“The overall platform allowed them to grow and have the confidence to deal with the supply chain and all the concerns about going global,” says Brad Windecker, CEO of Orchestra, which hosts the brewery’s ERP system on the cloud for a monthly subscription fee. Some 35 people at Avery have access to the system. “Most of our customers don’t even know that SAP exists,” says Windecker. “SAP is just another part of the platform that creates a solution to the problem. If you’re less than a $1 billion-a-year company, it’s really difficult to deal directly with an IBM or SAP or Oracle.”
The ERP system helps Avery Brewing on multiple fronts, not just getting paid. International customers all have special requirements in terms of packaging and labeling. The company’s IT systems communicate that information seamlessly to the brewery’s production staff. Moreover, because it is exporting alcohol, it has to make specific reports to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau, which the system handles automatically.
Even though Avery is based in the Rocky Mountains, its supply chain is surprisingly international and the Orchestra system helps with that as well. Some of its raw materials, such as specialty malts, come from French-speaking parts of Canada or from Germany. Some packaging materials also come from abroad, as does some of the hardware that Avery uses, such as a canning line. “The procurement of those [items] comes straight out of [the] ERP system,” Henton explains. The system handles sometimes-tricky issues, such as currency differences. Henton can select what currency to display on an invoice and be sure that it is accurate in U.S. dollars. He is beginning to explore SAP’s Ariba cloud-based business-to- business network, because he thinks it will give Avery a competitive advantage in sourcing internationally at better prices—all of which is a huge change from how a smallish company would have operated just a few years ago.
Go With Your Gut
Sono-Tek, the New York-based maker of ultrasonic spray nozzles, is a classic, niche-manufacturer and exporter. It knows how to coat things in a unique, environmentally friendly way, which is valuable to the consumer electronics, energy, medical-device, glass, textile and food industries. It can, for example, provide a precise coating for heart stents and catheters. CEO Coccio, who, like Helton, is a veteran of a much larger company, namely GE, arrived in 2001 when Sono-Tek was a purely North American company, about a quarter of its current size and selling primarily to the electronics industry.
“Our conscious strategy was to diversify in two dimensions,” Coccio explains. “First, we went into new product areas, such as medical devices and glass applications, then into advanced energy, such as solar and fuel cells. The other dimension of expansion was going from a North American company to being an international one. We started to ‘colonize’ Europe, Japan and parts of Africa.”