Traceability is the star ingredient for pasta maker

After a mislabeled product exposed a critical business risk, a leading manufacturer of gourmet pasta chose Abel® ERP to deliver the traceability, quality control and flexibility needed both to safeguard and streamline their fast-growing business.

Husband and wife team Phil Bennett and Linda Murphy know a great opportunity when they see one. Seventeen years ago, they bought a fledgling pasta-making company and turned their passion for pasta into a multimillion-dollar wholesale business selling gourmet products and ready-made meals.

Today, Christchurch-based Pasta Vera supplies restaurants, hotels and meal-kit delivery services across New Zealand with pesto’s, sauces and pasta products, including fresh fettuccine, frozen lasagne and a range of vegan, gluten-free and nut-free products.

“We’ve built our brand and business on using quality ingredients and creating high-quality products with the highest standards of food safety,” Linda says.

In 2017 one of their products was mislabeled and had to be recalled. Because the problem involved only a relatively small number of products sold to a few supermarkets, Pasta Vera could manually identify where the items had been sent and had them removed. But the incident persuaded them they needed a better way to quickly trace, isolate and correct any future safety issues or recalls.

“It’s a massive risk if you are in the food business and can’t pinpoint a batch,” Linda says.  “We were very lucky it was only a labelling error. If this had been a product recall from a large production run, it would have been a horrendous loss. It could have destroyed our business.”

To safeguard their company, Phil and Linda knew they required an integrated business management system to provide greater quality control and traceability across their supply chain. They also wanted an integrated system because they knew it would help improve their inventory management and overall efficiency of their business which was growing at a rate of 20 percent a year.

“Like many New Zealand companies, we were very good at running our business on the smell of an oily rag,” Linda says. “But we knew if we wanted to take Pasta Vera to the next level, it was time for a change.”

The timing was right for other reasons. The company was about to move into a new, purpose-built 1000-square-metre facility, twice as big as their old factory. At the same time, the government was pushing through tougher food safety regulations, traceability obligations and recall requirements across the New Zealand food industry.

After reviewing their options, Phil and Linda chose Abel ERP not only to deliver traceability and quality control of their products, but also to integrate all their business processes and provide the flexibility to grow with a single system.

“As someone with an accounting background I knew the pitfalls of buying off-the-shelf products,” Linda says. “It was essential for us to have Abel configured to match our own unique business processes. Abel’s implementation process is very good. Their Christchurch based ERP consultant came to our house, listened to our needs and came up with the right solutions very quickly.”

Pasta Vera’s new Abel system went live in October 2017, first providing the core tools and automation to manage the company’s quality control and traceability requirements. Abel replaced their manual labelling process with a system of bar-coded product labels, automatically printed with batch numbers and best-before dates. Prior to dispatch, the product labels are scanned in the packing room with a hand-held device, ensuring they can be easily tracked and traced to their delivery point.

“If we have any issue now with a batch, we can find out in two minutes where it is, whether it’s been shipped and to whom,” Linda says. “This is a significant improvement for our business and our main reason for moving to Abel.  We are finding that Abel’s real-time visibility of our stock flows is driving better production scheduling and efficiency, it’s been extremely helpful and integral to our planning.”

Linda says Abel has driven other improvements as well. One was to replace manual timesheets with an automated process to track and calculate wage hours, and reconcile the hours charged to the products made. Another improvement was to integrate the factory shop’s point-of-sale system with the rest of the business, eliminating the need for a separate system.

“We are now starting to see the real benefits of Abel,” she says. “It’s such a full solution and we’re still finding useful features and functionality.”

Linda says these benefits include Abel’s integrated, real-time financials and flexible reporting tools that she can access at the office or overseas, whether she wants to analyze general ledger data or freight costs by customers and products.

“I like the agile way of Abel,” Linda says. “Some companies ask you to spec out your needs in long emails or stories, but you don’t know all the possibilities of a system until you start using it.”

“As our business changes and grows, we see new opportunities and different requirements.  That’s what I like about Abel’s flexibility.  When we think of an area we would like to improve, the functionality is most likely there and can be easily configured to meet our unique needs”.

With a new system to optimize and protect their business, and a new factory to accommodate their double-digit annual growth, Pasta Vera seems poised for continued success at the top of their food chain.