If you’ve ever dined at an Australian pub or a club, the odds are you’ve eaten food that has been prepared by Simplot Foodservice.

Simplot Foodservice is home to some of Australia’s favourite food brand businesses including Edgell, Chiko, I&J, Birds Eye, John West and Leggo’s. One of this country’s largest food service suppliers, Simplot provides a range of high quality, cost and time saving food solutions to outlets such as pubs, clubs, nursing homes, prisons and school canteens. Its food offering includes finger and snack foods, potato products, seafood and main meal components, shelf and frozen vegetable products, tomato products, frozen desserts.

Besides delivering the value combination of great taste and convenience, Simplot maintains its leading food service position by employing a team of 30 professional and experienced Business Development Managers. The members of this team spend much of their time on the road, travelling Australia to visit customers, demonstrate products and sell product.

The need for mobility

Up until several years ago, the Business Development Managers relied on their mobile phones and a weekly visit to the Simplot office. During the visit they would hand over the week’s sales orders, catch up on company news and pick up copies of brochures or new advertising campaigns before grabbing the information that they would need when back out on the road the following week.

It was a slow process that meant customer orders or queries could take up to a week to be processed. Mail was often the only means of sending material to staff during the week. Plus, the process required the Business Development Managers to be off the road - and therefore not selling - one day out of every five.

By 2004, Simplot management had decided that this loss of productivity and the delays were no longer acceptable. It was time to invest in a mobility solution that could keep the Business Development Managers connected and bring immediacy to order placement and other communications.

Terry Vella, Sales Information Manager, Simplot Foodservice, explains, “Simplot had been looking at some kind of sales force automation and mobility solution for years, but like most companies, we’d been hesitant about the amount of money that would need to be invested. In 2004 however, it had become a technology whose time was right. Everyone here identified it as a need.”

Mr Vella prepared a list of objectives for the solution. First and foremost it would have to help to create a more competitive sales force. It had to provide staff with the tools and data they needed for true decision making while on the road. Just as importantly, the solution had to increase efficiency by removing repetitive paper-based tasks and increase revenue by creating more face-to-face time for sales. Following evaluation, Simplot chose the Sales and Account Management (SAM) solution and equipped field staff with notebook computers and tablets.

More time for business development managers

Following evaluation, Simplot chose the Sales and Account Management (SAM) solution and equipped field staff with notebook computers and tablets.

The Windows-based solution is easy to use and has made it possible for field staff to send emails, submit orders and sales information on the fly. In return, the Pentablets have given Business Development Managers ready access to sales tools such as product information and images, up-to-date advertising material, historical sales information, market share data and the all-important customer relationship management (CRM) application.

Mr Vella comments,

“Now that everything is electronic we receive orders daily. If we have a query, it can be attended to immediately. Where once the reps would be in the office every week, they now only visit once per month or every six weeks. It means they have more time on the road to sell.”

Despite the longer absences, SAM has helped to develop a stronger team spirit amongst staff. As an example, Business Development Managers have access to the company’s online “noticeboard”, where they can keep informed of Simplot news and changes. It’s a simple step, but one that helps to keep everyone in touch.

Enhanced productivity

While external factors such as food trends, advertising campaigns, changes in weather and economic conditions can have a major impact on the food service market, Mr Vella believes that productivity has increased as a result of the solution.

“Customers have been very supportive of the increased use of technology, welcoming the increased responsiveness and speed in their dealings with Simplot. Presentation of new product materials has become more professional, with the ability to display advertising campaigns and glossy materials on screen rather than relying on sometimes dog-eared hard copy handouts,” says Mr Vella.

Following the success of the Foodservice deployment, Simplot introduced the same technology into its retail division, adopting it for all dealings with independent food stores such as Foodworks and IGA.

Once again, the solution replaced a paper-based system, bringing faster, more professional and more accurate communications to customer interactions.

“I don’t think any of our users would want to go back to the old paper-based system. They really like the freedom of the mobile system and it does free up time. It’s been a good solution for our needs,” Mr Vella concludes.