upfront.

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"All we had to do was purchase the software and several licenses and see how we liked it. We could do the implementation ourselves, at our pace. Overall, xTuple gave us alternatives that no other vendor could," said Daniel Baroco, IT Manager, Cedarlane Natural Foods.

Open minded to open source

Cedarlane's Baroco had many years of experience with Microsoft Windows-based systems, so he was familiar with both the benefits and the shortcomings. But Linux was fairly new in 2004, and Baroco was open-minded about the advantages of a solution based in open source.

"I wanted to take advantage of a 64 bit system, but Windows didn't run on it," Baroco says. Just by implementing on clustered Linux servers, Baroco estimates the company saved over $50,000: "This would not have even been an option without xTuple's cross-platform ability, and indeed was not an option with any of the other vendor's proposals."

Baroco's confidence in open source solutions played a big role in Cedarlane's decision to go with the xTuple ERP system. The price point was right for the company, as well as the flexibility to own its own source code. "With OpenMFG [now xTuple], you get the source code and you can do what you want to do with it at your own timing," Baroco says. "On the other hand, with a large ERP vendor there's no guarantee that they will be around to support the solution in the future."

Cedarlane deployed the xTuple ERP system first as a pilot with only five licenses in the summer of 2004. Since that time, the company has added on additional licenses and running with over 30 concurrent users.

Cedarlane has used xTuple to streamline operations in accounting, inventory, manufacturing and distribution. Today, the accounting department can quickly retrieve invoices with detailed billing information for each individual item, and it can instantly reconcile invoices and purchase orders. System-generated work orders now drive all manufacturing operations, and inventory is managed with precision, with full traceability to original ingredients by lot number.

"When we added the xTuple inventory control module, we weren't just adding a system, but changing the company culture and creating new procedures," Baroco says. Some of those procedures are a direct reflection of needs specific to food manufacturers. "Traceability is absolutely required in the food industry," Baroco says. "A lot of the ingredients we use can get converted in the finished product and becomes a different lot. You have to trace across those lots. xTuple does that for us very well."

Custom integration to the supply chain

Baroco says that one of the main benefits of the xTuple system is the easy, low-cost path to customized solutions. Since all members of the xTuple community receive the full application source code, they can sponsor (or develop themselves) enhancements that xTuple will review and include in the next official product release.

"We have requirements to do EDI in a certain way, so we requested a customization," Baroco says. "xTuple came back with a very flexible solution, exactly what we wanted." Cedarlane delivers to a large number of supermarkets and generates approximately 5,000 EDI invoices per week. With the xTuple solution, the supermarkets receive the invoice electronically a day before the Cedarlane driver arrives. The supermarket only has to confirm proof of delivery according to the items on the invoice.

"With xTuple, there's no question if an invoice has been paid because you can see it right away in the system," Baroco says. "It used to be a very tedious process. Just solving that challenge alone makes xTuple all worth it."

Baroco also got the flexibility of an open source SQL database, without being tied to Windows. "xTuple's PostgreSQL database and its ODBC connector works great for us," Baroco says. "It also works fine with our systems from other vendors who haven't even heard of PostgreSQL, but they're set up to interface with it through ODBC and didn't even notice the difference from Windows."

Well-positioned for continued growth

Looking to the future, Cedarlane continues to talk to xTuple about customization to support the maintenance side of operations, such as generating work orders in the system for the company's mechanics. "Right now, the maintenance work orders are not tied to the part purchase orders in the system and that's something we want to do," Baroco says. "That's not something that is usually a component of ERP, but we're talking about it."

Most importantly today, xTuple delivers robust ERP functionality to ensure that Cedarlane can schedule and deliver as promised to its growing list of customers.

"We have too many different ingredients, too many deadlines, so for everything to flow harmoniously we have to have every ingredient here on time so we can fulfill customer orders on time," Baroco says. "Cedarlane is at the point that we're just way too big to manage operations without a tool like xTuple."

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