» Healthy Meals Delivered to Your Door
John McVey, Sun Basket
Sun Basket Case Study
Healthy Meals Delivered to Your Door
When San Francisco-based Adam Zbar, George Nachtrieb, Tyler MacNiven, and chef Justine Kelley founded a new meal kit delivery company called Sun Basket in 2014, their timing could not have been better. Sun Basket was born just as subscription-based, ecommerce meal delivery services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh were exploding in popularity throughout the food industry, and with its specialization in organic meals covering a wide range of dietary preferences, the company immediately caught on with Americans looking for a convenient and healthy way to eat.
Growth was rapid. Just ask John McVey, the General Manager of Sun Basket’s east coast manufacturing and distribution center in Westampton, New Jersey. When John started in 2017, he was one of about 10 colleagues working in a 30,000 square foot building. Today, John counts himself as one of 400 employees, and their current facility is just under 200,000 square feet. Between the company’s east and west coast operations, Sun Basket ships their products to customers in all 48 contiguous states every week.
Sun Basket has grown in other ways, too. While the company began with a focus on delivering prepared meal kits, it has subsequently expanded to offer more a la carte marketplace options, as well ready-to-cook meals. Chef Kelley and her team have created thousands of recipes, continuing to innovate and add new offerings to Sun Basket’s product lines today and in the years to come.
Setting the Table for Success
Such exponential progress meant that Sun Basket quickly outgrew many of its processes and technologies, and it became clear that they needed a modern software system that was built not just for the present, but with a flexibility that would allow them to adapt to future growth and change.
In 2016, the company hired Pat Reyes as the head of IT, tasking him with the goal of finding and implementing a software solution that would allow them to manage their rapid expansion. Pat had approximately 20 years of experience with implementing enterprise resource management (ERP) systems, and after joining Sun Basket, he made finding a modern ERP program a top priority. While the software itself was important, equally critical was the company behind it. “We were looking for a partner that we could work with throughout our growth,” says Pat. “We had to feel comfortable with the partner that was going to implement the software.”
Pat and the rest of the selection team at Sun Basket found a few different software systems that would meet their needs, but from a partner perspective, the organization that gave them the greatest level of comfort and assurance that their project would be a success was Beck Consulting. One of the key differentiators between Beck and the other companies they spoke with was Beck’s familiarity with all segments of the food industry. For a multi-faceted organization like Sun Basket, a software tailored specifically to assemblies or manufacturing or safety would not be sufficient; they needed something that could handle all of these areas. Beck’s bcFood add-on to Microsoft’s Dynamics NAV ERP system gave Sun Basket exactly what they needed: a Microsoft platform that would always be up-to-date today and tomorrow, a food solution built to meet their needs and challenges, and a partner with more than three decades of experience working with food companies of all shapes and sizes. For Sun Basket, the choice became clear, and they selected bcFood as their ERP system of the future.
» The Implementation Process: Committed to Clean, Standard Data
The Implementation Process: Committed to Clean, Standard Data
It can sometimes happen that a company gets stuck doing things according to an undesirable methodology simply because that methodology was put into place a long time ago and is seemingly unchangeable. While the primary purpose of an ERP implementation is deploying a new software system, it also provides these companies with a great opportunity to “reset” an existing process or procedure that is no longer meeting their needs. For Sun Basket, their ERP implementation provided them with the motivation to standardize their item records. Using a tool like Google Sheets to manage their items had been fine in the early days of Sun Basket, but as the company grew and more sheets were added to address different business needs and departments, they found themselves in a situation where the same item might be identified in a half dozen different ways throughout the organization. Before the bcFood implementation truly got underway, Sun Basket was committed to cleaning up their item data. Assisted by Beck, Pat and his team put together a single, master item list that standardized identification numbering and descriptions. They were also able to enter new information, such as multiple units of measure, for their item records that was unavailable with their old tools.
Once Sun Basket had gotten their item records to their desired state, the implementation process began in earnest. Kicking off in April 2017, the project ran throughout the spring, summer, and fall. The Sun Basket and Beck teams worked together to identify, deliver, and test needed enhancements; complete training activities; and keep each part of the implementation on track. In addition to bcFood, Sun Basket was concurrently implementing Beck’s bcMobile Android application for mobile warehouse management so that they would be able to enjoy a real-time picture of their inventory.
The time and effort paid off. In September, Sun Basket’s midwestern facility went live on bcFood, followed by the eastern plant in October, and finally the west coast location in December. As January of 2018 arrived, the entire company was up and running on their bcFood solution.
» Features Designed for Customer Satisfaction and Safety
Features Designed for Customer Satisfaction and Safety
One of the most important values for Sun Basket is giving customers options when it comes to choosing meals that fit a wide variety of diet and lifestyle choices. Heart-friendly, lean and clean, pescatarian, Mediterranean, gluten-free, and paleo are just a few of the different meal plans Sun Basket can accommodate. Each and every week, the chefs at Sun Basket need to create new recipes. In addition, existing recipes may be tweaked based on customer feedback, and there are hundreds of marketplace items that change on a weekly basis. As Pat summarizes, “every week is a whole new adventure, because probably 90% of it, we didn’t do the week before.” For Sun Basket, the recipe management features in bcFood helped to significantly streamline the meal design process. bcFood allows users to select an existing recipe and use this as the basis for an entirely new recipe or simply create a new version to reflect an update. Each recipe can also be assigned an effectivity date, making it possible to design meal plans that are based on the seasonality of produce.
Another area in which date tracking is important to Sun Basket is when it comes to the expiration or effectivity dates of the materials that go into their meals and orders. A lot of perishable dairy items and produce are used in Sun Basket’s products, and it is critical to ensure that only fresh materials are included in every delivery. Beck enhanced the existing MRP capabilities within Dynamics to provide better visibility to expiration dates for these perishable items. Not only does this assist in determining which items to ship, but it also lets the purchasing team know when more materials need to be ordered because existing inventory is no longer usable.
An essential concern when it comes to providing food to as many people as Sun Basket does is maintaining strict allergen tracking. Every product they offer needs to be accurately labeled in terms of what allergens it contains. With bcFood, each ingredient or material can be tagged with the appropriate allergens. When these ingredients are used in recipes, the allergens are rolled up into the finished product. Simple and straightforward to use, these tools allow Sun Basket to confidently keep their customers up-to-date on each item’s allergen contents.
» Providing an Integrated, Stable Environment
Providing an Integrated, Stable Environment
For certain areas of the business, bcFood’s impact following go-live was immediate. Prior to bcFood, it took the finance department between six and eight weeks to close out the month-end books. Within a few months of going live with bcFood, this task could be accomplished in just four days. Replacing manual inventory processes with mobile automation also provided instant improvements across the company, giving everyone real-time insight into how product was flowing into, throughout, and from the warehouse.
An important part of an ERP system is that it integrates all areas of business onto one platform. For Sun Basket, which had previously had to deal with different silos of segregated information across each department, this type of integration led to an overall better business. One example of this can be seen with Sun Basket’s production forecasting. For a company that produces items according to customer orders, accurate production forecasting is paramount. In an integrated system like bcFood, the orders that are entered by customer service can be compared to existing inventory levels to determine need, and production orders can not only be generated to meet demand but also scheduled so that they are completed in time to accommodate the customer’s requested delivery date. This in turn can trigger purchase demand and orders for the procurement team. With each department or area’s actions impacting the others, everyone has access to more accurate information and is better equipped to do their jobs.
For Pat, one of the greatest benefits has been the peace of mind and stability that come with an ERP system running on a proven infrastructure such as Microsoft SQL Server. “It just runs,” he explains. “That is probably, from an IT perspective, the biggest thing because nobody talks about it within our company, which is good. I’m not getting interrupted in the middle of the night and nobody’s talking about the system being down. It just runs.”
Prepared for What’s to Come
Having seen the advantages that automation and integration have brought so far, the team at Sun Basket has been eager to make additional improvements. The company has a sophisticated pick-to-light system that has already been integrated with bcFood, and is looking to add scales and other types of automated counter machines to various points of the packaging process. This will further improve the accuracy of the data being entered into the system, leading to better decision-making and real-time order fulfillment.
Sun Basket is also looking to do more when it comes to mining and analyzing data. Having been live on bcFood for close to two years, the company at this point has captured enough information that it can start to be useful in identifying trends and customer preferences. Pat and his team have begun the process of combining their ERP data with information from sources such as their sales platform and other customer databases to create a single repository of information that will allow Sun Basket to obtain a better understanding of what their customers want, informing decisions on what sort of new products, product lines, or business ventures should be undertaken.
And there will assuredly be much more to undertake; the team at Sun Basket has no plans to reign in their rapid growth. The company is looking to expand their ready-to-cook, oven-ready product line, and will continue to add hundreds and eventually thousands of new items to their meal kit and marketplace offerings. With a modern system like bcFood in place to support all of these initiatives, Sun Basket is well-equipped to take their business in whatever direction they wish, and can feel confident that their remarkable success is sustainable for years to come.