Food Distribution Case Study

Retail Ready Foods Inc.

Executive SummaryRetail Ready Foods, Blue Link client

Retail Ready Foods Inc. (RRF) distributes meat products to independent retailers throughout Ontario, consolidating the distribution of products from manufacturers and meat packers throughout North America.

RRF had an in-house system that was becoming unsupportable due to old technology and changes in personnel. The system used the DOS version of ACCPAC, which led to cumbersome report generation, inefficient inventory tracking, and was generally out of date for the company’s growing business needs.

RRF needed a flexible new system to track inventory (including at one 3rd party warehouse), invoicing, and reporting processes. It had to be flexible enough to administer the multiple units of measurement used by RRF, including shipping by the case, and invoicing by weight; promotional pricing; and occasional incentive offers.


Retail Ready Foods Inc. was founded in 1996 to serve the retail food industry. It manages the distribution of meat products to independent retailers throughout Ontario, delivering to most locations overnight, 5 days per week. Inventory is over 3000 items, including fresh beef, pork, poultry, processed meat & deli products, with approximately 500 items in use at any one time.

The company uses various methods of marketing, including competitive pricing; special market opportunities; traders active in the various commodity markets taking large positions when the conditions are right providing short term, below market buying opportunities; planning and support for business; promotions planning; in-store promotional support materials; and Field Representative visits.

The Challenge:
The computer system was initially developed by someone with an interest in computers, and programming, but who was not an expert in the field. As a full-time employee of Retail Ready Foods Inc., he was solely responsible for updating and troubleshooting the system. This could cause emergencies if he was absent or unable to respond immediately to a problem.

Created in DOS, the in-house system was used to track inventory, enter sales orders, and process invoices. Inventory includes over 3,000 SKU’s, with about 500 active at any one time. Inventory movement can be as much as 175 -225 items of inventory per day, and about 10 Purchase Orders per day. Each order can be from 1 – 20 products, each with a separate SKU, and may be a few or hundreds of cases per SKU. This information, including sales data was batched and entered into the ACCPAC accounting package.

Retail Ready Foods Inc. doesn’t own any warehouses – they are all 3rd. party locations. However, it needs to record its (RRF’s) shipped inventory. All ‘regular’ sales ship out of one warehouse; RRF occasionally has inventory product in warehouses in Alberta and elsewhere in Ontario and makes use of the multiple warehouse location functionality within Blue Link Elite. RRF make uses a ‘virtual’ warehouse location within the database that doesn’t actually exist but is used for purchasing and selling product that is never actually inventoried.

RRF transfers data from its own system to the main warehouse partner’s system (Sales and Purchase Orders) and imports data back from their system (shipment and receiving information) via EDI files. Blue Link customized Elite to allow this within its software.

Realizing the precariousness of relying on one person to upgrade and troubleshoot the entire system, and understanding the shortcomings of the existing accounting package, Retail Ready Foods Inc. began looking at alternatives.

At that time, there was no one system for the food industry. (Blue Link has since developed a custom product, version 11.) So a totally custom application had to be devised – there weren’t any ‘modules’ available.

Because products are sold by the box, or by weight, or both, it was difficult to find a system that could handle and administer the multiple units of measurement.

What was needed by Retail Ready Foods Inc.?
The company wanted a system to replace the one it had, to speed-up reporting and inventory management, but also to reduce the risk of having a system that wouldn’t be entirely managed, upgraded and troubleshot by one person – a one-man show.

There were few available systems meeting the needs of a wholesale distributor with the unique flexibility requirements of Retail Ready Foods Inc.

This flexibility requirement had to allow for temporary special pricing to assess sales changes, and volume discounts to increase sales. It also had to be flexible enough to manage inventory quantities and pricing.

Retail Ready Foods Inc. wanted a system that would manage and control inventory, allowing accurate invoicing in one system.

Retail Ready Foods Inc. manages its inventory quantity by the case, but invoices by dollar per kg. The cases are different weights. For example, a case of bacon packaged in individual 500 gm. units, and at 24 packages to a case, will weigh a set amount; cuts of meat, however, sent to a butcher to be cut and sliced, will not be a standard weight, and the case weight will vary. When the warehouse processes the order, it is always by the case, not by weight. When the customer is invoiced, however, then the actual shipped weight is assessed, and the customer charged on the exact weight of each box. The system had to be able to track these various units of measure.

Retail Ready Foods Inc. began searching for a flexible, customizable system.

The Solution:

How many possibilities?
Among the front-runners were Microsoft Business Solutions-Great Plains, and Q.W. Page’s NewViews. Neither offered sufficient flexibility for Retail Ready Foods Inc.

A Toronto trade show, with booths manned by various accounting package companies, didn’t have anything to meet Retail Ready Foods Inc.’s needs.

Some companies made detailed presentations of the software packages – which turned out to be far more than Retail Ready Foods Inc. needed. For example one company offered its own in-house solution, including capability for tracking at multiple warehouses, and computer assembly packages.

Blue Link’s presentation, however, intrigued the searchers. The originator of the initial system even said that, ‘It’s like my system, except on Windows!’

Why Blue Link?
The Blue Link system was customizable to suit the flexibility and inventory tracking needs of Retail Ready Foods Inc.

RRF purchased Blue Link Elite in 2002 as its business, accounting and inventory management system. Together with a Blue Link consultant, RRF reviewed their business processes, and customization was devised to handle RRF’s unique business practices.

Over a 12-month period, Blue Link worked with Retail Ready Foods Inc. to customize and integrate all their out-dated systems into one efficient application. As RRF went live on their new business management software, Blue Link helped RRF to set up the network, easing implementation.


Streamlining of the sales process:
Streamlining the sales process has made it much easier to access reports. And the new system adapts to fit RRF’s needs for flexible inventory tracking and management.

Reduced administration time and delays:
Employees gradually got familiar with the new system, and work with greater efficiency and are more productive. Eliminating the inherent risk of the ‘one man show’, in favour of a professionally managed system, has reassured management that effective updating, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the system is now guaranteed.

Improved control over receivables and cash flow: The receivables collection process is easier and more effective, because all data necessary to complete a collection call is available in real time.

RRF has discussed upgrading from the current version 9.5 to the Version 11 product offering that is available. The new version will allow RRF to eliminate much of the original custom work, and have a more streamlined basic system choosing from the various Version 11 modules. It is being considered.


Initially, much customization was necessary to take the system from its DOS ACCPAC roots, while emulating the required tracking/inventory control elements of the old system.

The implementation has been extremely successful in achieving Retail Ready Foods Inc.’s objectives of streamlining time-consuming business processes, providing accurate and timely information to management and staff, and ensuring secure, timely updates and troubleshooting processes for the entire system.

According to Marc Jones, IT Manager:

“Blue Link is very client-focused, and has always been concerned about our unique needs. Blue Link will seek out viable solutions for any ERP issue or need that arises… and provides timely and effective support by people who know the system inside out.”