Atalanta Corporation is the largest privately owned food importer and distributor in the U.S. with $500m in annual sales. It operates on three continents both buying and selling a wide variety of prepared foods. Its U.S. distribution network consists of two private and nearly 70 public warehouses to handle dry, refrigerated and frozen product. Its most important goal is to fulfill its retail customer orders for meat, cheese, groceries, fruit juice concentrates and fish products from its sources around the world.
According to Jim Marsh, vice president of sales, the name of the company comes from the ancient Greek goddess, Atalanta, who was revered for her prowess as a hunter and the speed in which she acted.
"Our founders took this name for our company to emulate both her swiftness and ability to provide," says Marsh. "In that theme, we pride ourselves on our customer-centric culture that drives us to provide the best possible service in the quickest amount of time."
From a supply chain standpoint, Marsh's sales force needs to know that when its takes an order, the product will be available to the customer when he needs it.
"We have to manage our inventory through a long supply chain from global suppliers to our customers," says Marsh. "That means we need total visibility from the moment we place a purchase order until we deliver the goods."
When Atalanta was looking for a new technology solution in 2001 to meet this challenge, the ability to provide customers with real-time, accurate information along with order updates was the chief concern.
In 2002, Atalanta selected 3rdwave from Toronto-based Blinco Systems as its enterprise-wide global commerce management system since 2002.
"We use 3rdwave to synchronize our very complex global supply chain," says Marsh, who explains that Atalanta sources products from over 40 countries. It manages and controls the import of thousands of containers, manages inventory across a North American network, and executes national sales programs to all major retailers and foodservice distributors.
"3rdwave allows us to instantly tell our clients exactly where an order is, and that's crucial," Marsh says. "We're also able to tell our customers when products will be available to them, which is becoming increasingly important. Future commitment capability is where the market is moving."
Large retailers must set up promotions six or eight weeks in advance, March explains. 3rdwave allows Atalanta to assure customers that the goods will be available for these promotions.
Salesmen see not only inventory status within their own facilities but they can check what is in transit. They have backward visibility into purchase orders to see what goods will be available and when it will arrive.
"We can commit orders to the virtual inventory that 3rdwave displays," says Marsh. Specific inventory items throughout the supply chain can be allocated to customers, and this inventory is reserved so it will not be promised to other customers. "Our visibility levels are now 100 percent, in real time, and the information we're working with is reliable. We have access to information at any time, and so we can better manage our inventory and know when to reorder."
Atalanta's director of information technology, Carl D'Angelo is equally impressed with 3rdwave. He points out that Atalanta's business has grown by 30 percent in the last three years since 3rdwave has been implemented, with roughly the same staff.
"Everything we did before 3rdwave and continue to do today is done by individual lot," says D'Angelo. "If we bring in a container from Italy that has three different items in it, the contents of that container are automatically entered into our system. And since we are talking about 35,000 orders per year, you are talking about hundreds of thousands of line items. With 3rdwave, no rekeying of data is required, as the information flows smoothly from one function to the next in a fully integrated fashion. Blinco Systems has proven themselves to us to be our technology partner, not just another vendor."
To highlight the value that 3rdwave has brought to his sales operation, Marsh recalls Atalanta's annual sales conference that took place a few months after 3rdwave went live. Thirty-five regional sales reps responsible for large and small grocery, wholesale and food service clients in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada were in attendance. A rep asked Marsh who had made the decision to put in 3rdwave. Marsh told him that an internal senior management team had been responsible.
"Thank you!" the rep responded. "Thank you! For once, I can finally see all my orders and where every item on every order is!" Then, all the sales reps began to applaud.
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