Hamilton Grant technology provides continuity for food manufacturers

In common with many others, I am sitting at home in a room hastily converted into an “office away from the office”. Remote working has increased in recent years of course, but circumstances earlier this month drove a dramatic change. Many believe our working lives will not be quite the same again.

Individuals and businesses alike are trying to adapt to new challenges. With more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, Hamilton Grant Software are committed to supporting our food & beverage industry customers.

A perfect storm
Supply-chain issues, market fluctuation, consumer demand variation, shifts in consumer habits, socio-economic and geo-political factors are not new. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought all of them into play at once in an unprecedented situation.

At Hamilton Grant, customers tell us they are adapting in various ways: shifting from food service to retail, looking for alternative ingredient supplies, dealing with shifts in product demand. The challenges are not just external; production, food safety criteria, safety of workers, general business continuity – all aspects are put under strain.

Nevertheless, challenges always create opportunity for those who are agile enough to respond. In the same way that video conferencing has become routine, technology can support core business functions.

As a technology provider, Hamilton Grant have seen at first-hand how the right technology choices enable businesses to thrive. Without a reliable system that ensures continuity in demanding circumstances, companies would be exposed and unable to respond to challenges, whenever they arise.

Running businesses from home
Hamilton Grant’s customers across the world face the same challenge: running their businesses from home.

At the most basic level, this means reliably accessing business-critical systems. Many of our customers report that, using our cloud-based Touchstone application they have continued to review specifications, create label data and even develop products from home. This is where cloud software comes into its own – software hosted on a business’s own servers can be inaccessible or unreliable (particularly when the IT department is also working from home).

From a business process point of view, technical product information must continue to flow through your business. Collaboration and approval processes must also continue as normal. Raw material specifications need to be collected from suppliers, reviewed, approved and passed to the product development team. Label data and product specifications must still be created, approved and submitted to customers. Specifications and certifications approaching expiry must be identified and renewed. All of this is hard enough to do without everyone working from their own office.

Rising to the challenge of disruption
As if this were not enough, the disruption created demands flexibility to respond. Product developers need to quickly adjust recipes in response. The potential impact of ingredient supply issues investigated by quickly searching through products and ingredients from suppliers. Alternative ingredients assessed. Having fast product development tools and a searchable single source of truth for product information allows you to respond quickly and stay ahead.

The next step
If you are not already a Hamilton Grant Touchstone customer, don’t worry. The company can set up new users with a pre-configured Australian account within a day. With an Australian nutrition database, PIF versions 5 and 6 and the ability to exchange information with suppliers and customers, the company will get users up and running, ready to address the challenges. All infrastructure and maintenance are managed by Hamilton Grant, giving reliable access 24/7 from any location while reducing the client’s IT overheads.

In time, the current crisis will pass, but things will never be the same. We will all learn new skills develop new approaches and create new opportunities.

 

A smart panel revolution

Global Automation offers a range of operator panels that provide high quality information to improve operational efficiency.

Operator panels, also known as Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), allow operators to interact with and control machinery, generally via a graphic user interface (GUI).

As John Thomson managing director of Global Automation told Food & Beverage Industry News, given that all food and beverage manufacturers have various types of packaging machinery and automation equipment, most have operator panels. As such, there are plenty of HMI panels on the market for manufacturers to choose from.

“Currently the way most HMIs on machinery used in manufacturing (and particularly in food and beverage manufacturing) work when creating reports is they create basic CSV files of data coming straight out of the machine’s controller,” Thomson said.

He said that when deciding on what operator panels to implement, food manufacturers should take into account the quality of information they provide on the machine floor. This is not just about HMIs interacting with their human operators. It is also about HMIs interacting with manufacturing systems.

Global Automation is the Australian distributor of Beijer Electronics X2 series of operator panels. According to Thomson, these units have advanced reporting features which sets them apart from its competitors.

“The X2 panels use internal SQL databases for data logging, recipes, audit trails and alarming. With their advanced reporting functionality, excel templates with embedded SQL queries can be easily downloaded as part of the HMI application. This translates to complete finished reports at the factory floor which are easily accessible via USB stick, CF memory card, email and FTP to production management teams. Nobody has to do any more work to them,” he said.

“Using the old way of getting raw data into your spreadsheet, somebody has to go in, interpret the data and create a report themselves.”

Moving to practicalities, Thomson pointed out that food and beverage manufacturing environments are harsh. The caustic chemicals often used in wash downs, coupled with the heat of cooking and the cold of refrigeration mean that hardware used in these settings needs be strong.

“X2’s Extreme range covers this requirement. Theses panels can handle high and low temperatures as well as high vibration. We also have fully-enclosed, fully-sealed units that can be out on movable arms and hosed down as well,” he said.

Advanced functionality

X2 operator panels come with iX-Developer configuration software included. The advanced functionality of the software is another strong point. For example, it includes an audit trail (FDA logging strategies approved) which allows for advanced process tracking, as well as user identification linked to time and place of process events, enabling recalls and rationalising of production processes.

The list of other functions is quite extensive. With the X2 software, developers can create and customise the functionality of a single action or the whole application using their own scripting in the C# script editor.

Software revolution

According to Thomson, things are set to change for the X2 range. This year Global Automation is releasing Warp Engineering Studio, a new piece of software that will be included with the X2 panels.

“Like a middleware software, it’s a rapid engineering tool which allows users to create integrated HMI, control, drives and data communication solutions in minutes instead of days. They will be able to download objects/code from Beijer’s smart store and WARP will implement this in your HMI application,” he said. “Like magic, it all happens before your eyes,” he said. “This will be a revolution.”

Communication solution for IIoT era

The emergence of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has seen an emphasis placed on implementing innovative architecture and software that redefines asset management. This can then be used to capitalise on operational, business and transactional data for improved enterprise, operations and supply chain performance.

With this in mind, NHP brings to market the ICX35-HWC Industrial Cellular Gateway from ProSoft Technology providing the ideal communication solution for system integrators and OEMs who monitor devices that are in hard to reach spots.

With the gateway, they can monitor and troubleshoot their devices in real-time from anywhere in the world over 4G LTE cellular connections, with fallback to 3G.

To allow enhanced communication, a built-in EtherNet/IP controller supports SMS messaging to the gateway, and read diagnostic data like signal strength, data usage, and more, allowing the user to avoid time-consuming and costly site visits.

The Industrial Cellular Gateway can also be monitored through ProSoft Connect – a secure, cloud-native platform designed specifically for the IIoT. With secure VPN connections via internet and cellular links, the device offers remote site access to corporate networks (VPN Client Mode).

In the ever connecting world, NHP’s Industrial Cellular Gateway helps ensure longevity for your application in the IIoT era using cutting edge technology.

 

Data synchronisation service hits milestone in food & beverage sector

GS1 Australia’s National Product Catalogue service has hit a major milestone, welcoming it’s 2000th registration.

Launched in 1997, the National Product Catalogue (formerly EANnet and GS1net) is GS1 Australia’s data synchronisation solution that helps businesses exchange standardised supply chain data including product details, pricing and marketing-related information with their trading partners.

John Hearn, GS1 Australia’s Head of Data & Digital Content Services said, “The National Product Catalogue service has been around for twenty years and has constantly evolved and been enhanced to meet the data hungry needs of today’s eCommerce, supply chain and digital channels. Support for the Country of Origin Labelling requirements and enhanced user interface are just some of the recent service enhancements.”

“With 2000 active users, we have a thriving National Product Catalogue community that relies on the service to underpin trade between suppliers and buyers, covering identification, logistical, compliance, pricing and consumer facing data requirements.”

GS1 Australia has enjoyed a successful uptake of the National Product Catalogue over the years. It is currently one of the top three largest Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) data pools, with over 1.1 million Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) from 2000 user organisations, split evenly across the Food & Beverage and Healthcare sectors.

“Hitting the 2000 subscriber mark is a significant milestone, highlighting not only positive growth but the continued success of the service,” added Mr Hearn.

The National Product Catalogue is an extremely successful data synchronisation solution, providing suppliers and data recipients with exceptional functionality and usability to achieve objectives.

Beverage company streamlines logistics with InfoMotion

Established in 1998, Metro Beverage Company is Australia’s largest independent drinks distributor. Serving more than 10,000 business customers, the company has close working relationships with a range of manufacturers including Unilever, Nu Pure Beverages and Red Bull.

Headquartered in Victoria, MBC operates three warehouses in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. With just under 100 staff and a fleet of more than 35 delivery vehicles, the firm continues to enjoy strong growth.

The challenge

Soon after opening its doors as a new business, MBC deployed Attache ERP software to support its day-to-day operations. The software was used for everything from stock control and warehousing to accounting and report generation.

MBC Managing Director Aleksandar Velkovski says that, while this worked well for a number of years, continuing growth meant the software struggled to keep up. “It reached the stage where, as a company, we had outgrown our core software,” he says. “It did not have the ability to be extended and was becoming an impediment to operations.”

Velkovski says that, because of the important role the software played, there was some reluctance to change. However, with customer numbers continuing to grow, senior managers came to the realisation that an alternative needed to be found.

The solution

The MBC IT team undertook a comprehensive review of alternative ERP solutions on the market. This process involved demonstrations from a number of vendors and visits to other sites to see different products in action. After careful evaluation of a shortlist of contenders, a decision was made in late 2015 to deploy icsLOGISTICS from InfoMotion.

“We could clearly see that the InfoMotion software was best suited to our requirements,” says Velkovski. “The interface was very user friendly and we also liked the ability we had to customise the software to match our particular requirements.”

Working closely with InfoMotion, MBC initially rolled out the new software in its Melbourne warehouse, followed by Adelaide in late 2016. The Perth warehouse is due to go live in March.

“The migration process from our legacy system to the new platform was seamless and very impressive,” says Velkovski. “I had never experienced a software deployment of this nature where there have not been issues. It could not have gone better.”

The benefits

The icsLOGISTICS software now underpins all aspects of business operation. As well as sales, warehousing and stock management, it also supports back-office functions such as finance and administration.

“It is at the very core of our business,” says Velkovski. “It has removed a range of manual processes and streamlined workflows. We have noticed a significant improvement in accuracy and the time to fill orders has been reduced. The scan-to-load capability we now have means cartons can be scanned onto each vehicle against predetermined orders and runs, speeding operations considerably.”

Velkovski says a particular benefit has been the improved ability to handle stock promotions. Where previously this would have to be managed manually, all customer requests and fulfilments are captured by the software automatically.

“Our dispatch planning process has also been significantly upgraded,” he says. “Where it had been taking one staff member a full day to draw up schedules, this can now be completed in less than half that time.”

With the core software now operational, attention has shifted to deploying PTV Smartour, provided by InfoMotion. This software will improve the efficiency of delivery runs by automatically creating the most efficient routes based on multiple delivery destinations.

“This process is currently done manually and makes use of the judgement of individual drivers. While this works to a degree, being able to automate it will reduce the number of kilometres that need to be completed on each run.”

Velkovski says MBC will continue to work closely with InfoMotion to ensure the software adds as much value as possible to operations.

“They have worked hard to understand our business and to configure the software to match our requirements. It’s given us the robust and scalable platform we need to support our future growth.”

 

 

Rugged 3-in-1 handheld tablet

Panasonic has launched a new rugged handheld tablet, adding to its diverse portfolio of enterprise-grade mobile devices.

According to the company, the Toughpad FZ-N1 is the world’s lightest fully rugged 3-in-1 handheld tablet and is designed to meet the increasing demands placed on workers by boosting productivity while guarding against impacts on employees’ health.

The slim, lightweight and powerful handheld tablet combines the productivity benefits of a mobile barcode reader, phone and tablet into one fully-ruggedised device, built to protect against drops, heat and cold, vibration, dust and rain.

The tablet is recommended for markets like transportation and logistics, manufacturing and retail, and is well suited for a wide variety of applications, such as inventory management, shipping and receiving, delivery routing and parcel tracking, and retail store queue busting.

Features of the tablet include an angled barcode reader, full outdoor functionality, Android Lollipop operating system, 4G phone connectivity, military-certified toughness, warm swappable battery, and versatile optional accessories.

The handheld tablet will be available with dual SIM slots and certified on leading mobile carrier networks, providing 4G LTE/3G/GPRS/CDMA2000 mobile broadband for voice (or VoIP) and data.

To ensure clear voice communication above industrial noise, the device is equipped with intelligent noise suppression capabilities and dual front speakers providing an astounding maximum volume of 100 decibels. Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, near field communications (NFC), standalone and assisted GPS (A-GPS) and Bluetooth, v4.1 (Class 1) are standard.

RM151_android_image_2_1_wp

Warehouse and distribution management solution quenches thirst for growth

14 Degrees, the distributor arm of Rathbone Wine Group, has completed a successful implementation of Manhattan Associates’ warehouse and distribution management solution Manhattan SCALE.

The deployment is part of a business transformation project designed to deliver an enhanced service experience for 14 Degrees’ customers and to drive continued business growth.

Within just a few months of the solution’s deployment at its Port Melbourne distribution centre in Victoria, Australia, 14 Degrees has reported accelerated goods flows, improved on-shelf availability for customers’ products, a 99.9 percent inventory accuracy level and a 25 percent gain in productivity.

Darren Rathbone, Director at 14 Degrees said, “Because of the consumable nature of the products we’re distributing, it’s very important to our winery customers that the location and integrity of their stock is known at all times. Our old system was unable to give us an accurate picture of enterprise inventory at any moment in time. With Manhattan we now have end-to-end visibility of all stock in real-time, which means order fulfilment for our customers is faster and more accurate, and we can ensure the highest quality of product at every point in the supply chain journey.”

Langi-release-wooden-box

14 Degrees now has a more flexible and streamlined distribution capability for serving the country’s leading wineries including Yering Station, Mount Langi Ghiran and Xanadu. The versatility of the Manhattan solution has enabled 14 Degrees to expand its service capabilities beyond wine to other products requiring temperature controlled storage and transport.

The warehouse and distribution management solution solves supply chain execution challenges for organisations in a whole range of industry sectors, whilst its scalability ensures companies can comfortably handle peak demand periods as well as grow their businesses over time.

With 14 Degrees looking at new distribution markets including pharmaceuticals, the solution’s agility and capacity to support companies operating in multiple industries were central to 14 Degrees’ decision to deploy the warehouse and distribution management solution.

It also offers a user-friendly interface, is easy for staff to learn, can be deployed quickly and boasts a high degree of configurability to meet the needs of diverse businesses.

 

 

Powdery mildew app helps vignerons manage grape expectations

A free mobile app to help vignerons and winemakers quickly assess grapes for powdery mildew in the field is being made available to growers globally.

Developed in South Australia by the University of Adelaide in collaboration with industry and Wine Australia, the app was initially launched for use exclusively in Australia ahead of the 2016 vintage.

PMapp has been downloaded more than 1000 times and been well received by the Australian industry, prompting the construction of a training website to support the app and its international release this month.

Powdery mildew is a serious disease that affects grapevines worldwide and can cause off flavours and aromas in wine if not controlled.

University of Adelaide Professor of Plant Pathology and project leader Eileen Scott said she had already responded to inquiries about the app from North America, Chile, Europe and New Zealand.

“Powdery mildew is probably the most ubiquitous disease of grapevines – it occurs everywhere because it’s much less sensitive to weather conditions than other diseases like downy mildew or botrytis,” she said.

The disease is assessed in the vineyard as the percentage surface area of grape bunches affected, which gives a measure of disease severity.

PMapp allows the user to visually assess the severity by matching it with computer-generated images.

The app allows disease data to be entered quickly in the vineyard. Assessors then email the results and analyse the resulting spreadsheet, which records GPS co-ordinates and other assessment details.

Prof Scott said having Australian growers use the app for a year before the rest of the world allowed the system to be trialled thoroughly so any glitches could be fine-tuned.

“What we’ve built on to the app since we did the Australian release was a website designed to support diagnosis and recognition of powdery mildew as well as more training in early assessment than we could build into the app,” she said.

“The app allows people to enter their assessment quickly and efficiently to get an on the run average severity and average incidence across the block they are assessing.

“The website is designed for pre-vintage training of new staff and up-skilling or refreshing of existing and experienced staff so when they go out into the field they feel better prepared for the assessments.”

Australian users of the app in the 2016 vintage said it would become a valuable industry tool with some even using it to also assess grapes for bunch rot.

Australian Vignerons CEO Andrew Weeks said PMapp offered the potential for a uniform and reliable assessment procedure for powdery mildew, which in turn provided a consistent market signal for winegrowers.

“PMapp was a great tool in making decisions acceptable to both grower and winery,” he said.

Accolade Wines Chief Viticulturalist Alex Sas also supported the app.

“PMapp will quickly become part of the standard operating procedures of large wine companies in Australia and worldwide,” he said.

South Australia is consistently responsible for almost 50 per cent of Australia’s annual production.

There are 18 wine regions in South Australia, including the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, Limestone Coast and Riverland.

This story first appeared in The Lead.

Fruit exporter thrives with Greentree ERP

Greentree’s accuracy and ease of use bring major benefits for kiwifruit grower and post-harvest company Jace Group.

Challenge
Jace Group requires seamless accounting and reporting of the production from dozens of kiwifruit orchards, and from its packing facilities.

Solution
Greentree integrates financials, job costing and transactional analysis, while AutoScan simplifies data uploading from multiple locations.

Results
A variety of widely different reports are easily compiled, large seasonal payrolls are managed accurately, and databases are simple to update.

Lee Weatherley is the Accountant for the Jace Group, a significant kiwifruit grower and one of the largest privately owned kiwifruit post-harvest companies in New Zealand. The company packs more than eight million trays of kiwifruit per year, primarily for export.

Jace Group owns 77.5 canopy hectares* of orchards, mainly in the Bay of Plenty and South Auckland, and leases another 125 hectares. For the complex task of tracking orchard production and costs, it chose Greentree.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

Jace Group is a key player in the kiwifruit industry, which is one of New Zealand’s multi-million-dollar export successes.

“We pride ourselves on quality performance and attention to detail,” says Lee. “We consistently achieve above industry returns for our growers. Given there is only a limited window of opportunity to harvest the crop from the vines, it is vital that all operations from logistics through to our accounting & reporting functions to growers run seamlessly.”

Jace Group has used Greentree since its inception in 2006, but Lee’s connection to Greentree goes back much further than that. She previously worked for Seeka, another long-time Greentree user, and was instrumental in bringing Greentree to Jace Group. Having used Greentree herself, Lee was confident in its ability to manage the entire supply chain.

“Because we have to cover from the growing of the crop right through to harvesting, storing and packing, we need a business system that is able to capture all that data and report on it in a wide range of ways,” she explains.

DETAILED COST ANALYSIS

Greentree has to break down the growing costs and returns for each individual orchard, and for each variety of fruit (yes, while they might look similar there are a number of different kiwifruit varieties). Jace Group makes extensive use of Job Costing and Greentree’s transactional analysis capabilities to differentiate between each growing season and variety.

“It’s so easy to extract data – you just push a button and it’s done,” enthuses Lee. “Our data is all live and automated, it’s accurate, and our checks and balances all take place in Greentree.

“Live visibility is important because our managers out in the field need to know where they’re tracking against their budgets,” Lee adds. “We need an ERP system that integrates across our entire business.”

Jace Group’s packing and cool stores in the Bay of Plenty and Auckland are hives of intensive activity during the picking and packing season, which runs from mid-March through to September. As many as 900 people, many of them transient workers, may be employed during the season.

During the 8-10 week main packing season, Jace Group’s facilities will operate 6-7 days a week, up to 21 hours a day. Finger-scanning software is used to record attendance in the packing sheds and the data is automatically uploaded into Greentree Payroll.

FLEXIBILITY CRUCIAL IN CRISIS

Greentree’s flexibility proved crucial when the Psa bacterial virus swept through the kiwifruit orchards. Exporter Zespri partly overcame the crisis by introducing new varieties of more tolerant plants.

“Our Greentree system was flexible enough that we could easily modify our database to include those new varieties,” says Lee.

The Greentree Partner also introduced Jace Group to AutoScan, which has brought huge benefits.

“Because we have office sites at three different locations and accounting staff at all those sites, we can source data from wherever we happen to be and information on who has entered the data,” Lee says. “Greentree has enabled us to develop sophisticated uploads for lots of data, eliminating human error data entry issues. We have nine or so operating companies within our group, and it’s a tremendous help for me to be able to monitor performance for consistency.

“The industry is growing so much,” Lee concludes. “We’re heading towards higher volumes of fruit and are looking to expand our facilities. We’re confident that Greentree will continue to grow with us and we’re always looking at ways to work smarter with it, to meet any challenges ahead.”

*The amount of ground that is covered by fruit-bearing vines.

 

The importance of cyber hygiene

Manufacturers are being urged to regularly assess their network infrastructure, and to close all possible opportunities for hackers. Alan Johnson reports.

IN a room full of manufacturers, it would be hard to find anyone who would admit their companies’ computers are not adequately protected from computer hackers.

However, Dick Bussiere, Principal Architect with Tenable Network Security, believes they would all be disappointed to know the truth.

He admits most manufacturers’ networks are fairly well defended on the perimeter. “But like an Oreo cookie, they are hard on the outside but soft and mushy on the inside,” Bussiere told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

According to Bussiere, most organisations are not doing a good job “when it gets down to cyber hygiene”.

Cyber hygiene itself refers to the steps that computer users take to improve their cybersecurity and better protect themselves online. Manufacturers and companies in general don’t proactively perform vulnerability assessments on their network infrastructure.

“The second issue is that network infrastructures are not being monitored to be able to detect whether or not those infrastructures have been compromised. If they were, they would significantly reduce threats and obviously reduce risks to their organisation,” he said.

Bussiere said performing vulnerability assessments on a frequent basis should be standard across the manufacturing industry.

“Yet with the possible exception of companies who are forced to do it, such as large financial organisations, most companies only do it on annual basis, when in fact vulnerabilities are presently disclosed at around 130 every week of the year,” he said.

“So if manufacturers are only doing an assessment once a year, they are open to thousands of vulnerabilities, with each one of them having the potential to be a breach waiting to happen.”

Bussiere recommended companies run their vulnerability assessments on a monthly basis. In order to be secure as possible, companies need to use the best cyber security practices.

“The other dimension to it is performing some kind of monitoring function to determine if a breach has been made, by observing unusual communication patterns for example.”

Common breaches

Bussiere said the most common attempt to breach networks at the moment is via phishing attacks, where someone clicks on an email that contains an infected Word or PDF document.

He said the problem arises when someone falls for this phishing attack and is working on a system that has not been adequately patched.

“This is a very common way companies are hacked,” he said.

Bussiere said manufacturers should also pay attention to their industrial control network, such as SCADA and ICS.

“They need to focus on the segregation between that critical operational real time network infrastructure and the company’s common office network infrastructure,” he said.

“All too frequently on my travels, I see little attention focused on ensuring that the control system is well segregated. If not, it has the potential for major problems if the control network became breached somehow.”

He said these phishing attacks can often be very targeted, often trying to find out all a company’s financial information.

“Hence the importance of good cyber hygiene as these phishing attacks generally rely on some kind of vulnerability being on the victim’s system and an exploitation of that vulnerability,” he said.

Need for visibility

Bussiere said having good visibility of a company’s network from a vulnerability perspective is critical.

“This allows companies to identify the vulnerabilities that an attacker can take advantage of, and get those areas patched,” he said.

Bussiere said there can be any number of items that exist on a network that companies don’t know about.

“It could be a legacy system or maybe a virtual machine someone fired up years ago,” he said.

He said it is also important for manufacturers to identify all the assets that are on their networks.

“Networks have been around for over 25 years now, and over that time most have been built out where things get inserted that no one knows about, and/or things get forgotten about,” he said.

“Any operator of a large industrial control system will tell you ‘we don’t know everything that is on this network’.”

He said having visibility, by being able to audit everything that is on the network and identify its purpose, is a very important part of good cyber hygiene.

“Companies should bring everything under management, under patch control, and ruthlessly rip things out that shouldn’t be there.”

Bussiere said it’s very important manufacturers design their network on the assumption that it is going to be compromised.

“If they do that they will start to practice good cyber hygiene. And having that attitude will force them to instrument their network so that they have the ability to detect compromises relatively early in their life cycle so they can mitigate or eliminate the compromise well before serious damage can occur,” he said.

Passwords

Somewhat controversially, Bussiere believes computer passwords are obsolete today.

“In most cases they are a very soft spot, and can be easily compromised through a phishing attack through social engineering,” he said.

For sensitive operations, he advises manufacturers to use two-factor authentication, which adds a second level of authentication to an account log-in.

“Because even if an adversary manages to get a person’s password, with two-factor authentication it’s normally not enough for that outsider to get in,” he said.

In conclusion, Bussiere advised manufacturers not to just look at IT security as a necessary evil. “It is essential,” he said.

Austral Fisheries reaping the benefits of ERP software

Austral Fisheries needed remote access to a real time environment to enable its sales team to better serve an expanding customer base.

“The fishing part of our business is a 24/7 operation and is highly regulated. Coupled with our seafood trading operation, which has to be managed dynamically, we need business tools that can handle this sort of pressure,” said Greg Johnston, CFO and Company Secretary of Austral.

Austral Fisheries is one of Australia’s leading commercial fishing companies. The company’s Greentree system has been in use for more than a decade, supported by Greentree Partner, Addax Business Solutions, and has proved its flexibility by scaling up to meet the company’s growth and changing business requirements.

Recent developments included moving Greentree to the cloud and equipping Austral’s sales staff with Greentree-4Sales, for greater efficiency on the move.

Hosting Greentree in the cloud means data is available instantly to management and staff wherever they are as long as they have an internet connection. Thanks to Greentree4Sales, they also have customer details at their fingertips.

Sales staff can conclude deals, update the system and provide documentation on the spot, and management has a live view of business performance.

“It’s a good, stable all-round system that has met our special needs with some innovative approaches,” said Johnston “When we said we needed to make some changes, Greentree was able to step up and respond. The Addax team has a comprehensive understanding of Greentree, providing solid support and confidence that problems can be resolved quickly.”

Austral consists of three distinct businesses, each with its own challenges:

  • Its Southern Ocean operation runs four deep-sea fishing vessels, catching mostly Toothfish. Its focus is to value-add the catch and create a market for premium fillets for the domestic and export markets.
  • Its prawn operation runs 10 trawlers – another value-added domestic and export market. Austral has also developed direct relationships with the main Australian supermarkets for this catch.
  • Seafood Solutions is Austral’s seafood trading arm, mostly selling imported products from sustainable overseas fisheries to the Australian wholesale market. It accounts for over a third of Austral’s turnover and it’s the growth of this operation which put new demands on Austral’s Greentree system.

“This is a very competitive business that requires tight control of working capital and good customer service,” explained Johnston.

“With seafood trading, you have to be able to conclude business on the spot. You don’t want to tell the customer you’ll get back to them, or promise them product only to find there’s no stock available.”

Keeping up with currency, regulatory requirements In Greentree4Sales, Austral has found a tool that is invaluable for its sales team, who can now access Greentree on the move via mobile devices.

“Our sales reps need live information at their fingertips,” said Johnston.

“They need to be able to conclude business when visiting customers. Greentree4Sales means they can process orders and provide copies to the customer before leaving their premises. They don’t have that backlog of paperwork and they can even do special deals right there and then.”

With the strict regulatory requirements around commercial fishing, any delay due to bad documentation means valuable consignments can be left sitting on the docks. Approvals & Alerts ensures that stock levels – and customer credit limits – are checked before sales are finalised, and that all the necessary documents are complete.

Austral buys and sells in different currencies such as NZD, Yen, Rupee, USD and Euro. Using the Foreign Currency module, each supplier’s accounts is tracked in a foreign currency. Invoices and other transactions are entered, processed and reported based on this currency, with a range of reports which show the unrealised exchange rate gain or loss.

“Greentree manages currency in both sides of the ledger well and makes it easier for us,” said Johnston.

Cloud option saves costs Austral’s engineering depot in Cairns needs to track costs and manage the refit of its prawn trawlers. Using the web connection, the remote users have complete online access to Greentree.

“They can process supplier invoices, payroll details, and update the general ledger just once, and we will have all the information live on one system,” said Johnston.

“There’s no double entry and one integrated system gives senior executives access to live and timely results, so business performance is constantly maintained and areas for improvement are highlighted.”

Greentree’s ability to operate comfortably in the cloud has also benefited Austral, removing the need to upgrade its on-premise servers. AOD, the cloud arm of Addax, handled the move speedily and efficiently.

“This is an excellent cost saver,” Johnston said.

“The AOD team has been great in setting up the hosting service and we expect this too will be a long-term relationship.”

With the expansion of its trading operation and the need for flexibility in the face of changing local and international markets and regulations, Austral Fisheries is confident that Greentree will continue to grow with it.

The importance of cyber hygiene

Manufacturers are being urged to regularly asses their network infrastructure, and to close all possible opportunities for hackers. Alan Johnson reports.

IN a room full of manufacturers, it would be hard to find anyone who would admit their companies’ computers are not adequately protected from computer hackers.

However, Dick Bussiere, Principal Architect with Tenable Network Security, believes they would all be disappointed to know the truth.

He admits most manufacturers’ networks are fairly well defended on the perimeter. “But like an Oreo cookie, they are hard on the outside but soft and mushy on the inside,” Bussiere told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

He said there are a couple of areas most organisations are not doing a good job with, “which to a large degree gets down to cyber hygiene”.

Number one issue, Bussiere believes, is that manufacturers and companies in general don’t proactively perform vulnerability assessments on their network infrastructure.

“The second issue is that network infrastructures are not being monitored to be able to detect whether or not those infrastructures have been compromised. If they were, they would significantly reduce threats and obviously reduce risks to their organisation,” he said.

Bussiere said performing vulnerability assessments on a frequent basis should be standard across the manufacturing industry.

“Yet with the possible exception of companies who are forced to do it, such as large financial organisations, most companies only do it on annual basis, when in fact vulnerabilities are presently disclosed at around 130 every week of the year,” he said.

“So if manufacturers are only doing an assessment once a year, they are open to thousands of vulnerabilities, with each one of them having the potential to be a breach waiting to happen.”

Bussiere recommended companies run their vulnerability assessments on a monthly basis as a bare minimum and tracking what they are able to fix.

“The other dimension to it is performing some kind of monitoring function to determine if a breach has been made, by observing unusual communication patterns for example.”

Common breaches

Bussiere said the most common attempt to breach networks at the moment is via phishing attacks, where someone clicks on an email that contains an infected Word or PDF document.

He said the problem arises when someone falls for this phishing attack and is working on a system that has not been adequately patched.

“This is a very common way companies are hacked,” he said.

Bussiere said manufacturers should also pay attention to their industrial control network, such as SCADA and ICS.

“They need to focus on the segregation between that critical operational real time network infrastructure and the company’s common office network infrastructure,” he said.

“All too frequently on my travels, I see little attention focused on ensuring that the control system is well segregated. If not, it has the potential for major problems if the control network became breached somehow.”

He said these phishing attacks can often be very targeted, often trying to find out all a company’s financial information.

“Hence the importance of good cyber hygiene as these phishing attacks generally rely on some kind of vulnerability being on the victim’s system and an exploitation of that vulnerability,” he said.

Need for visibility

Bussiere said having good visibility of a company’s network from a vulnerability perspective is critical.

“This allows companies to identify the vulnerabilities that an attacker can take advantage of, and get those areas patched,” he said.

And not just software vulnerability, Bussiere said there can be any number of items that exist on a network that companies don’t know about.

“It could be a legacy system or maybe a virtual machine someone fired up years ago,” he said.

He said it is also important for manufacturers to identify all the assets that are on their networks.

“Networks have been around for over 25 years now, and over that time most have been built out where things get inserted that no one knows about, and/or things get forgotten about,” he said.

“Any operator of a large industrial control system will tell you ‘we don’t know everything that is on this network’.”

He said having visibility, by being able to audit everything that is on the network and identify its purpose, is a very important part of good cyber hygiene.

“Companies should bring everything under management, under patch control, and ruthlessly rip things out that shouldn’t be there.”

Bussiere said it’s very important manufacturers design their network on the assumption that it is going to be compromised.

“If they do that they will start to practice good cyber hygiene. And having that attitude will force them to instrument their network so that they have the ability to detect compromises relatively early in their life cycle so they can mitigate or eliminate the compromise well before serious damage can occur,” he said.

Passwords

Somewhat controversially, Bussiere believes computer passwords are obsolete today.

“In most cases they are a very soft spot, and can be easily compromised through a phishing attack through social engineering,” he said.

For sensitive operations, he advises manufacturers to use two-factor authentication, which adds a second level of authentication to an account log-in.

“Because even if an adversary manages to get a person’s password, with two-factor authentication it’s normally not enough for that outsider to get in,” he said.

In conclusion, Bussiere advised manufacturers not to just look at IT security as a necessary evil. “It is essential,” he said.

ERP system proves flexibility

Challenge

Austral Fisheries needed remote access to a real time environment, to enable its sales team to better serve its expanding customer base.

Solution

Hosting Greentree in the Cloud means data is available instantly to management and staff wherever they are as long as they have an internet connection. Thanks to Greentree4Sales, they also have customer details at their fingertips.

Results

Sales staff can conclude deals, update the system and provide documentation on the spot, and management has a live view of business performance.
The fishing part of our business is a 24/7 operation and is highly regulated. Coupled with our seafood trading operation, which has to be managed dynamically, we need business tools that can handle this sort of pressure.”

Greg-Johnston-NEW.jpgGreg Johnston (pictured) is the CFO and Company Secretary of Austral Fisheries, one of Australia’s leading commercial fishing companies. The company’s Greentree system has been in use for more than a decade, supported by Greentree Partner, Addax Business Solutions, and has proved its flexibility by scaling up to meet the company’s growth and changing business requirements. Recent developments included moving Greentree to the Cloud and equipping Austral’s sales staff with Greentree4Sales, for greater efficiency on the move.

“It’s a good, stable all-round system that has met our special needs with some innovative approaches,” Greg says. “When we said we needed to make some changes, Greentree was able to step up and respond. The Addax team has a comprehensive understanding of Greentree, providing solid support and confidence that problems can be resolved quickly.”

New business, new demands

Austral consists of three distinct businesses, each with its own challenges:

  1. Its Southern Ocean operation runs four deep-sea fishing vessels, catching mostly Toothfish. Its focus is to value-add the catch and create a market for premium fillets for the domestic and export markets.
  2. Its prawn operation runs 10 trawlers – another value-added domestic and export market. Austral has also developed direct relationships with the main Australian supermarkets for this catch.
  3. Seafood Solutions is Austral’s seafood trading arm, mostly selling imported products from sustainable overseas fisheries to the Australian wholesale market. It accounts for over a third of Austral’s turnover and it’s the growth of this operation which put new demands on Austral’s Greentree system.

“This is a very competitive business that requires tight control of working capital and good customer service,” Greg explains. “With seafood trading, you have to be able to conclude business on the spot. You don’t want to tell the customer you’ll get back to them, or promise them product only to find there’s no stock available.”

An invaluable sales tool

In Greentree4Sales, Austral has found a tool that is invaluable for its sales team, who can now access Greentree on the move via mobile devices.

“Our sales reps need live information at their fingertips,” says Greg. “They need to be able to conclude business when visiting customers. Greentree4Sales means they can process orders and provide copies to the customer before leaving their premises. They don’t have that backlog of paperwork and they can even do special deals right there and then.”

With the strict regulatory requirements around commercial fishing, any delay due to bad documentation means valuable consignments can be left sitting on the docks.  Approvals & Alerts ensures that stock levels – and customer credit limits – are checked before sales are finalised, and that all the necessary documents are complete.

Austral buys and sells in different currencies such as NZD, Yen, Rupee, USD and Euro. Using the Foreign Currency module, each supplier’s accounts is tracked in a foreign currency. Invoices and other transactions are entered, processed and reported based on this currency, with a range of reports which show the unrealised exchange rate gain or loss.

“Greentree manages currency in both sides of the ledger well and makes it easier for us,” says Greg.

Cloud option saves costs

Austral’s engineering depot in Cairns needs to track costs and manage the refit of its prawn trawlers. Using the web connection, the remote users have complete online access to Greentree.

“They can process supplier invoices, payroll details, and update the general ledger just once, and we will have all the information live on one system,” says Greg. “There’s no double entry and one integrated system gives senior executives access to live and timely results, so business performance is constantly maintained and areas for improvement are highlighted.”

Greentree’s ability to operate comfortably in the Cloud has also benefited Austral, removing the need to upgrade its on-premise servers. AOD, the Cloud arm of Addax, handled the move speedily and efficiently.

“This is an excellent cost saver,” Greg says. “The AOD team has been great in setting up the hosting service and we expect this too will be a long-term relationship.”

With the expansion of its trading operation and the need for flexibility in the face of changing local and international markets and regulations, Austral Fisheries is confident that Greentree will continue to grow with it.

“The future is exciting, with our growth and diversification plans,” Greg concludes. “Greentree will make the journey much easier, more enjoyable and assist the prospects for success.”

Asahi beverages using data to drive efficiency

Manufacturers poor record of embracing technology to drive efficiency is costing the nation billions of dollars in lost opportunity. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Co, manufacturers are discarding up to 99 per cent of their data before decision makers ever have a chance to use it.                                                                                                                                                              

Operations Feedback Systems (OFS) a provider of real time productivity improvement software has announced that Asahi Beverages is deploying the OFS Software Suite across all of its manufacturing facilities in Australia and New Zealand.

Large businesses with a distributed manufacturing footprint face significant challenges in identifying and propagating best practices. To be effective, all sites need to know how they are tracking against performance standards. The sites that are failing to meet these performance standards are the ones that need the most help and support from management.

"In order to propagate best practice throughout Asahi Beverages, I need to know how we are tracking against our performance standards. For this we have developed our own KPI methodology that lets us benchmark our performance at all levels", says Mr. Wayne Angus, GM of Manufacturing Operations.

"The problem we had was that just to calculate and distribute our KPIs every day required tremendous time and resource.”

“OFS was able to give us our exact in-house KPIs, in real time, which we see as a game changer. It means that the whole organisation from myself to every operator is looking at how we are going, all the time, on any web browser. Not only did this immediately save us countless hours daily, but we see this as a key enabler on our best practice journey.”

There are numerous opportunities for food manufacturers to become more efficient in very simple, inexpensive ways said OFS, including reviewing operating procedures, reducing changeover times, or identifying and improving under-performing assets.