Founded in 1935, Geest was engaged primarily in horticulture and produce importation and wholesaling. Having invested in growth, both organic and by acquisition, the company is now market leader in the manufacture of prepared salads and prepared produce, speciality bread, fresh pasta and fresh pasta sauce, chilled pizzas, fresh dips and dressing and fresh soups.

In 1999, Geest's Board of Directors recognised the need for a core system using a common platform and harmonised business practices throughout the Group. Geest selected Protean, Wonderware's solution for the process industry, as its core ERP system to implement across 26 sites and over 500 users. Geest purchased the full suite of Protean ERP software including Production, Planning, Purchasing, Inventory, Customer Order Management and Financial modules.

Fresh prepared foods is one of the fastest growing areas in UK food retailing. Mark Pullen Finance Director at Geest says: "Our sales of fresh prepared foods in the UK rose by 13% last year. Recent investments in ready meals have also been rewarded with 26% growth. Geest has been growing very successfully and we needed a system that would support us into the future as our business continues to grow. We feel confident that Protean is the ideal tool".

High Quality Products and Customer Services
"The strength of Protean from our point of view was its flexibility, particularly in terms of its Customer Order Management module", says Richard Herbage, Project Director at Geest. "Our current EDI and sales order processing system was heavily bespoked. Frequent requests for change received from our customers over time have been met by multiple layers of bespoke software written by another software house. Needless to say, these changes were one of the hidden costs of our supply chain. We wished to be able to respond to customer demands better and faster than our competitors".

Protean's Customer Order Management (COM) module will assist Geest in production planning and product despatching to significantly reduce the number of claims. With its "Customisation Without Modification" (CWOM) philosophy, Protean will allow the company to change the screens and functionality to fit the needs of their rapidly evolving business, without changing the core software package. Protean's flexibility, inherent in its technology, allows users to work independently of IS. This helps the company to offer a faster response and a better level of customer service.

Food Manufacturers have to be very agile and able to respond rapidly to situations. Recent food scares such as the dioxin issue have hi-lighted the criticality of thorough supply chain source identification and tracking. To meet this and other needs thorough lot traceability capabilities needs to be in place. "It is our customer's names that appear on the products we make and we remain especially vigilant to ensure our quality guards their reputation", continues Herbage. Food manufacturers need to source their ingredients and be able to quickly access information. "Our current traceability systems, whilst being very effective, generate an awful lot of paper and are costly to manage. Our vision is to integrate the paper system into Protean to improve its efficiency."

"The fresh food market in the UK is the most highly developed in the World. If you look at the USA, a fresh product shelf life can be as much as 30 days compared to 2 days in the UK. Sales order processing, despatch and planning are therefore key to us. With a short life food ingredient, you need to know what age your product has and plan to take account of it. We manage well with our manual systems, but at a cost. Protean will definitely enable us to be more efficient by providing us with a better visibility of our inventory taking into account shelf life management"