Compact Industries blends success with new ERP system


Compact Industries Inc., a privately held company based in St. Charles, Ill., is a recognized leader in the food service industry. The company launched its operations more than 45 years ago with lines of instant coffee, cocoa and soup in “heat and eat” paper-lined cups. The concept met with instant success, and sales soared. Shortly thereafter, Compact extended the concept to coin-operated vending machines, and sales took another spurt.

In 1973, Compact’s founder, John F. Green III, further extended his business to single-serve instant coffee packets and eight-ounce service bags. Sales jumped to the point where Compact became one of the largest United States importers of soluble coffee.

Meanwhile, Compact also become a leading private-label manufacturer of powdered foods and beverages. The company now produces more than 20 lines of custom-blended hot and cold beverages, including coffees, teas, cocoas, granitas, citrus-based drinks and soft-serve products, delivered in a variety of convenient packages.

Compact now derives most of its revenues through contract packaging, providing custom mixes for the many popular food labels in the United States. The company’s R&D lab can custom blend to match and improve upon competitive formulations.

The challenge
With more than 90 custom and in-house blends with numerous packaging options, from single package servings to flexible pouches to canisters, inventory control became a daunting task. Several years ago, the company realized that its predominantly accounting-based software could not keep up with its increasingly diversified manufacturing operations.

“Our exploding product varieties turned our inventory control, order entry and order tracking into critical bottlenecks in meeting our customers’ needs,” said Matt Hancher, Compact’s information technology director.

The solution
After examining several software solutions for its burgeoning business, the firm opted to go with SYSPRO ERP (enterprise resource planning) software. A deciding factor was SYSPRO’s ability to accommodate multi-mode production methods, together with strict controls over finance and distribution.

Explains Hancher, “We found that SYSPRO provided the manufacturing and financial flexibility and control we needed to efficiently manage our private-label and in-house brands as an integrated entity.”

The result
With the installation of SYSPRO ERP in 1997, Compact quickly gained control over inventory and scheduling.

According to Hancher, “Forecasts are critical to our business, and SYSPRO provides the purchasing and production scheduling facilities we need to manage our complex process involving both purchased and customer-owned materials. There is a lot of data within SYSPRO, and we systematically utilize SYSPRO’s operational and historical reporting facility in all phases of our business.”

Hancher also gives high marks to the system’s ease of navigation.

“SYSPRO is easy to navigate. Context-sensitive right-click menus provide links to related modules and information, plus users can create their own shortcuts,” he says.

Compact also proactively manages both production and customer relations with the help of SYSPRO’s automatic e-mail alerts for low inventory, maxed-out credit limits and other events.

When Compact looked to further streamline operations and enhance customer service through the implementation of e-commerce, it again turned to SYSPRO to meet its needs. Compact’s Web-enabled features now include customer-tailored online order inquiry, purchase order tracking, shipment details and on-hand inventory.

Says Hancher, “Private-label customers receive automatic order verification as well as purchase orders via return e-mail. The more our customers avail themselves of these online services, the more our customer service staff can focus on proactive account management.”

When Compact moved into its 160,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, computers and handheld scanners placed on the manufacturing floor further enabled workers to enter data and track inventory.

“Compact is undertaking a lean initiative to streamline operations and enhance customer service, including a 50 percent reduction in order entry turnaround,” says Hancher. “SYSPRO’s flexibility has enabled Compact to make continuous improvements across our entire organization.”

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