Mariusz Blach - Fotolia
Nature dictates the quality of Swedish drink producer Kiviks Musteri’s apple harvest, but to ensure its operational efficiency and growth, the company is turning to cloud computing.
On its journey, the company has quickly gone from being reliant on an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) to using fibre to connect to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) from Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example. It is also trying out other cloud-based applications, including Microsoft Office 365.
The company is putting a wide range of applications into the cloud, including its enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools.
“Because we have doubled in size in the past seven years, we have realised the infrastructure around us is extremely important,” Mattias Wistrand, chief financial officer (CFO) at Kiviks Musteri, tells Computer Weekly. “We need to grow efficiently, and can do that better if we work in the cloud, both with the ERP system and all our other applications.”
Wistrand says the cloud today offers the most flexible and cost-efficient option for a small IT team to keep operations up to date. Kiviks will first test this theory with a cloud-based and industry-specific ERP system – Infor’s CloudSuite Food & Beverage – which the company will migrate to later this year.
Mattias Wistrand, Kiviks Musteri
Kiviks employs 200 people across three locations in Sweden. Every year, it typically produces more than 100 million packages of ciders, juices, jams, sauces and other fruit products from 70 varieties of apples grown in its orchards. While it is a traditional business dating back to 1935, technology plays an important part in managing its processes.
The cloud ERP implementation is a major step up from Kiviks current legacy system Movex (an early predecessor of Infor’s CloudSuite), which the company has used since 1998. This long-term relationship with Infor was a key to Kiviks opting for the supplier’s cloud offering. Retaining a familiar software environment meant being able to gain the cost and scalability benefits of the cloud without the need for major retraining.
“[The choice] wasn’t clear from the very start, but we understood quite rapidly that for a small organisation with a lot of employees who have been working with the same software for a long time, the impact of moving to a new system would be too great,” says Wistrand.
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He also sees benefits in the ERP’s out-of-the-box setup. While Kiviks Musteri’s legacy system has offered full access for the company to do any modifications, over the years it has made the system more difficult and costly to upgrade. This is what Wistrand hopes to avoid with a standardised system tailored for the food and beverages industry.
“We can stay modern and lower our total cost of ownership over time, which wasn’t the case before,” he says. “This also goes for all our other systems. We are trying to think the same way when we look at our other applications.”
While Kiviks’s cloud ERP is already 97% ready to deploy, it will not be launched across the company until September 2017. The reason is simple: the harvest season. Between March and August is the busiest season for Kiviks, and Wistrand doesn’t want to take chances disrupting it.
“Our organisation can’t handle the strain of deploying now,” he says. “We need to be sure we are able to deliver during the summer.”
The importance of asking questions early
Kiviks is currently configuring the ERP system in a test environment, which was deployed in October 2016. But Wistrand has found that the biggest challenges are not technical, as the interface is familiar to its users. Rather, the challenges stem from mapping out and modernising processes honed during years working with the legacy system.
“As we implement [the new ERP], we try to mend all the faults we have created in our process – and that is difficult,” he says. “But that is not about the system. It is about how we work and have adapted to the old system.”
A migration of this scale can also cause major strain on a small organisation. Currently around three-quarters of Kiviks’ middle managers spend up to 40% of their time on the cloud project, which means time away from other tasks.
“This is such a large project for a small organisation that you need all management – top and middle – to be completely aware what the project is, why it is important and to be included in the process,” says Wistrand. “If we can’t get the top management to completely buy into the project, it won’t be successful.”
Moving to the cloud has represented a plunge into fairly unknown territory for most of Kiviks. IT is only part of Wistrand’s responsibilities, and he advises anyone working with a small IT team to tap into expertise in their business and private networks when considering major changes.
“Also don’t be afraid to spend some money in a pre-study because it will be worth it in the end,” he says.
Cloud speed forward
If the ERP project restarted, Wistrand says he would take greater consideration of the speed at which cloud technologies are evolving. In particular, he notes this should be taken into account when negotiating contracts.
“We signed the contract for cloud operations in March 2016, and the field has very much changed in just six months. What was impossible in March became possible in September,” says Wistrand. “So don’t tie your contracts up too much for the long term.”
He will put his own advice to the test as Kiviks’ cloud plans move forward. The company has already set up servers on Amazon’s cloud, and is testing Microsoft Office 365 with selected users, as well as considering, among others, moving its product information systems, production monitoring, and invoice and document handling into the cloud.
“Go back one year and we only had an ADSL line here in Kiviks,” says Wistrand. “Now we have fibre and are working with Amazon Web Services. We have a plan, but we have to look into the money bag to see how fast we can move forward.”