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Golden State Foods Finds a Partner to Help Support an Aging ERP System

Golden State Foods has grown to become one of the largest suppliers in the world. Its partnership with Precision Solutions Group Inc. allows its IT staff to focus on more aspects of the business, says Golden State’s business services manager, Bill Runyan.

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Customer: Golden State Foods
Headquarters: Irvine, Calif.
Business: Manufacturer and distributor of fast-food products, including meat, produce, bakery and liquid products
Challenge: Supporting a functional, yet aging, ERP solution
Solution: Contracts with Precision Solutions Group Inc. to consult on ERP-specific projects and assist with help-desk requests
Hardware: Two IBM Power Systems serversrunning IBM i
Software: Infor ERP PRISM, Oracle JD Edwards One World and Lawson Financial Management

When ERP applications are taken off a developer’s lifeline, it can be difficult for users to continue supporting them. This is especially true when IT staff members who may have been familiar with the package retire or move on to other jobs, leaving companies with a low-level understanding of how the program works. They can continue using it—hoping it’s robust enough to take them into the future—or transition to another package. For many organizations, however, the former option seems like wishful thinking and the latter may be too expensive to undertake.

That’s why Golden State Foods decided to partner with Precision Solutions Group Inc. (PSGi) to help support its PRISM ERP package, which has languished to some degree. Thankfully, PSGi is staffed with many of PRISM’s initial and former developers. This has allowed Golden State to continue to use the solution as a vital part of its back-office processing.


A Vision of Consistency

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Golden State has been in business since 1947, initially providing a variety of meat products to local restaurants and hotels. Although successful at the time, its fortune began to dramatically change in the early 1950s, when McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc approached the company to sell similar items to his growing stable of restaurants.

“Our owner decided to join him on that venture, starting in Southern California. This was kind of a new concept at the time, because McDonald’s would manage which vendors we would buy from and then we would distribute all of the products from a single facility,” says Bill Runyan, business services manager with Golden State. “As McDonald’s grew, this philosophy continued, in keeping with Kroc’s vision of having consistency across the chain. We were, of course, crucial to this because we followed the company as it opened new establishments across the country and continued to operate under that supplier-distribution model.”

“Now, we can quickly understand the materials we have on hand and could be making instead of having staff standing around waiting for a machine to be fixed.”
—Bill Runyan, business services manager, Golden State Foods

McDonald’s picks preferred vendors and Golden State works solely with them. For example, Golden State produces beef patties from its manufacturing plant and then distributes them to McDonald’s restaurants from its regional distribution centers. Using potatoes as another example, a company processes them into fries or other items and then sends them to Golden State for distribution. Now, Golden State has grown to become one of the largest suppliers in the world, servicing more than 20,000 restaurants on six continents from 31 manufacturing plants, distribution centers and offices throughout the U.S., Egypt, Australia and New Zealand. Counted among its customers are such notable brands as Starbucks, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits and Chick-fil-A.

Supporting Golden State’s vast distribution network are 23 centers located in the U.S. and abroad, each of which is dedicated to particular customers. Many of these distribution centers have dedicated IBM Power Systems* servers running in a decentralized model that handle each facility’s purchasing, accounting and other functions.

The company is currently undertaking a massive consolidation effort that will boil these systems down to two Power Systems servers, one for manufacturing and corporate ERP and the other for distribution. Runyan says most of this was completed late in 2012, with the rest transitioning in early 2013. When completed, this will allow the company to save money on hardware, software licensing, systems administration and data center power usage, according to Runyan.

Despite Golden State’s current distributed computing environment, the company is largely consolidated on three ERP packages: Infor ERP PRISM for the manufacturing side of the business; Oracle JD Edwards One World for distribution; and Lawson Financial Management suite, which acts as a linchpin, funneling information generated by the former two applications.

“We run the corporation, from an accounting perspective, with Lawson Financials,” Runyan says. “The other packages are there to manage inventory, accounts receivables, purchasing and other functions. They do generate journal entries and accounts payables, but all of that is forwarded to Lawson.”

Although Runyan admits managing three different ERP systems is “somewhat difficult,” he sees value in each—and supports them all. The IT department’s staff of 35, however, is largely divided between business systems analysts and other support personnel, including those involved in networking. Of the remainder, only three or four are developers, according to Runyan.

This dearth of developers, as one might expect, has pinched the company because so few people are devoted to the actual mission-critical development that can benefit both the company and its customers. This is particularly true when it comes to enhancing the built-in capabilities of its ERP packages, with PRISM being one of the most neglected.

The acquisition of PRISM by Infor and the eventual dispersion of PRISM developers has created a lack of qualified personnel to support the platform, although Infor continues to support it, knowing that more than a few companies, including Golden State, are still reliant on it.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.

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