Seed for thought

Seed is a living, changing product.

Cropmark not only track the type or variety they produce, but the line numbers represent the actual paddock where the seeds were grown. Cropmark also records the tests the seeds are subjected to, such as purity, germination and endophyte. Because it’s a living product, the quality of seed changes over time. Seeds are tested when first harvested and packed, and also while they are in storage. Cropmark records any changes or degradation in quality throughout the time the seeds are with them, to ensure they meet industry standards and remain fit for sale.

There is also a growing trend in the world of agribusiness where buyers are keen to know precisely where the seed is from, and when it was harvested.

A season of change

Ravensdown, a farmer-owned fertiliser co-operative, formed a strategic alliance with Cropmark in late 2011. The new relationship was predicted to dramatically increase the amount of sales transactions, so Cropmark knew they needed to review their current business operations systems.

The incumbent accounting and operations system had been in use at Cropmark for many years. While reliable, with little downtime, the system was clumsy to operate, and the overall performance slow. There was no possibility of the system keeping up with Cropmark’s future growth and the anticipated volume of transactions. It was obvious that its day was done.

Cropmark had several business objectives.

They needed to capture and manage even more detailed seed stock information than before. They also needed to improve operational efficiency, including the removal of duplication from the sales dispatch process. Cropmark wanted to provide all the benefits of modern-day mobility for their field staff, and future-proof the company at the same time. And of course, they had to increase their capacity to handle the increased volume of sales transactions due to the Ravensdown alliance.

Choosing a new solution

The choice of a new solution was critical to Cropmark’s future, so they threw the net wide and looked at around 20 solution providers.

This was quickly narrowed down to just three solutions which appeared to fit well with the particular complexities of their business and product. "One of our most important objectives is looking after our stock,” said Paul McKenzie, Cropmark’s Financial Controller. "The seed business isn't just about quantity, but quality.”

Quality is critical for a company dealing with a living seed product. The perfect business solution would need to allow Cropmark to identify their seeds by variety and line number, capture and update any quality changes as the seeds age. Seeds are increasingly sold as a mix, so it is critical to Cropmark that they could clearly identify the individual components.

Fusion5 and their NetSuite solution hit the spot with Cropmark. Paul said “We were really impressed with our first look at NetSuite, we could have almost rolled it out as it was. Fusion5 showed they’d understood our business very well, and NetSuite was clearly an excellent fit. Where most of the other providers struggled, we could see straight away it would handle our seed quality needs effortlessly.”

Moving to the cloud

While NetSuite’s capability to manage quality was the deciding point for Cropmark, they were also keen to embrace a true cloud solution. The catastrophic earthquake in Christchurch in 2011 highlighted the risks for businesses with onsite technology. “Although the Board was a little cautious about the step,” said Paul, “in hindsight, it was the smartest thing we did.”

As an accountant, the last thing Paul wanted to worry about was the expense and bother of maintaining and managing the hardware needed to run the company’s business software. "That was a bonus of moving to the cloud," he said. "I couldn’t go to the Board and justify having to appoint an IT specialist. That would just never happen with a company of our size.”

Sheep grazing in a meadow Sheep grazing in a meadow

“Fusion5 handled the implementation with great professionalism. Their expertise, experience and attention to detail made the whole process very easy.”

Paul McKenzie | Financial Controller, Cropmark

Reaping the benefits

After selecting Fusion5 as their partner in late January 2013, Cropmark went live with NetSuite in July 2013.

Cropmark's staff had been supplementing the limited reporting functionality of their old business software with spreadsheets. These duplicated the seed stock and testing information already in the system, and were maintained independently by staff with varying levels of capability. Time and effort was wasted in capturing data in two places, and there was always the potential for human error or spreadsheet instability.

The move to NetSuite, with its extensive reporting capabilities, eliminated the use of these spreadsheets.

Cropmark’s sales team is spread across New Zealand and Australia, and are equally responsible for both customer sales and running field trials. They can now access both the NetSuite ERP and CRM functionality while on the road. Paperwork is minimised, and time and effort is reduced through this single entry of data.

"It was difficult to work efficiently if you were out of the office,” said Paul. “When people were travelling overseas on business they only had limited access to the information they needed. Moving to NetSuite has made life — and travel — a lot easier for the whole team.”

Originally, Cropmark had around 25 main product lines. The alliance with Ravensdown added another 500 lines and vastly increased the total number of transactions. NetSuite coped perfectly with the expanded product range, as well as speeding up the transaction processing speed, and making the whole process easier. All without adding more staff.

“While our transaction volume has gone up around 500 percent,” said Paul, “our staff levels are basically the same. If we hadn't moved to NetSuite, we would have needed to bring on board at least another couple of people. We also made some real gains in processing time, so we're very pleased with that as well."

A partner for growth

Paul enjoyed working with Fusion5, especially when reviewing the final budget outcome of the project.

“We were very pleased and impressed. The consultant did a fantastic job on the install. He was very good to work with, and drove me and the rest of the staff to keep the project on track. We did most of it over GoToMeetings, which helped keep the costs down. We were under 50% of the amount we'd budgeted on for the implementation part of the project. The Board was naturally very happy."

Growing in the right direction

As well as meeting all of Cropmark's business objectives, and saving on additional staff to handle the staggering leap in transactions, the company has another reason to love their NetSuite solution: it’s easy to use.

After the old ‘green screen’ solution, NetSuite has been a breath of fresh air for Cropmark’s users.

“The old system was horrible to use, there’s no comparison with NetSuite,” said Paul. “The staff who use it all the time just love it. Transactions take a fraction of the time they used to. Even the infrequent users find it intuitive and really appreciate it. The dashboards and KPIs are very popular — people go in and follow our progress all the time. These are the real wins on the side for us.”

Paul remains appreciative of Fusion5’s services and support. “Fusion5 handled the implementation with great professionalism. Their expertise, experience and attention to detail made the whole process very easy.”

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