Soft fruit

W B Chambers is one of the largest growers and packers of quality soft fruit in the UK. It has experienced significant growth across the business in the last two years and needed an ERP solution that would support future growth. It has selected IFS Applications 9 to:

  • automate and monitor processes
  • support rapid growth across the business.

According to Tony Godden, finance director at W B Chambers: “With IFS Applications at the heart of our operations, we will be able to automate the process of measuring and evaluating the most profitable approaches to our activity, allowing us to focus on our growth and delivering the highest standards of quality for our customers. We chose IFS because of the greater functionality offered compared to more limited out-of-the-box solutions on the market and we also have Jamie Feaver leading the project, whom I have worked with on other IFS projects in the same industry.

What does W B Chambers do?

W B Chambers is a family run business located in Kent, the ‘ Garden of England’. The farm has changed over the last 20 years from a traditional mixed fruit farming business to being a specialist producer of soft fruit, cherries and rhubarb. It operates over 125 hectares of innovative fruit production. It uses state-of-the-art packing facilities for both UK and imported soft fruit.

W B Chambers is now one of the largest suppliers of soft fruit to supermarkets, wholesalers and direct sale outlets in the UK. Its current production includes:

  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Cherries
  • Redcurrants
  • Blackcurrants
  • Gooseberries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries.

Over time it has expanded its business, incorporating value-added processes such as packing and distribution. Increasing pressures on the picking and packing labour market in the UK means the company must ensure the greatest level of profitability per man-hour.

In addition to the initial fruit-growing operation, which has grown by 40% in revenue in the past three years, the company has branched out. It now imports soft fruit internationally, along with the packing of produce from other importers.

This consolidation saw W B Chambers group revenue grow by 400% in the last two years. With ambitious future revenue targets, the company wanted to ensure rapid growth was matched by intelligent and sustainable business processes across its three business units. Its aim for the implementation of IFS Applications 9 is to: develop a concise overview of company data across the strands of the business, collecting,

  • develop a concise overview of company data across the strands of the business
  • collect, analyse, and act upon data insights while closely monitoring all processes.

Why did W B Chambers chose Applications 9?

For W B Chambers, IFS Applications 9 will enable analysis of data from a centralized location. It should facilitate greater business intelligence as well as new processes and innovation efforts. The company is using a number of IFS Applications 9 including:

  • financial operations
  • supply chain
  • distribution
  • manufacturing
  • purchasing
  • sales orders.

Its intention is to become a true 24 x 7 x 365 grower, importer, and packer.

Why it matters

This is an interesting time for an investment of this nature. Brexit is up in the air and innumerable uncertainties hang over the UK soft fruit industry like a ponderous thundercloud. Last week a report commissioned by British Summer Fruits, the industry body that accounts for 97% of berries supplied to UK supermarkets, warned that strawberry and raspberry prices could rise by up to 50% as a result of Brexit. The BSF chairman, Laurence Olins, said: “This is as extreme as it gets. If we do not have the pickers, we do not have a soft fruits industry.” The report says 95% of seasonal fruit pickers in Britain come from the EU.

W B Chambers clearly has confidence that its production and markets will not suffer. Or possibly it has no choice if it is to compete today in a highly competitive environment.

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Charles Brett
Charles Brett is a business/technology analyst consultant. His specialist areas include enterprise software, blockchain and enterprise mobility tech (including metering). Specific industry sectors of interest and experience include finance (especially systems supporting wholesale finance), telecommunications and energy. Charles has spoken at multiple industry conferences, has written for numerous publications (including the London Times and the Financial Times). He was the General Chair of the bi-annual High Performance Systems Workshop, 2005. In addition he is an author and novelist. His Technology books include: Making the Most of Mobility Vol I (eBook, 2012); Explaining iTunes, iPhones and iPads for Windows Users (eBook, 2011); 5 Axes of Business Application Integration (2004). His published novels, in the Corruption Series, include: The HolyPhone Confessional Crisis, Corruption’s Price: A Spanish Deceit and Virginity Despoiled. The fourth in The Corruption Series - Resurrection - has is now available. Charles has a B.A. and M.A in Modern History from the University of Oxford. He has lived or worked in Italy, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, California and New York, Spain, Israel, Estonia and Cyprus.

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