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October 20, 2023

Reynolds Catering spurs innovation by upgrading its ERP to level up capabilities at scale

The family catering business Reynolds has experienced steady growth in the produce distribution industry. To maintain its promise of exceptional service and efficiency at scale, the company needed to upgrade its digital solutions to advance its capabilities and utilise data to improve business.

The Reynolds family catering business has been in the produce distribution industry for four generations. Steadily growing to become a prominent supplier of fresh produce to the UK food service industry, the company has an extensive range of over 3,000 types of fresh produce and chilled foods sourced worldwide. It serves numerous businesses across the UK, with the promise of the right product being delivered to the right place at the right time.

caterer using ai
Reynolds is continually adapting to new challenges by leveraging flexible and up-to-date digital solutions. (Photo by vectorfusionart via Shutterstock)

Meeting the demands of leading casual dining players in the UK – including ASK, Pizza Express, Pret-A-Manger, the Ivy Restaurant Group, and hotel groups such as Accor – Reynolds consistently delivers high-quality fresh produce. But as the brand’s reputation has grown, so has the complexity of its operations. Managing multiple product lines, a growing fleet and various supply chain systems has posed new challenges in an already uncertain landscape.

With exceptional service and responsiveness as a top priority to earn the trust and loyalty of its clients and partners, Reynolds has had to adapt to these challenges with flexible, up-to-date digital solutions in order to successfully continue its growth. To continue meeting such high standards at scale, the company invested in upgrading its legacy ERP and supply chain systems to enhance visibility and transparency as it copes with the increased workload and operational challenges of expansion.

Digital solutions help to efficiently manage a growing fleet

“Digital technologies such as machine learning (ML) models can evolve to form an overall picture of the company’s increased planning, efficiency and transparency,” says Håkan Strömbeck, industry and solution strategy director at Infor. “Efficiency will also lead to a higher goal because more precision in food distribution means less waste, which not only has environmental benefits but also benefits Reynolds’ finances.”

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Reynolds’ operations are facilitated by a 200,000ft2 temperature-controlled national distribution facility at Waltham Cross near London, along with six regional depots. Handling over 3,200 daily orders with 62,000 sales order lines and over 3,000 unique products is no small feat. Approximately 12,000 buffet boxes and 50,000 whole cases are packed daily within a seven-hour shift and delivered using a fleet of 200 vehicles. The entire stock turnover occurs efficiently within a 36-hour period.

Reynolds chose Infor M3, which proved instrumental in breaking down operational silos and streamlining these efficient processes. By adding new functionalities such as invoicing and inbound delivery management, transparency in the supply chain and customer recommendations, Infor M3 helped Reynolds to further enhance its capabilities.

Evolving technologies to unlock new capabilities

“A modern ERP allows users to utilise augmented technologies like ML, not just for better planning, but for Reynolds to have the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell at the right prices for customers, not just order intake of whatever they have sold before, but also proactively to make decisions based on suggestions using ML,” says Strömbeck.

Using ML, Reynolds could collect data and then, over time, identify patterns across all customers to draw actionable insights. Rather than utilising only one set of customer data, the company can optimise this data to cluster customers into different buckets. This could then be assessed for trends and behaviours that can be optimised for better business results. 

“Reynolds could utilise the transactional data it is creating over time that can be infused with external data like weather forecasting data, which often influences what people want to eat based on the next coming ten days’ weather forecast, if it’s sunny or rainy, for example,” says Strömbeck.

Readjusting conditions to protect produce

Another key reason why Reynolds selected Infor M3 was its ability to handle the complexities of food distribution, including dealing with the short shelf life of chilled products. The application’s unique features allowed Reynolds to reclassify and adjust shelf life at both item and lot levels, significantly reducing the risk of product waste.

“With a legacy ERP, the precision is in the planning. But the risk of delivering too little is just as much an issue as delivering too much, so it’s about transparency too,” says Strömbeck. “While a legacy can do this, a modern ERP offers transparency in the transport chain, giving the opportunity to act on whether things should be fresh, cold or whatever it is, to make sure that delivery is not only on time but also within the necessary circumstances.”

Infor M3’s order capture capabilities also facilitated the development of a quick and robust order entry system, essential for managing approximately 1,000 manual orders daily, each with an average of 22 lines per order.

Modern ERP systems improve decision-making

Incorporating Infor M3 into its business development, Reynolds witnessed substantial improvements in its finance department, particularly around reporting speed and detail. This increased Reynolds’ capabilities of credit control and reduction in debtor days. Moreover, the increased data granularity supported better decision-making throughout the organisation, prompting a shift from a siloed, functional department approach to an end-to-end process-oriented structure.

Reynolds made various advancements, including the introduction of RFID crate tracking to minimise costs associated with unreturned plastic crates. The integration of RFID technology enabled the company to identify customers who failed to return crates so that they could rectify the situation promptly.

Enhancing the Reynolds user experience

In addition to addressing business challenges, Reynolds invested in technological upgrades. It collaborated with IT partner Columbus to replace its legacy data warehouse, opting for a new infrastructure built on Apache Kafka and SQL Server. This significantly reduced ongoing maintenance costs while providing the flexibility of on-premises and cloud IT infrastructure.

Ongoing costs have been slashed by more than 90% with a huge reduction in the number of licences needed based on a reduction in the number of cores from 64 down to just four on a virtual server.

The company also implemented Infor OS to enhance the user experience and developed a bespoke application called REY-HUB, which leverages data from Infor M3 to offer customers real-time visibility of product and order availability and status.

To allow this collaborative data sharing, having the correct data served in a way that fits employees’ needs is essential in this process so that they can focus on particular tasks and what is needed. This helps to reach value more speedily.

“It’s also about sharing the data throughout processes. Having notifications all within the same system and not running around sending separate emails or information on the side,” says Strömbeck. “You have one source of truth more or less, where you also manage communication between the different teams.”

Reynolds’ legacy of innovation

Through these strategic initiatives, Reynolds continues to stand as a leading fresh produce supplier, living up to its legacy of innovation and excellence in the food service industry.

“There is also opportunity, and the challenge, to automate steps in the processes and take away unnecessary admin tasks so employees can focus on doing the valuable work rather than trying to find the data,” says Strömbeck. “It’s about pushing the data when needed rather than having to pull the data from each individual or each team.”

With these updated capabilities, Reynolds can continue to fulfil its promise of efficiency, never losing sight of excellent quality and customer service, while empowering employees to utilise such systems, which will secure its future as it continues to experience growth.

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