Growing rapidly through acquisition, C.H. Guenther & Son LLC needed to quickly onboard and manage integrations with global trading partners and acquired companies.
C.H. Guenther & Son uses the cloud-based Supply Chain Business Network Premium solution to automate many of its key business-to-business (B2B) integration processes — reducing manual work for its EDI team.
Processes approximately 75% of B2B transactions in the cloudconsistently throughout multiple acquisitions
Scales to accommodate a 25% increase in transactions over 6 monthsfrom 32,000 to over 40,000 per month
Enables fast onboarding and integrationof trading partners and acquired businesses
Business challenge story
The need to quickly onboard trading partners
C.H. Guenther & Son has come a long way since its origins in the Texas Hill Country more than 160 years ago. From a single, humble flour mill situated next to a rural creek, the grain-based and frozen food products company has expanded to locations that span the US, Canada and Europe. Today, it serves foodservice clients and select consumer markets with a portfolio that includes 10 iconic brands — such as Pioneer, White Wings and Sun-Bird, among others — as well as hundreds of supported customer brands.
After a period of rapid growth, C.H. Guenther & Son has set its sights on further expansion. George Muller, Senior Global IT Director at the company, explains: “Recently, C.H. Guenther & Son was acquired, and our company’s new owner, as well as our executive management team, laid out a strategy to double the size of the business within the next five years. Everyone is very excited about this further growth opportunity.” So far, that strategy has resulted in three new acquisitions in 10 months.
To accommodate its growth plans, the company must be able to bring in new businesses and trading partners quickly and efficiently. As a means for doing so, it relies on EDI to exchange information and documents — such as purchase orders, invoices and order acknowledgements — with its global network of 140 trading partners.
Currently, those trading partners include major retail customers, transportation business partners and third-party logistics companies. Muller continues, “Certainly our customers are continuing to ask for more, which in turn is driving growth and business complexity — using these tools from IBM helps us meet these challenges.”
Already the company is experiencing a significant increase in EDI transactions since setting its growth goal, in part as a result of its most recent acquisitions. In the wake of this increase, timely communication and tight control over costs remain essential.
“We operate in a competitive industry where customers are demanding and asking for more — and to help the business be as profitable as it can be, it’s crucial to deliver lean, efficient EDI capabilities,” Muller says. “As the business prepares for another period of intense growth, it’s more important than ever that we can onboard and manage trading partners efficiently.”
Fast, automated B2B transactions in the cloud
C.H. Guenther & Son relies on the Supply Chain Business Network Premium platform to support its EDI services. Designed for availability, the solution consists of a cloud-based platform that enables businesses to automate and digitize B2B transactions, facilitated by managed services. The solution is supported by a strong C.H. Guenther team.
“Supply Chain Business Network is at the heart of our approach to EDI,” says Muller. “We use it to support 14 different types of EDI documents across an extensive community of trading partners. The solution is also fully integrated with the ERP applications that drive our business, enabling us to deliver straight-through processing for invoices as soon as we generate them. The less we have to touch a transaction, the lower the risk of human error entering the process.”
With the Supply Chain Business Network solution, C.H. Guenther & Son can substantially reduce the amount of up-front work and ongoing management when it adds new trading partners. “We have developed a playbook for onboarding trading partner connections,” says Muller, “and Supply Chain Business Network plays an integral role in the process.”
“Using the IBM solution, we can identify and clone transactions we’re already using, which saves a substantial amount of time,” Muller continues. “Whenever we need to create a new EDI connection, we simply open a ticket and IBM does the majority of the mapping work for us — all we need to do is validate the integration with the trading partner.” This capability has been essential to processing the rapid increase in EDI transactions — from 32,000 to over 40,000 per month during the first six months of 2019 alone — as the company executes its growth strategy.
With the monitoring capabilities of the Supply Chain Business Network solution, C.H. Guenther & Son can reduce the time required to identify and resolve EDI issues — empowering the company to react quickly and stay within its service level agreements. “With in-flight monitoring, we have a real-time view of all our EDI transactions,” explains Muller. “If a transaction fails, the solution automatically opens a support ticket and informs our operations team, which helps us start investigating the cause immediately.”
An ongoing partnership for success
Harnessing the Supply Chain Business Network solution to deliver highly automated EDI services provides the scalability and efficiency C.H. Guenther & Son needs to drive toward its five-year growth goal.
“Today, we use Supply Chain Business Network to process between 72 and 75 percent of our orders, and the platform has never let us down,” says Muller. “Every time we make an acquisition, our goal is to bring our average back up to 75 percent as soon as possible — and thanks to the IBM solution, the technical side of that work is easy.”
He adds: “We see IBM as a trusted partner, and over the years they’ve consistently gone out of their way to ensure our success. When we fell behind on our trading partner onboarding for a recent acquisition, our IBM project executive came to work on the issue with us over the weekend, even though that level of service was not in the contract. IBM runs fast and jumps high, and we know that they are always there to support us when we need it.”
At times, the IBM team can draw upon its extensive industry connections to identify EDI contacts within new trading partners’ organizations and facilitate introductions. “If we get the cooperation from our trading partner,” says Muller, “we can bring them on within days. And I’m talking full cycle — design, testing, onboarding and production. It’s a very short turnaround.”
C.H. Guenther & Son is always looking for opportunities to drive efficiencies in its business. For example, the company has replaced paper-based ordering and invoicing workflows between its third-party logistics suppliers with digital integrations. The result has been near real-time visibility of inventory levels and a significantly shorter invoice-to-cash process.
“We see that successful B2B integration projects are about more than the technology — they’re a partnership with the business,” Muller comments. “Every year, we run an IT satisfaction survey to take the pulse of the organization — helping us confirm the work we’re doing aligns with business priorities.”
Muller concludes: “We have significant growth on the horizon, and using Supply Chain Business Network to integrate with new trading partners quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively will be crucial to drive toward our goal. We know that IBM is truly invested in our success — we never hesitate to pick up the phone when we need assistance, and IBM is always quick to deliver.”
About C.H. Guenther & Son LLC
Founded in 1851, C.H. Guenther & Son has a rich heritage of delivering high-quality, innovative food products to its customers. With headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, the company is a leading supplier of gravies and sauces, baking mixes, oven-ready snacks and meals, and other food products for foodservice and select consumer markets in North America and Europe. Its 10 iconic brands include Pioneer, Sun-Bird, Williams, Tribeca Oven, Morrison’s, White Wings, Cookietree Bakeries, The Great American by Pizza Blends, Gizella Pastry and Cuisine Adventures.
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