Industry:Food & Beverage
"DEAR is netting us 100 to 150 hours of time savings, monthly. It's allowed us to become much more efficient."
DEAR + Xero & Woocommerce prove a great match for Klein River Cheese
With DEAR inventory management software, this award-winning cheesemaker masters multichannel sales
If there’s one thing that cheesemakers are renowned for, it’s patience, and a desire for perfection. It takes both time and passion to create a great cheese – something that Klein River Cheese manager, Raymond Siebrits, knows well. Klein River Cheese, a family-owned company in South Africa, has been creating artisan cheese for more than two decades. And for Raymond, it’s more than just a business.
Despite being part of a food-making tradition that’s existed for literally thousands of years, Klein River Cheese is running a modern multi-channel business. The company offers in-person retail, online D2C ecommerce sales, and a comprehensive B2B service. Powering retail and ecommerce with DEAR has already paid significant dividends — and there’s much more to come.
“It’s a family passion,” he says. “We’re obsessed with all things dairy; all things slow food; all things natural, so it’s a real privilege to be able to do this. It’s much more than a job or just a business. It’s a family undertaking.”
With this attitude, when it came to implementing inventory management software for the company, Raymond knew it was vital to make the right choice. Cheesemaking is an exacting art, and so is running a commodities business. Inventory and accounting systems need to be accurate, reliable, and affordable to work for a small family-owned business. DEAR, explains Raymond, was the obvious choice.
But this obvious choice only came after painstaking market research. Raymond was looking for flexible, affordable ERP. With most available software, the main issue was that they were set-up solely for large corporations – which means they were cost-prohibitive for SMEs, and lacked flexibility.
“We were looking for a flexible, scalable ERP that was affordable for a small business like ours, with relative complexity,” he says. “But there was absolutely nothing on the market except for enterprise-scale and enterprise-priced ERP.”
But then, thanks to a few conversations with other business owners, Raymond found DEAR.
“DEAR came out tops. While it’s a fair price point, it certainly does carry its weight.”
That price point isn’t a major concern, Raymond says, when you look at the value that DEAR brings — and how much money it saves.
“Compared to the alternatives and competitors, it’s a bargain,” he says, adding that the cost of not using DEAR systems would have been even higher.
“Compared to not having a sophisticated cloud-based ERP that doesn’t need an entire tech team to install, configure, develop and fix the bugs – it’s a bargain in that sense too. It has been a worthwhile investment. I think we don’t yet utilize half of its muscle [in terms of functionality, tools and systems available], but we’re still learning.”
Flexibility to grow with your business
Klein River Cheese opted to implement DEAR themselves, learning an entire new system from scratch. This might have been daunting, but the company approaches it as carefully as they do crafting a South African Swiss-Alpine style cheese.
“We’re going to walk slowly, step by step, and over time we’re going to learn a new feature and a new concept and system,” Raymond says. This journey has been made much easier by the stellar support provided by DEAR.
“The documentation has been fantastic,” Raymond says. “It’s well written, it’s easy to understand. It’s easy to search and to navigate. The documentation has basically allowed us to self-teach.”
While Klein River Cheese is not yet implementing all of DEAR’s “muscle”, he says the system’s best aspect is its ability to integrate with other software platforms.
“DEAR doesn’t do it all [but] it’s not trying to do it all,” he explains.
“The fact that it integrates seamlessly with other best-in-class platforms, for example, Xero for accounting, or Woocommerce for e-commerce — that would be one of the best features that I’ve enjoyed.”
What’s more, with DEAR’s SaaS, pay-monthly structure, Klein River Cheese isn’t locked in to lengthy or cost-prohibitive contracts. This sealed the deal for Raymond, and he says that other small businesses who want to give DEAR a go have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Inventory visibility plus multichannel flexibility enable growth
When your products are perishable, tracking expiry dates across individual items and full batches is vitally important, both for consumer safety and regulatory compliance. DEAR’s inbuilt ability to assign dates of manufacture and expiry to products has been huge for Klein River Cheese, with the status of entire product lines made visible with minimal effort.
“From a food safety point of view, having data at the click of a button when it comes to your ingredients; your traceability; where your product is; when it leaves your facility; where it’s being consumed, is critical,” he says.
This same visibility carries across to Klein River Cheese’s accounting platform, Xero, making compliance a breeze, and creating the opportunity to produce insightful reports and financial forecasts.
“I think we’ve got a good system running with our accounting platform,” Raymond says. “With Xero and its seamless integration into DEAR’s ERP [it] will start to show us exactly where our product is … [and] what the trends are. And I’m really excited about that.”
The company already utilizes DEAR’s Point Of Sale (POS) module in its retail showroom, and the benefits of having in-person sales directly connected to inventory have been huge for the business. “The POS module is very versatile — it’s multi-device, there are no bugs, and that’s been fantastic.”
There’s been another benefit as well: the ability to run a retail operation remotely. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 fuelled the need for versatile systems that keep accurate records, while being accessible from anywhere. This, Raymond says, is another area where DEAR shines, especially given that Klein River Cheese is based in an out-of-the-way area of South Africa.
“It means that we can run a remote retail operation,” he says. Because DEAR is based in the cloud, everything to do with inventory — whether it’s online, or bricks-and-mortar sales — is accessible remotely.
But it doesn’t stop there. Klein River Cheese plans to continue integrating DEAR across its operations, eventually getting to the stage where they’re using the full power of the platform.
“I think to be able to grow in budgets as well as complexity with a service is, for us, one of the most important things,” Raymond says. “Whenever we look at any service provider, we go, ‘Is it fitting into our current budgets? And can it scale up as we’re growing?’”
For Raymond, this is what’s most exciting about DEAR: it can grow as the business grows, and there’s always new functionality ready to go when the business is ready for it. Next on the list for Klein River Cheese is implementing DEAR’s B2B capability right across the business.
“With just B2C, e-commerce and retail, DEAR has already shown its mettle,” Raymond says. “But when we move the entire wholesale business it’s going to really get exciting. Going into the B2B space is where the muscle of DEAR, I think, will really show itself.”
Saving hundreds of hours with DEAR’s “incredibly calming service”
Klein River Cheese initially implemented DEAR in 2020 to help the business with their newly-launched e-commerce system, powered by Woocommerce, and the investment has already paid off. Raymond reckons DEAR has saved hundreds of hours, in terms of efficiency gain and workload reduction.
“It really has saved us a significant amount in efficiency,” Raymond says. “It means that we haven’t had to hire an additional staff member to manage the complexity of inventory, and the paperwork and the processing of an entire order and fulfillment cycle.”
In fact, the savings are worth “at least half” of a full-time employee for an entire year, Raymond says.
“I would say it’s netting us — on a monthly basis — 100 to 150 hours of savings for back office, relatively technical skills. And that, in itself, speaks to the power of an ERP like this. It’s accessible for a smaller business like ours, but what it has done has allowed us to become much more efficient [with] our overheads.”
For a small business that’s as passionate about creating fine food as Klein River Cheese, aesthetics are also important. DEAR fulfils that particular requirement in spades, with a UI that’s both intuitive and user-friendly.
“I find it an incredibly calming service to be using,” Raymond says. “It’s relaxing to look at and use. It’s pretty – nothing jarring. That’s very important, and I’ve appreciated that.”
Efficiency, ease of use, support — when a small business is looking to invest in software, these things count for a lot. So, Raymond’ advice to those looking to make their first ERP leap by investing in DEAR?
“Give it a shot,” he says. With month-to-month payment, there’s nothing to lose, and results can be seen immediately.
“There’s no downside to diving into it. You will learn how an ERP works, on one of the best-in-class online cloud-based ERPs — a platform that allows you to manage your inventory, manage your pricing, manage your costs, manage your production systems, and manage your sales right from customer records through to invoicing as well as planning.”
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