May 20, 2015 | Written by: Daniel Davis
Categorized: B2B Integration
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Memorial Day is a time for remembering and honoring the men and women who have served and are serving their country in uniform. Coastal Pacific Food Distributors has the privilege of serving those men and women back, and not just on Memorial Day but 365 days a year. The company is the second largest worldwide military distributor of food and related products, serving nearly 500 ship-to locations worldwide. As Pat Ranga, Vice President EDI/E-Commerce put it, “If you miss that ship, a lot of people aren’t going to get their favorite breakfast.” To make sure those shipments don’t get missed, Coastal Pacific needed a solution that streamlined order processing and improved collaboration with its customers—namely, all U.S. military agencies domestically and overseas.
Until recently, Coastal Pacific used custom-built military processing software which integrated with IBM Sterling Gentran. Ranga wrote that in-house code and was the sole person responsible for its execution and upkeep. “We thought it was working well, but we wanted an integrated platform that wasn’t dependent upon one person’s 20-plus years of knowledge,” Ranga said. If somebody wanted to know the status of a purchase order, they had to email Ranga and he had to get onto the tracking system to look it up manually. He also needed to be available at all times in order to meet requirements and service-level agreements (SLAs).
Ranga hasn’t taken a vacation since 2011.
That will all be changing now that Coastal Pacific is switching over to IBM Sterling B2B Integrator. “We needed a robust, scalable platform, and that’s where Sterling came in,” according to Ranga. By giving the private company a flexible and secure way of integrating with trading partners, Sterling B2B Integrator will make it possible for Coastal Pacific to decrease order processing costs while meeting the rigorous, just-in-time demands of shipping to locations on nearly every continent. Having this single, unified platform streamlines business-to-business collaboration, including quickly and easily onboarding customers, and gives the distributor visibility of the entire supply chain. And, the platform is scalable, “so if we grow rapidly, this will grow with us,” Ranga adds. “That is a huge draw.”
Having everything under one platform also means that if an issue with an order arises, “solving it does not require a person of 20, 30 years of experience—the author of the code,” Ranga said. “This is a software platform which has everything laid out very clearly for you, everything you need to solve the issue.” Coastal Pacific was able to integrate all of the components of its in-house military system—protocols, mapping, file transfer, etc.—necessary for its $1.5 – $2 billion in billing, but “in a much better fashion,” according to Ranga. “So when I saw that I said, ‘Oh god, if they had come up with this concept 20 years ago, I would have been better off not creating a better mouse trap.’”
As with any good collaboration, Coastal Pacific’s new system is benefitting not just the firm but its partners as well. The distributor is currently undergoing major testing with a premier partner. No longer will a partner have to email Ranga to find out the status of a purchase order. With Sterling B2B Integrator, partners will have direct access to info about their orders. “We are giving the power to the end user [to look up info] about their documents,” said Ranga. “We are letting them be a part of making the supply chain more efficient.”
In the end the new platform will be a win for Coastal Pacific, its distribution partners, its military customers, and perhaps most of all, Ranga’s vacation schedule.