To supply customers with premium quality value-added pulses and specialty crops requires cultivating business relationships with the best producers in the world. For AGT Food and Ingredients, this means managing commodity risk with timely reporting on a global scale. That’s why AGT decided to upgrade its ERP software; by choosing Microsoft Dynamics® AX, AGT now has a unified platform to keep a finger on the pulse of its global supply chain.

From Producer to the World

When it comes to value-added lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, referred to as ‘pulses’ by the agriculture sector, AGT Food and Ingredients guarantees only the best quality for its customers. Servicing a large supply chain through Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, AGT’s global leadership in the pulse industry follows a guiding principle: “From producer to the world.”

AGT’s operations comprise 41 owned and operated facilities around the world, employing over 900 full time staff. The Saskatchewan-based company offers clients comprehensive production, execution, and quality control processes for pulse producers worldwide. Depending on the commodity and location, agricultural output purchased from a producer will undergo value-adding processing of varying complexity. “AGT’s value-added process takes farmer’s agricultural output and puts it into a state where it becomes a finished food product that is then packaged and shipped to – as of last year – 120 countries worldwide,” says Omer Al-Katib, director, corporate affairs and investor relations, AGT Food and Ingredients, Inc.

Outgrowing Industry Vertical Software

Since its inception, AGT has followed a deep-rooted strategy put forth by its executive management team; laying the groundwork for business systems and processes that the company would employ based on a company growth timeline.

Back then, the company implemented an industry vertical solution specifically designed fort he agriculture industry. However, as AGT’s global operations grew, the company’s business management needs began to change. “The application AGT used previously worked well when the company was a lot smaller with fewer locations, and the logistics, contracting, and management reporting needs were different,” recalls Al-Katib. “However, in 2007, AGT became a publically traded company and required a higher level of management reporting both internally and externally to shareholders, stakeholders, and public markets.”

Global Market Challenges

Unable to meet their need for real-time reporting on a global scale, it became apparent to the AGT management team that the organization would need to replace its industry vertical solution if it were to operate as a global business. The executive management team identified the key requirements for the new enterprise resource planning (ERP) application: real-time reporting for greater risk management, flexibility to adapt to its mature business processes, and seamless integration with its operations across the globe for a unified business platform.

Real-Time Reporting Needs

With limited access to real- time reporting, managing commodity risk was a challenge for AGT. Typically, an agricultural commodity producer operates in a futures market. Here, the producer and buyer negotiate through an investor, who absorbs the risk and reward of volatile markets, prior to delivery of the product. However, there isn’t a futures market for pulse, instead, AGT operates in a spot market where its commodities are sold for cash upon delivery. This creates a need for timely information on company commodity and market positions, price and location. “When it came to currency, freight, logistics, and the financial aspect of AGT’s businesses, there was no futures market to compare against,” explains Al-Katib. “Without an integrated platform to obtain real-time information about AGT’s global operations, it was difficult to make important business decisions on the buying, selling, and market conditions, needed to guide a successful business on a daily, monthly or quarterly basis.”

Flexibility

For its new business solution, AGT needed flexibility which was not available from products designed for the pulse agriculture sector. “AGT looked at what platform could provide the maximum amount of flexibility for a producer with a truly global business structure,” says Al-Katib. “AGT needed a platform with the flexibility to easily scale and integrate with operations in international markets that are not yet using the platform.”

Integration

Extending its global presence into new markets meant ensuring that AGT could build upon existing, mature business processes that worked successfully in the domestic market while seamlessly integrating its global operations with a single unified business solution. “Next to Canada, US, and Australia, AGT’s operations in Turkey accounts for the second largest grouping of business. Consolidating data from each market was significant in ensuring that the business didn’t have any silos of information.

Microsoft Dynamics AX

AGT senior management executives decided that the company needed a more global platform since its existing vertical solution did not meet the company’s global market reporting needs. “We started looking at ERP software packages. We certainly evaluated a number of them from other ERP providers to replace AGT’s industry vertical application; particularly those at the grain and agriculture industry,” says Al-Katib. In the end, AGT was most impressed by Microsoft Dynamics AX, an ERP solution with comprehensive global business management capabilities including: finance, human resources, reporting, supply chain management, project management, sales, and accounting.

Measureable Benefits

Due to the widespread acceptance of the Microsoft brand, and the flexibility of the Microsoft Dynamics AX platform, AGT benefited from a custom solution that matched the requirement of the organization’s existing business framework. “AGT identified that the ability to customize and integrate with the company’s existing software offered the flexibility to build a customized solution that just doesn’t exist in the agricultural and commodity sector,” notes Al-Katib. Another key benefit of choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX, was that the ERP solution was built with localization features found in all of the highly recognized and trusted Microsoft branded applications. “Not all of the countries we operate in speak English as a first language,” adds Al-Katib. “Microsoft Dynamics AX functionality provide the advantage of being able to customize the localization and language of the interface depending upon the country.” The flexibility of the Microsoft Dynamics AX platform enables major customizations that meet the needs of mature business systems of large enterprises. A keystone highlight from the project included creating a reconciliation process where AGT will send a product to a port in the domestic market where it will be moved from one container and trans-loaded to the next. During this process, there is a reconciliation that needs to occur as the order is split across a number of pieces of equipment. “It was undoubtedly the biggest customization,” tells Al-Katib. “It is highly specialized and very specific process that you wouldn’t find in other solutions.”

Partnering with a World-Class IT Partner

When it came time to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX, AGT wanted an experienced world-class IT professional services partner to handle the implementation process. To ensure that its investment in IT could be fully leveraged to meet its needs for a global business platform. AGT did a thorough evaluation of vendors until it found zedIT Solutions.

“zedIT’s ability to understand both the technical side as well as the business was an important factor in deciding to work with the IT partner for AGT’s Microsoft Dynamics AX implementation,” says Dave Murray, the company’s director of corporate services. “Where other IT partners are not willing, or are unable to understand the complexity of an organization, zedIT took the time to understand AGT’s business. Overall AGT’s experience with zedIT has been very positive.”

Working with zedIT Solutions, AGT went through a software selection process to ensure the company’s objectives were considered from the outset of the project. Choosing a world-class IT partner for the implementation phase was an important part of AGT’s process to meet its customization needs. “The biggest areas of customization for AGT related to the grain receipt side of things. The process is very unique and zedIT’s consultants did a great job of quickly understanding the unique business process,” points out Al-Katib.

Seeding Future Growth

Since its inception, AGT has been a company with a clear direction for growth. In choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX, AGT’s management team identified the importance of having a business solution with the flexibility to scale with the organization’s growth. “The real value of Microsoft Dynamics AX is in the flexibility and the robustness of the application to meet large enterprise needs, as well as its flexibility to customize and integrate into existing software and processes,” concludes Al-Katib. “Microsoft Dynamics AX gives AGT more head room for better reporting, better business management, and tools needed to maximize revenue and company earnings.”

About zedIT Solutions

zedIT Solutions Inc. is a leading Canadian Information Technology (IT) consultancy with offices from coast to coast. zedIT provides both Strategy and Execution for large enterprise clients in the public and private sector and has over twenty years’ experience . By combining world-class expertise and execution experience with a flexible and pragmatic approach, zedIT helps each client understand how technology can help them meet their stated business goals. zedIT delivers real, impactful solutions that meet those objectives.