Poulos Bros: fish from the sea, ERP from the cloud

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Poulos Bros: fish from the sea, ERP from the cloud

Poulos Bros. Seafoods is one of Australia’s largest seafood businesses, and the family-run company was one of the first of its kind to computerise seafood distribution in Australia.

On Good Friday (the second biggest date in the seafood calendar) 2013, Poulos Bros' servers were overwhelmed by the load. So the company began a journey that involved multiple ERP products and providers but culminated in the September 2017 migration of its SAP system to Amazon Web Services with the assistance of Rackspace, giving the seafood supplier a seamless, fast, and accurate system in time for the Christmas peak.

Poulos Bros IT manager Peter Poulos told the story to Business IT.

What was the problem you faced?

We are one of Australia’s largest seafood wholesalers, processors, importers and exporters. As our business and customer base was growing, we realised that we needed to make some significant infrastructure changes to keep up with the market and customer demand.

While we were one of the first companies to computerise seafood distribution (back in 1979), we struggled to provide a scalable infrastructure environment that supported our ERP system in coping with the rapid pace and 24/7 nature of fresh product distribution.

What prompted the next phase of our digital transformation was when two of our on-premises servers were unable to deal with the Easter traffic and crashed. We lost all computer access as both the primary and back up servers failed, and we suffered a major loss of income and more importantly, major service disruption. This had significant repercussions on our relationships with our customers.

As customers have always been at the core of our business, we made the decision to move to the cloud and not allow an IT failure to affect our business again.

What did you decide to do about it and why?

Our primary concern was that our response times were far too slow. Just to update a single line on a single invoice was taking 12-15 seconds. As customers were asking for faster turnarounds and a more seamless way to process orders, it was obvious that moving from on-premise to a fully scalable cloud was the solution.

We needed to improve our overall speed performance, find the right level of server flexibility and the scalability necessary for our peak order periods, as well as establish a network for our distribution hubs and offer online ordering (which wasn’t available at the time).

Rackspace built an environment in Amazon Web Services (AWS) which integrated our ERP and migrated all of our data to the cloud. On top of all of that, they helped network the environment across our national distribution hubs for all staff to leverage our first online ordering platform.

Because of their deep cloud and AWS expertise, and because the team was able to understand both our IT and broader business issues, Rackspace was able to build an environment unique to our business, capable of addressing our previous performance issues and offering the right amount of scalability for peak order periods.

Having that bigger business and customer picture in mind was definitely what made this ambitious project such a success, especially in view of the tight deadline we had set.

What was the outcome?

We were able to go live with our new online platform before Christmas 2017, the busiest week of the year, with the performance so superior to previous years that our operators had completed all orders by 11am daily.

Being able to offer online orders and the integration of our ERP system within the new platform has been a game changer in terms of the experience we can now deliver to our customers.

But this move to the cloud and to AWS has also been a game changer for our staff. Instead of spending all of their time and energy ensuring that our critical systems are working to support online ordering, distribution, stock management and forecasting, they now have the time and flexibility to think of new enhancements to the system, and ways they can better serve our customers.

We are now looking to expand our product offering, which has been made possible by the scalability of our cloud platform.

What is your advice for other small businesses considering a move to cloud infrastructure?

An ERP system should operate seamlessly behind the scenes and I think sometimes the transition to a whole new cloud environment can seem daunting to small and medium businesses.

When looking at transforming your business, I think it is vital that you surround yourself with the right partners and the right experts who understand and own what you are trying to achieve.

In today’s digital era, technology isn’t just here to support your business. It is an enabler, a driver for innovation, and it requires a very specific set of skills and expertise that you usually can’t access in house if you are a small or medium sized business. Being able to partner with organisations like Rackspace, who not only understand and can fix your IT challenges but have a broader view of the issues you are facing on the ground as a business, is absolutely vital if you want to thrive in the digital and customer-focused era.

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