Grand Prairie Foods: Making Dough and Wrapping up Business with TRAVERSE
What is the best way to get a pig in a blanket? Ask Grand Prairie Foods.
Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Grand Prairie Foods specializes in ready to “heat and eat” products for the retail, hospitality, convenience, vending, and school foodservice channels. The company was founded in September 2003 when Kurt & Valerie Loudenback purchased the assets of a longtime producer of barbecued ribs, shredded pork and beef, and other fully cooked, ready to eat meat items.
Today, Grand Prairie Foods is a 65-employee operation with a family-owned atmosphere. They have shifted their focus to master a process that is critical to the convenience food industry: supplying tasty, high-quality, easy-to-prepare food. Simply put, they can take anything and cook it in a bun. “We take a finished product, like a hot dog or a bratwurst, and we wrap dough around it” says Tim Koch, Chief Financial Officer of Grand Prairie Foods. Not content to stop with that, however, the company also offers products ranging from fully-cooked scrambled eggs to a Start Healthy line of bagels and muffin sandwiches.
If having completely renovated their product line in 2009 to serve a different clientele wasn’t challenging enough, it was about that time that their aging server forced a few other important decisions.
Turning the upgrade frown upside down
A user of TRAVERSE software since its inception, Grand Prairie Foods was happy with the accounting and business functionality provided by the familiar older version of the software. Their hardware, however, was a different story. “In 2009, our server was ‘circling the drain of death,’” said Koch. “In order to get a new 64-bit server to poise us for growth in other areas, we knew we’d need to jump into an upgrade.”
Koch and company decided to upgrade to the latest version of TRAVERSE version 11. Though the new software was primarily purchased to accommodate new hardware, Grand Prairie Foods immediately realized benefits from the updated version.
With TRAVERSE, key employees can look up information with their own personalized views without waiting for the accounting department to produce a report. “Individual users could go into interactive views and tailor inquiries for their own purposes,” says Koch of the implementation. “Your purchaser, your plant manager can actually set up their own views, and do real-time inquiries. They started reporting their own results of operations or their own key performance indicators off of interactive views.”
Users also had an easier time navigating the system and finding information on their own. “TRAVERSE as a whole is user-friendly and quite intuitive,” says Koch.
Inventory safeguards in place
“We had to have an inventory solution that has the ability to track by lot code,” says Koch, “We had to make sure we had lot code integrity. Which we got.” Since food turns quickly, TRAVERSE provides lot code integrity control for special inventory needs such as those of Grand Prairie Foods. “In the—God forbid—case there’s a recall, we can act quickly and know exactly when each product was produced and who got it. This ensures products can be quickly removed from the shelves.”
Access to current support
Being up-to-date and current on maintenance opens up a host of educational materials available through the Open Systems customer portal. “The customer portal was very helpful,” says Koch. “If a new person started, I could take them to the portal for guides on whatever area they are going to work on, whether it’s purchasing or accounts payable.”
Having an up-to-date system means there’s room to grow
With the TRAVERSE framework, Grand Prairie Foods has the option to add new functionality as their business demands it through additional applications and products. “When you stay up to date, you’re poised for add-ons if you need them, and one thing we’re targeting is the Info-Alert application,” says Koch. Info –Alert gives customers the ability to set criteria and have the system automatically alert them when that condition or criteria is reached.
Enjoying success in the new decade
Changing out their product lines, customer base, their server technology, and their accounting software package all at the same time was not easy, but the process reaped rewards for Grand Prairie Foods; since 2009, their revenue has doubled. “Our desire was to get up-to-date and to have stable software that was poised to grow with us,” says Koch. “It’s given us efficiency in talking to each other, a morale boost in having updated and capable technology, and the knowledge that we were poised to take advantage of improved control and security.”
Koch’s advice for any company considering the same move: “You have to plan and prioritize, but it will be worth it!”