A lack of control over daily operations and stock management, coupled with the inability to meet international reporting requirements and a lack of data integrity across the company's accounting function, forced Safari Distributors to re-examine its existing technology platform. Operating on a legacy DOS-based system that was clearly no longer adequate, Safari Distributors was in urgent need of a new technology infrastructure.
About Safari Distributors
Situated in Botswana, Safari Distributors is one of its country's leading distribution agents within the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry. Representing some of South Africa's leading brands - Nivea, Lucky Star, Vital, Lillets, and Premier Foods to name but a few, this privately owned company has twice been awarded 'agent of the year' by the Shoprite Group - an accolade which saw it trumping all South African stores in the Free State and Northern Cape.
Founded nine years ago with four staff, today Safari Distributors has 162 employees, its own warehouse, remote offices in Northern Botswana from which no fewer than four dedicated sales representatives operate and an impressive fleet of trucks.
The Business Case
Poised for further growth, in a particularly competitive and dynamic industry, Safari Distributors needed to re-evaluate its existing legacy system. "About four years ago we realised the need to examine other options," says Marinda Pieterse, Financial Manager, Safari Distributors. "Our legacy DOS-based system was having a dire effect on daily operations," continues Pieterse.
Not only was it cumbersome to use, but a complete lack of integration was causing Safari Distributors to no longer feel in control of its business. With internal reporting proving difficult, Safari Distributors found themselves hard pressed to meet the reporting requirements of its international partners. This was further complicated by the inability of its auditors to access required information. "The DOS-based files were clumsy and easily corrupted," says Pieterse. "Any problem with the system, or its functionality, was literally bringing operations to a standstill."
Finding a Solution - More than just Technology
"Although we deal with South African partners, we have a different currency," says Pieterse. Therefore, in addition to offering a single integrated environment, its new solution would need to be able to handle currencies and exchange rates in the exact manner Safari Distributors required. "We looked at a few options, with the market prominence and Windows-based functionality of SAP Business One proving it a clear winner."
Having received more than one proposal for SAP Business One, Safari Distributors chose 4most, a leading supplier and implementer of SAP and ERP software and technology, as its preferred provider. "We were impressed from the very beginning," enthuses Pieterse. "Not only does 4most have local representation but the attention to detail and customer service, right from the very first meeting, left us in no doubt that we had found the right partner."
"After a detailed scope of requirements, the project kicked off in September 2011," says Quinn Verburgt, Branch Director, 4most Botswana. Having furnished 4most with all the required information from its original DOS-based system, it was then loaded into the SAP Business One platform with Safari Distributors given the opportunity to ensure the data transfer was both complete and accurate. This included a full breakdown of its debtors' book together with opening balances and history.
"The new system was up and running as early as November 2011," says Pieterse. But, with year-end one of the busiest times, it was decided to continue operating on the existing system with official 'go-live' scheduled for January 2012. "It also gave us the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the new infrastructure," continues Pieterse. Whilst still operating on the DOS-based system for the last two months of 2011, 4most installed a training system offering Safari Distributors a test environment in which to experiment and use for internal training.
Change Management and User Uptake
"It was a bit nerve wrecking at first," says Pieterse. "We were comfortable with what we knew and it took us a little while to get used to the new environment. But, we persevered and have never looked back."
In addition, 4most's hands-on support and training went a long way to ensuring a smooth transition. "4most were on site from the very beginning of January 2012," continues Pieterse. "Not only did they diligently and patiently show us what we needed to know, as often as we needed to know it, but also ensured that the formatting of all financial documents looked exactly the way we wanted."
Customisations and Increased Functionality
Safari Distributors now enjoys the benefits of an integrated single platform with additional functionality, specific to its industry and business requirements, available at the touch of a button.
"We often have the situation where, for example, Shoprite will offer deals in South Africa that also apply in Botswana," says Pieterse. Whilst this may be updated automatically at Shoprite's head office in Bloemfontein, the price variance needs to be carried through to Safari Distributors in Botswana. "On the old system this was a problem, but no longer," continues Pieterse. In the case of different pricing deals, Safari Distributors is now able to claim this by loading the deal reference live into the system, with the price variance automatically reflected. "It is saving us time and it is saving us money," says Pieterse.
Whilst possible within the DOS-based system, this functionality was crucial moving forward. "We try not to keep too much stock that can expire," explains Pieterse. As a result, Safari Distributors needed a programme that was able to review stock history, automatically calculating what needs to be reordered as well as any items currently over stocked. "We are now able to do exactly that, with the functionality provided by the new Reordering Report providing a complete overview of our entire stock situation," says Pieterse.
Loading Sheet Report
A vast and widespread country, the accurate planning of stock deliveries in Botswana is essential. "Before, we would have the situation where one of our trucks would arrive up North only to discover that some of that territory's stock had been left behind in the warehouse," says Pieterse. This is no longer the case.
Upon receipt of order, a picking slip is generated from which the warehouse pulls the stock. An invoice is then generated, with the required stock dispatched. Invoices are checked, with stock loaded for delivery. Dispatch is now able to pull all invoices for a specific geographical location, ensuring all products for that area are loaded onto the same truck. "Not only is this saving us time and money, eliminating the need for additional deliveries, but our customers are benefitting as a result of no stock being left behind," stresses Pieterse.
A Whole New World
The benefits post implementations have been far reaching. "Reports are reliable and in real-time, with international reporting requirements easily met," says Pieterse. Before, it was time consuming with not all the required data necessarily available. The old system also allowed for human intervention. "Our reports are now trusted and accurate."
The company's stock management is another area experiencing increased functionality. Safari Distributors can now ensure that no stock is ever left behind, together with a much better overview of its entire stock situation. "We know real-time what's available, with any credits automatically updated in the system," says Pieterse.
But the biggest benefit has, without a doubt, been to the accounting function. "The DOS-based system required us to manually enter receipts and deposits, with the propensity for human error a big concern," says Pieterse. Reconciliations are now automated, with the integrity of data guaranteed.
"SAP Business One is not only saving us time, enabling us to do more a lot quicker, but we now operate each day with the confidence that what we are doing, and the data with which we are working, is correct." A full audit trail, together with ease of use and the functionality to easily find what is needed, is further enhancing Safari Distributors' day to day operations.
"SAP Business One has given us control of our business," says Pieterse. "It has empowered the business, and it has empowered me."
4most, established in 2004, is the number one supplier and implementer of SAP ERP business management solution software and technology solutions. With offices in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Namibia, along with a presence in Zambia and Malawi and a growing footprint in Tanzania, 4most offers a strong base provided by considerable experience and skills accumulated over 25 years.
We have implemented over 3000 SAP Business One users across numerous industries and have supplied services to more than 150 companies, including implementation, support and maintenance. Application modifications of SAP Business One and other ERP software systems have provided tailor-made and innovative solutions, which have created a competitive advantage for numerous businesses in Southern Africa.
4most truly partners with our clients from the very beginning. We have dynamic IT and business specialists, who provide customers with a platform for growth based on best practice and understand the SME-market as well as support functions which include infrastructure support and maintenance, software development and training.
We seek to fully understand our clients business and daily operational processes, we then address their requirements whilst sharing our knowledge and expertise and best advise them of industry standards and best practices. We provide them with a clear project plan detailing roles, responsibilities and timelines and we remain with our clients as they grow and help them to define their future business.
As an SAP Gold Partner, being the first and only partner to establish all-round SAP competency, the consistency of our expertise in business management solutions has earned 4most an award-winning reputation. The company boasts a dedicated client care centre and an in-house training facility for continued care. Our offices include a data centre to facilitate hosted solutions tailored to business specific requirements