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Ken Jacobsen, The TM Group Inc.

Microsoft Dynamics GP Reduces ERP Costs For Popular Restaurant Chain And Food Manufacturer


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Recently The National Restaurant Association released its annual survey of more than 1,800 professional chefs - members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – which found that local sourcing of ingredients, sustainability and nutrition will be the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2010.  Rounding out the top 10 trends are nutritious kids' meals, half-portions, farm-branded ingredients, gluten-free/food-allergy conscious meals and sustainable seafood.

In Michigan a local restaurant chain and manufacturer who has been loved by generations of customers spanning several decades has long capitalized on some of these trends. They are renowned for their signature food items, clean and comfortable surroundings and a firm commitment to great customer service. The company is also a successful manufacturer, producing and offering its legendary signature dishes, including delicious soups, desserts, baked goods and more for both wholesale and retail distribution.

Headquartered in the Detroit metropolitan area, the company has about 1,200 employees in 25 full-service restaurants, several manufacturing and distribution centers throughout Michigan and 130 franchises in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, the restaurant needed a technology infrastructure that could easily and affordably accommodate its diverse and often-changing needs.

Like many businesses, they had outgrown their Oracle-dominated technology infrastructure.  For many years the business was hindered by gross inefficiencies throughout its ERP system, due primarily to the cumbersome Oracle database and expensive Oracle software and support services.  In order to accommodate their unique business needs, the software had been heavily customized throughout the years, making the proposition of maintaining – or replacing – it cost prohibitive.

The director of financial reporting and systems was on the front line. “The high annual support fees from Oracle were killing us,” he recalls.  “And every time we had a change in our business, we were forced to go to an outside developer with specialized skills for an expensive fix or report.”  To cut costs, the company stopped support. “That put us in a very risky position, and we were constrained by the rigid interface and flow, which our users hated,” he says. “It was like a time bomb.”

With no support for an overly complex system that employees found difficult and tedious to use, the company realized its technology was putting the company in a precarious position.  “We had a 30-step process for manipulating data and generating a report,” says the finance director.   “We simply were not getting the information we needed to accurately track our customers, sales, marketing activities or service efforts.  Our users didn’t like the system so it wasn’t being adopted.  And to make matters worse, our system was draining us of much-needed cash.”  In fact, the support fees and the costs of finding IT professionals qualified to work with Unix and Oracle made making a switch something the company couldn’t afford to not do. “The total cost of ownership didn’t make any sense.”

To select the best, most cost-effective new ERP system that would successfully position the business for its future growth and profitability, an evaluation team conducted a carefully researched RFP process.  Throughout the selection process, the company worked closely with The TM Group, Michigan’s most experienced Gold Certified Microsoft Dynamics partner.  Evaluating systems against their needs, the team quickly decided against the prevailing enterprise giants, Oracle and SAP.  They also evaluated JD Edwards and Lawson but quickly determined that an ‘out-of-the-box’ midmarket ERP solution based on Microsoft’s innovative platform – SQL Server and Windows Server– was the best choice for ease of use, robust and reliable performance and affordable flexibility.

The selection process revealed many holes in the company’s critical business processes. “We worked with the TM Group through the mapping phase and a proof of concept pilot for feasibility testing,” says the director.  “We found that, over the years, our departments had developed their own way of doing things.  As a result we had no efficiency in our work and too many disparate systems that just did not talk to each other.”

Solution

Working closely with the TM Group, the company settled on Microsoft Dynamics GP to meet its evolving, often complex business management needs. Specifically the team concluded that Microsoft Dynamics GP was the right solution for integrated accounting, inventory control and manufacturing.  Soon after the implementation was completed, on time and on budget, they began realizing benefits due to the technology’s excellent fit and flexibility, the ease with which users could acclimate to the system and the solution’s overall ability to easily integrate with their other business applications, including Microsoft Office Outlook.

Highlights of the Microsoft Solution:

  • Dynamics GP
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003
  • Microsoft Office Outlook
  • Rose ASP
  • Mekorma MICR
  • Nolan Intercompany
  • FRx Financial Reporter
  • Greenshades
  • MasterTax

Several factors led to the corporation selecting Microsoft Dynamics GP. First, the solution has earned a reputation among businesses of many sizes in many industries, which have provided the consistently excellent customer references that affirm the product’s reputation as a market leader.

Factors that contributed to the selection of Microsoft Dynamics GP include:

More Streamlined, Reliable Systems: The company was drawn to Microsoft Dynamics GP for its ability to leverage the overall Microsoft stack.  Seamless integration was a critical part of the implementation team’s strategy to improve user productivity and overall business efficiencies for the company.  For example, since the system is Microsoft based, they can use Crystal Reports to easily and efficiently marry data that used to take days to synchronize.  Another example is that the finance department can process payables with electronic files from vendors.

Value: The comparatively low TCO of Microsoft Dynamics GP contributed to their selection of the product.  In addition, to address exorbitant maintenance and support costs, they chose to have its solution hosted by Rose ASP, a Gold Certified Microsoft partner with a solid reputation for hosting many Microsoft offerings. 

The Future: One of the most attractive aspects of Microsoft Dynamics GP, according to the director, is the fact that it’s offered by a vendor with a solid future.  “It’s nice to know that there’s a clear development path for the technology in which we’ve invested,” he says.

Making it Their Own: After Microsoft Dynamics GP was officially selected, the company completed a pilot phase.  When the time came to move forward with a quick implementation and end-user Microsoft Dynamics training, it was critical for employees to feel comfortable navigating the system so that they could achieve full productivity in their day-to-day work and be fully empowered to use the system’s tools to easily access data needed to build their own unique reports.  “Our training from the TM Group was very helpful in getting our team comfortable with ‘owning’ the solution,” says the director.  “In fact, we implemented the fixed assets functionality pretty much on our own.”

Benefits

Working in close partnership with the TM Group, the group is moving its previously disparate and complex legacy applications into an integrated system by leveraging the affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ components offered by Microsoft.  The result is a more simplified and easy-to-use solution.  “Most importantly, The TM Group has been diligent in helping us keep our project on time and on budget,” says the director.  “Through careful planning and teamwork, we are really starting to enjoy the benefits of the new, truly integrated system in all departments including finance, manufacturing, restaurant operations and, in the future, payroll.”

Benefits of migrating to Microsoft Dynamics GP include:

Working Together with Accuracy: The director reports that there have been dramatic improvements in integrating reporting activities that were previously burdensome.  For example, streamlining data from FRx for financials and Crystal Reports for database reporting is more accurate and cost-efficient than it was before.  “With Oracle, we spent a lot of time messing around with interfacing the data from sales, manufacturing and billing,” he says.  “Now, the users understand the system and make very few errors.  It’s pretty bullet proof.”  Other areas in which they are enjoying the benefits of a deeper level of integration include accounting and intercompany transactions, fixed assets, inventory control and manufacturing.

Reduced Support Costs: By working with Microsoft hosting partner Rose ASP, the company has dramatically reduced its IT staffing requirements and is now enjoying ensured, predictable annual technology costs and minimum interruptions and down time. Serving as a virtual IT support team, Rose handles issues at multiple company locations, including managing servers and menu links, service packs, upgrades, system security and regular back-ups and as-needed support on a 24-7 basis.

Just the Facts … Right Now: The Microsoft Dynamics GP infrastructure provides employees with the information they need to most effectively manage the business.  Nolan Intercompany, for example, provided an excellent solution for consolidating payables information from the company’s ten companies.  The TM Group created a custom report for historical aged trial balance and tracking and taxing tips and integration to MenuLink.  And, thanks to Smart Lists, individual users can access their own data and solve their own problems without IT support.  “We are now managing our business with trusted metrics, which lets us make more informed business decisions,” says the director.  “Our business cycles are shorter and we expect to continue to build improvements with new innovations from Microsoft.  And with what we’re learning from the TM Group, we know we can and make changes ourselves in response to new opportunities and a demanding economy.”

Evolution: The director says that one of the most compelling aspects of the Microsoft Dynamics GP solution is having the freedom – and confidence – to plan for the future. Long- and near-term plans for the system include the implementation of accounts receivables, a migration to a new version of Microsoft Office and new and deeper interfacing between the restaurants and back-office functionalities.  “Our technology plan is evolving along with our business,” the director says.

For more information about this case study, the Microsoft Dynamics business solutions and the TM Group, please visit www.tmgroupinc.com or call 888.482.2864.

By The TM Group, Michigan Microsoft Dynamics partner for Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft SharePoint.

One Response to “Microsoft Dynamics GP Reduces ERP Costs For Popular Restaurant Chain And Food Manufacturer”

  1. Dan says:

    Is GP really the best solution for larger restaurant brands though? It seems like it would be meant for the smaller (20 stores or less).