Bongards Creameries Unlocks Greater Efficiency and Process Improvements with Aptean ERP and Smart Hub

Bongards Creameries Unlocks Greater Efficiency and Process Improvements with Aptean ERP and Smart Hub

With more than a century of experience in the dairy sector and a reputation for high quality, Minnesota-based Bongards Creameries is well established as a leading provider of cheeses, both natural and processed, as well as powdered whey. The business manufactures hundreds of millions of pounds of finished products each year and serves a variety of clients across the globe in the foodservice, retail, convenience store, institutional and industrial channels.

While the organization remains true to its roots as a vertically integrated 300-farmer co-op, Bongards and its leadership team haven’t given in to complacency and accepted the status quo as “good enough.” Instead, they’re building on their long track record of success by deploying new solutions and smarter ways of working, with purpose-built software at the core of their strategy.

The company’s digital transformation journey began over 25 years ago with the implementation of Aptean’s process manufacturing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and the software’s costing, maintenance and manufacturing features have helped to improve operations significantly. More recently, Bongards added Aptean Smart Hub to its tech stack and that decision is also paying dividends in terms of increased efficiency.

“Part of it was just realizing that, in a 100-year-old company, you’re doing stuff in notebooks and spreadsheets,” Bob Grinsell, business analyst at Bongards, said. “Our leadership finally reached a realization that the company wasn’t going to grow, be able to make more product or gain more market share, if we’re going to keep doing everything manually—it’s just too slow.”

To more fully explain the ways in which Aptean’s solutions have allowed Bongards to increase productivity, streamline processes and boost the bottom line, we spoke with Grinsell and Justin Ruud, IT applications specialist at Bongards, for their first-hand take. Our conversation also covered how our collaborative approach to serving as a technology provider leads to better outcomes for our customers and lasting partnerships.

One of the most valuable aspects of ERP platforms is that they act as a unified database and organization-wide “single source of truth,” which facilitates faster, more informed decision-making and helps to prevent duplication of data. By connecting with electronic devices—including handhelds like barcode scanners—Aptean’s process manufacturing ERP can also automate the collection process and thereby save time while improving accuracy.

“The data collection is what I’m most proud of and would say is our most significant accomplishment achieved thanks to Aptean ERP,” Ruud said. “That was my big project to get done, and I had a lot of great support from the Aptean team—a lot of hands-on help. And it went really well.”

The software has also helped Bongards get a better handle on costs with dedicated tools for that purpose, which has driven greater profitability and improved visibility of financial data. Meanwhile, integration between the ERP and Smart Hub has allowed for automation of warehouse processes, leading to big gains in efficiency and better inventory control.

“One of the huge impacts was automating inventory and warehousing down at our Humble, Tennessee, plant,” Grinsell said. “We’ve got automated guided vehicles and robots out there moving pallets and barrels seven stories high, and it’s all being run through Smart Hub and Aptean ERP, as they’re controlling everything in the plant. You see stuff moving without any human intervention—so that’s been amazing.”

Additional Smart Hub automations deployed by other departments have led to considerable benefits. For example, the accounts receivable team’s use of auto-invoicing saved 23 hours of work in a three-month period, and depending on the month could save as much as two and a half weeks of one person’s time. Automatic alerts for approaching credit limits and other potential issues have also helped the customer service team shift to a more proactive approach.

“Aptean systems have made our operations more efficient so that we can actually have an opportunity to expand our market now,” Grinsell said. “We’re doing things in less time and can use people more efficiently.”

From the time of the original ERP implementation to the deployment of Smart Hub and up to the present day, Bongards’s employees have come to rely on the dependable support of Aptean’s customer success professionals. That’s included best practice advice during the roll-out that helped to ease the transition between the old, accepted ways of doing things and the new methods facilitated by the systems.

“When you make a big change like that, it’s a culture shift for the plant,” Ruud said. “You can end up bumping heads with the existing culture, but with the Aptean support, it was smooth and simple.”

Staff at Bongards have also appreciated swift response times for their inquiries and assistance with learning the ins and outs of our ERP, Smart Hub and their functionalities. They know that they can always tap into the wealth of knowledge that our support and service teams have, and that in turn helps them get more out of their technology.

“When I ask questions or for clarification, responses are always well-informed,” Grinsell said. “Aptean’s customer success representatives understand not just the system but also what we’re doing with the system. And they’re always very responsive and understanding of what we’re trying to do and what the problems might be.”

“Aptean has some very talented people on the support team, no doubt,” added Ruud.

Going forward, Bongards’s team is confident that they’ll be able to get more and more out of their Aptean systems over time by working closely with our internal experts and leveraging additional features. Grinsell and Ruud point out that improvements made in process mapping are helping the organization develop a more forward-thinking mindset, and they’re excited by what’s to come.

“We’ve been looking at the graphical scheduling tool and all those features that simplify modifications to a release,” Grinsell said. “They simplify that process to just a click or a keystroke. So in the next few months, I definitely think Aptean ERP is going to streamline how we do longer-term planning and scheduling.”