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Suppliers at the Cutting Edge

Reproduced here with kind permission from

Last month FFT looked at some of the tremendous all-round benefits that can be gained when a smoothly operating eProcurement system sits between buyers & suppliers. Indeed, the Bgate system we looked at had manifestly assisted Fast Casual Distribution, a new entrant to the market here, in quickly winning some sizeable accounts.

Need a quick reminder on eProcurement? eProcurement is the practice of placing/receiving orders online. Rather than by traditional methods such as face2face, by telephone, fax or email.

More than that however, a best-in-class system, such as the Bgate example we used, not only provides a faultless ordering process but goes on to seamlessly link-up with whatever accounts & administration software is being used on both sides. Whilst also eliminating as much checking, data entry, reconciliation and accounts back & forth as the parties could wish for.

The Bgate system that Fast Casual Distribution employed went as far as taking paper dockets our of the hands of delivery personnel and replacing these with tablets that facilitated digital stock receipt technology and then synchronised an exchange that all parties agreed on with their relevant back offices / accounts packages in real-time.

So that’s a terrific win for Fast Casual Distribution, a vindication of their choice to use the Bgate systems (& if you’re interested in working with them their details are at the base of this article). This is all very well for a new company to jump a few steps ahead; but what about established suppliers with legacy systems and long established processes and procedures? Can they offer their customers the same levels of access and integration without a major overhaul and disruption to their business? Apparently it does remain a possibility. We talked to a well-established supplier that is rolling out online ordering and invoicing to its customers with Bgate tightly integrated with their existing systems and processes. The business in question is La Rousse Foods.

FFT spoke with Tristan Geoghegan, The Head of Finance at La Rousse Foods.

Our interaction with Bgate commenced in an inauspicious manner… a prospective customer had laid down the law that all new suppliers must receive orders through the Bgate system and over time, be able to send completed invoices back for matching purposes. There was a charge to this process, which the prospective customer explained, must be covered by La Rousse Foods if we were to win the contract. Needless to say I was not happy with such an arrangement but acquiesced in order to secure the business.

What Geoghegan explains is that for the customer in question the ability of the supplier to accept orders through theBgate system would make or break whether they won the business or not. And this is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon as the patience of buyers is tested to breaking point by existing systems. The average foodservice operator is well aware of advances in technology that are available to consumers & businesses alike and yet continue to be poorly served with the unwieldly ordering and account processes of suppliers with a traditional set-up. This is what the customer in question was saying to La Rousse… we want to use your company, we want your terrific products,,, but we don’t want your 1990s ordering & accounts systems.

Geoghegan continues, “As Bgate grew, we began to come across them with other customers which eventually led to a meeting whereby we discussed how we could transition to the next stage, i.e. invoice upload for matching purposes.”

This meeting was also challenging at the outset. But by the end the team at Bgate had convinced me to look at the wider picture, and helped me to understand what benefits could be gained from implementing the Bgate system as our preferred EDI platform across our full customer base.

So La Rousse moved, fairly swiftly, from not having even heard of Bgate or considered providing its customers with full eProcurement services, to being completely converted to this new seamless way of engaging and transacting with its customers.

In spite of his early trepidation Geoghegan ends up being very positive about Bgate, “We found the development team went out of their way time and again to change, improve and accommodate our needs and the needs of our customers.”

“The Bgate team work on a policy of continuous improvement and it is this policy which married so well with our customer base: perfectionists who bring that very same ethos to the kitchen every day.”

“The constantly improving Bgate product saw La Rousse Foods go from processing no orders via EDI to 5% of all orders in just 3 months.” Geoghegan does not go into specifics regarding the efficiencies experienced within the La Rousse Foods business, nor the knock on benefit of any savings achieved for its customer base. But it suffices to say that the charge to La Rousse that had put him off at the outset had ceased to be material. Quite the reverse in fact, “The advantages to us here at La Rousse are vast, the lack of errors on the orders led to a huge improvement in our customer service, which in turn leads to higher sales per satisfied customer. The reduction in the manual keying tasks allowed us to free up valuable customer service hours and dedicate them to more value added tasks, customer facing tasks, rather than data entry etc.

Geoghegan concludes by saying:

Overall I cannot recommend Simon, Niamh and Andy in the Bgate team enough and look forward to the next stage of the development of this hugely beneficial partnership for our company, theirs and all our customers, present and future.

It seems therefore that best in class eProcurement is an option for all buyers & suppliers. Even if your existing relationships are currently characterised by outdated systems. This all seems very encouraging. The only question seems to be whether the companies we order from will be proactive, or wait until the choice is taken out of their hands.

Next month we take a look at some of the in-house systems that suppliers have developed themselves and question whether expecting a customer to order through multiple different in-house systems actually yields the efficiencies we crave. Of course it doesn’t.

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