UK sandwich giant rounds on SAP

UK sandwich giant rounds on SAP

Complex applicaton dismissed as 'irrelevant'

The world's second largest sandwich producer has said that SAP is " irrelevant" to the business and does not add value to the manufacturing process.

Samworth Brothers is a £600m business and a leading UK player in the production of fresh chilled foods.

The company supplies all the major UK food retailers, including Tesco, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's.

Samworth's stance on SAP is interesting because its major food and sandwich rival, the £1.4bn Northern Foods, uses SAP and has two of its senior IT employees heavily involved in the SAP User Group.

Northern Foods boasts Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco as major customers.

Brian Stein, managing director of Samworth, was formerly managing director of Northern Foods' Pork Farms business before joining Samworth in 1995, which had at the time had a turnover of £100m.

He believes that Samworth's investment in facilities over SAP has led to its rapid growth. "I ran a mile when we first talked about SAP at Northern Foods," said Stein.
"Our business is very just-in-time and I am not sure SAP adds value. Northern Foods' money would have been better invested in new facilities.

"We have not invested in anything as sophisticated as SAP, but we have invested in new facilities.

"SAP is wonderful if you are making aeroplanes or trains and you've got an incredibly complex flow of materials. If you run out, you stop making the train.

"With us, when we're making a sandwich, it has to go out in an hour. We're not making a train that takes six months to build. SAP is irrelevant. It's about investing wisely in the business."

Daniel McNamara, chief executive at SAP specialist Keytree, believes that Stein is wrong in his view that SAP is only for large-scale manufacturing.

"SAP covers more and more processes and industries. The scope of its offering is immense. However, at the core is still the sales and distribution lifecycle, which is obviously Samworth Brothers' business," he said.

"With the advent of mobile device technologies, and ever-improving hardware and front-end technology, there is no reason why such a short turnaround wouldn't be catered for.

"I haven't come across any industries that SAP doesn't cover apart from front-office trading systems."

Samworth Brothers uses Infor's ERP System 21. Northern Foods was involved in one of the UK's first upgrades to mySAP ERP, running on the SAP Netweaver platform.