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BBQ manufacturer fires up operations with ERP deployment!

Getting ready for a new season of barbecue bliss sharpens the senses of every fun-loving Australian and that’s no truer than for family-owned business Christie. The manufacturer of the original, iconic outdoor barbecue made it a season to remember going into the 2017 summer when it migrated from an ageing accounting package to SAP Business One. With the able assistance of Cloud Factory Technology Partners, the business is sizzling.

Christie provides the best possible experience for its clients and public barbecue users. Founded in 1965 by David (Sandy) Christie, the company started providing fixed electrical public barbecues to Councils throughout Australia to address concerns over potential bush fires caused by open fires. In 1987, Christie introduced a gas burner park barbecue for use in National Parks and other remote locations where mains power is often not available.

Working closely with clients, which are predominantly town and city councils, and with continual investments in research and development, Christie has made multiple major innovations in the community barbecue industry. It has driven continuous improvements in the areas of cooking efficiency, safety, design, usability, wheelchair accessibility, and quality.

Christie barbecues are installed around the world in areas including caravan parks, resorts, retirement communities, high rise apartment buildings, universities, correction facilities, and anywhere that safe, energy-efficient barbecue cooking facilities are required.

The Problem

As a company which had its start in an era when computers were first being introduced to offices, Christie initially operated with little in the way of business systems. “The company had manual financial records, then started using PCs in the late 80s early 90s.” “So, we had some things on computers in those days, but not much,” said Brendan Eddy, general manager.

From manufacturing every component of its barbecues, Christie soon accepted that subcontracting to heavier manufacturers in the greater Melbourne area, and instead of assembling and marketing its products, was a more efficient (and ultimately) sustainable approach. This had the flow-on effect of making the operation more complex, with an extended supply chain.  “It was determined that we needed to move away from [Sage] owing to deficiencies in stock control, Material Resources Planning and general supply chain visibility.” To meet these changing requirements, an accounting package was introduced. In due course, so was Eddy himself as the third-generation owner, David Christie, looked to expand and grow in new directions. “That was about 8 years ago;
my job was to review everything, including the legacy financial system, Sage Pastel Evolution

The Solution

In its pursuit for the greater efficiency and control of a modern ERP system, Christie evaluated some 8 potential providers, eventually narrowing it down to the two invited for presentations and demonstrations. Among them was Cloud Factory, which recommended the SAP Business One solution. Had Christie decided on Business One prior to Cloud Factory’s suggestion? “We hadn’t, but when it was demonstrated, we could see the suitability,” Eddy notes. He stresses that the decision was made based on suitability to meet current and future business needs.

From the selection date of around January 2017, Christie wanted the system up and running on a set date of 1 July 2017. Eddy says the company was instantly impressed with Cloud Factory. “We asked for a project plan to achieve that, with some leeway built in as something always happens when you put in systems of this nature. They gave a timeline with which we were comfortable. We knew it was a lot of extra work, but it was achievable.” He notes the care taken by Cloud Factory to understand existing business processes, to translate and define those in SAP Business One.

That meant we gained a clear notion of how Business One would do it and improve, with a view of how other solutions in SAP might assist across the various elements like stock control, general ledger, banking, accounts receivable and so on.

He says the implementation went according to plan, with the inevitable ‘minor wrinkles’. It is relatively early days for Christie on the SAP Business One solution, but the top line result for the company is that thanks to the rigour applied in the system rollout, it came in on time and under budget. For any enterprise software implementation, that is music to the ears, and Eddy enthusiastically agrees.

However, he points out that a ‘go live’ isn’t ever a case of switching on and walking away with everyone happy. “That’s not how it works; Cloud Factory strongly supported us throughout July with the various issues which can and did arise. For example, training happened 8 or 10 weeks ago, so there’s a lot of ‘oh bugger, I can’t remember how to do it’. We anticipated that and received a lot of help; there is a lot of ‘unlearning’ which has to happen when you go from an old to a new system.”

And that’s why Eddy says the company doesn’t expect to be ‘fully operational’ on its new system until Christmas time.

“Every day, though, we get a bit more comfortable using the system – the processes are markedly different to what we’d been using for years, but we can see the advantages of doing it the SAP way.”

Those benefits come down to three main things, he explains.

  • The first is we have a much better handle on stock control, including the crucial MRP functionality, an ability we completely lacked before.

  • The second is far better visibility of information, particularly across previously siloed functions. “For example, we couldn’t previously see what a customer had bought with any accuracy – now it is available across the board with ease.” So much so, he adds, that the team has had to curb its enthusiasm, for which he credits Cloud Factory. “We saw a huge opportunity to get more information, as SAP comes with Crystal Reports.” But Cloud Factory pointed out that we should focus on getting the basics right first before we shoot for the stars. That’s good advice – but we know the potential is there and will get to it eventually.”
  • The third advantage isn’t an immediate one, but it is arguably the most important. With a long-term strategy towards diversification, the SAP Business One solution has equipped Christie with the ability to add to its operations, creating new entities with ease while still benefiting from a consolidated view of the business