Most small businesses will get their operations underway with the support of spreadsheets and in due course an accounting package. But, with a proven business model and an ambitious expansion plan, forward-looking Vitaminhaus quickly opted for the implementation of cloud-delivered SAP Business One. In a project described as ‘textbook’, the company has met immediate needs and a basis to seamlessly expand business systems to match the pace of its trade.
Vitaminhaus imports and distributes the VÖOST range of dietary supplements and vitamins from Germany. With a commitment to providing specifically formulated vitamins and minerals that suit the Australian lifestyle year-round, the range offers different formulations based on the season. Since its launch in 2013, Australian consumers have purchased more than 3,500,000 tubes of VÖOST, which equates to over 35 million tablets consumed. The product range is developed collaboratively between Australian naturopaths and Vitaminhaus product developers in Germany. VÖOST is sold worldwide: available in Europe, Africa and Asia.
When Vitaminhaus entrepreneur Thomas Siebel started the business, the initial infrastructure rested on that of existing initiatives which he was running, explains Laura Riepe, financial manager. “It made sense at the time as it allowed Vitaminhaus to establish itself with low overheads.” However, the company soon started to expand rapidly, to the point that, as she puts it, it needed to stand on its own two feet. It was around this time that Riepe was brought in to manage growth and operations, and the business also moved into its own dedicated offices.
“We were using Apprise at the time and it just wasn’t suitable for our operations. Having used SAP beforehand and being a fan of it, and having worked with Inecom Technology Partners in the past, I had a good idea of what might be a better option. We spent some time weighing up whether to go on-premise or cloud – but as a small company, ultimately it made sense to go straight to the cloud.”
Specifically, she says the old system was rigid, with limited capability in logistics and forecasting with excessive manual work required to produce reports. “It was obvious that this would be a barrier to the growth of Vitaminhaus,” Riepe adds, “And we wanted a system which would not only meet immediate needs but provide headroom for any amount of future expansion.”
In consultation with Inecom, it was determined that SAP Business One solution would provide an ideal solution for Vitaminhaus. “We didn’t have a lot of data, for one thing, and for another, with everyone working on laptops, adding a server into the office infrastructure and having to look after it wasn’t appealing,” says Riepe.
A further major advantage was cost; the implementation took some four months, but with software as a service delivered from the cloud, the monthly per-user overhead is an operational expense, keeping capital investment to a minimum. “Moreover, the choice of implementation partner can’t be stressed enough as a factor in success,” adds Riepe.
“With Inecom, the cost of the implementation of SAP was more affordable than other suggested solutions – and it invoiced ‘on the go’ so there wasn’t any big hit."
The immediate benefits of the SAP Business One solution, says Riepe, is that important tasks which once consumed hours of time are completed in minutes. “Take forecasting for an example, something which I spend a lot of time doing. It used to be a 4-hour job using error-prone Excel spreadsheets. With SAP we have standard reports which get the job done in the system in 30 minutes or less. That’s a big productivity saver.” She points to the flexibility of the SAP system, which is already allowing for Vitaminhaus to expand its operations; the initial business is built on importing and distributing product from Germany, but a new locally-manufactured range is being introduced. The SAP system can handle the manufacturing component, as well as warehousing and distribution.
“Visibility across the supply chain, across multiple batch codes and numbers, is also far better than it was before. Previously, we could only drill into one product at a time – now we can do the whole lot in one go, which makes inventory control far easier. The system has been up and running for several months and it is performing as expected. But the best benefits are yet to come. This business has grown rapidly as we have established a ready market for our products and it is going to grow much further. Most of our customers themselves run SAP. In time, we’ll look to integrate our supply chain with those of our customers – and most importantly, we have the headroom with Business One to grow as much as we like without having to think about changing the ERP system.”
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