It’s been nearly 10 years since enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Yet many food producers have yet to fully modernize their efforts to comply with the law.
Paper and manual processes still reign in too many organizations, making it impossible to establish a reliable chain of provenance as food moves through the supply chain from farm to table.
That’s not the case with The Wenger Group, a family-owned provider of agricultural products and services. The regional producer specializes in feed for poultry and swine, as well as egg marketing and flock management. It has embraced automation as key to meeting FSMA reporting requirements, and ensuring a safe environment for its workers.
With nine milling locations in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Wenger saw dramatic growth throughout 2019 and into 2020. As a result, the company found itself grappling with an increasingly complex supply chain.
“Processes begat processes, and we needed to evaluate what we were doing overall — break those things down into discrete processes and make sure we were managing in a more efficient way,” says Michelle Lombardo, business analyst with The Wenger Group. So the company went looking for a software vendor that could provide enterprise content management (ECM).
A review of four candidates resulted in Wenger choosing Laserfiche, a provider of document-management and business-process automation in the cloud. Lombardo cites the vendor’s physical proximity as well as broad range of offerings as reasons for the decision.
Laserfiche serves a wide range of industries, including metal fabrication, aerospace and defense, but also has substantial experience in the food and beverage business, says director of strategic marketing Linda Ding. Still, the engagement required some specific tailoring, as well as business-process transformation, within the Wenger organization.
Implementing the basic software was less of a challenge than realizing internal changes, says Lombardo. “We needed to come to grips with what it meant to work a process from start to finish.”
In fact, the software was up and running within the first week of implementation. Wenger started small, automating its safety data sheet. Disseminating that document to team members in paper form could take as long as a month. Now it was instantly available via Laserfiche’s mobile app.
The safety data sheet allows the company to capture the safe behaviors of employees, as well as the details of shipments and deliveries. In the process, it reduced time to invoice from six hours to around three. It also cut down on warrant costs stemming from invoice errors. In the past, notes Lombardo, if a manually entered ship weight differed from the actual scale measure, Wenger might have to enter a credit. Lombardo calls this initial step toward automation “the first big success.”
Wenger was hardly unique among Laserfiche’s clients in needing to undergo a change of mindset to accommodate the new software, says Ding. Part of that journey involved overcoming apprehension about new technology. In the end, though, migration to a digital environment “brought a lot of people the confidence they needed to embrace the transformation more successfully.”
The key to preparing the organization for change lay in emphasizing relationships, making sure that all business units were on board, Lombardo says. She describes Wenger as a traditional company that had long relied on spreadsheets and manual processes — a habit that was hard to break. But by working closely with management throughout the organization, and generating an “insider feel” among all participants, she was able to demonstrate the benefits of a digital transformation. “What they were doing ended pretty quickly when that became obvious,” she says.
Additional savings came in the form of reduced staff time needed to maintain the company’s procedural library for ensuring a safe working environment. By automating workflow, Wenger was able to support additional FSMA reporting requirements. And customers have provided positive feedback on the use of the mobile app by egg technicians at the farms. The technology connects farmers, technicians and veterinarians in their support of livestock care agreements.
Overall, Wenger says, automation made possible by the Laserfiche software has saved the company nearly $1 million in material costs, and reduced order turnaround times from weeks to hours.
Efforts to expand the use of Laserfiche’s technology continue. Lombardo says Wenger will soon create an automated training library. And it intends to tackle vendor management by bringing procurement into the digital world, as it prepares for a full upgrade of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
“We’re very pleased with the fact that they’re our first line of support when we need assistance,” says Lombardo of Laserfiche.
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