Charter Baking Co. is the largest certified-organic and natural baking company in the U.S. We are a portfolio company of Charterhouse Group Inc. Charter Baking operates four bakeries – one in its headquarters location in Boulder, Colorado, the others in Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey. We have assembled our portfolio through a series of acquisitions, and we currently market a wide variety of breads, English muffins, rolls, tortillas, cereals and granola under four brand names – Rudi’s Organic Bakery, The Baker, Vermont Bread Company and Matthew’s All Natural.


As we were expanding our nationwide business, we were confronted by the challenge of how to integrate and leverage the data generated by our acquired companies. Each operation has a different database.


We were able to map each repository to a SQL Server database, which allowed corporate staff to access the data in separate reports, but there was no way to analyze it holistically to look for trends across the entire operation. We needed a business analytics tool that would help align business and reporting functions and speed up the process of assembling information.


It’s easy when you’re integrating companies to find yourself doing a lot of scorekeeping. Often, you collect information, after it’s too late to react to trends. We were trying to get to the point where we could consolidate information sooner and do something positive with it.


After considering our priorities and goals, we chose Exact Business Analytics (EBA) from Exact Software to help staffers generate better visibility into disparate data sources. We chose EBA partly because IT leaders at the Rudi’s Organic Bakery division had been comfortable using Exact MAX, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) program that provides manufacturing, sales and accounting support. So, rather than purchase a full-featured data warehousing tool and incur the expense of building a new data warehousing setup from the ground up, we found we could create the same level of functionality coupling EBA with MAX. The fact that we had all of this power in this tool extending off of MAX was incredible. For us, it was a very powerful and reasonably priced solution.


One of our goals in assembling a portfolio of bakeries was to look for synergies in the baking operations. Business needs occasionally dictate that certain products shift from one location to another. Under the old system, corporate staffers could collect sales and production numbers from each plant, but they could not easily consolidate data across the system. With EBA running on the front end of the SQL database, staffers can track sales trends relating to brands, individual products, plants and retail customer purchases.


Basically, we needed a way to look at the business as a whole entity, not just as a collection of individual bakeries. EBA gave us the ability to look for patterns across the company and react to situations in ways that will benefit the business as a whole.


One of the main benefits we’ve realized has been through the use of EBA as a real-time reporting tool. If a staffer notices that product returns seem high in a particular area, they don’t have to call IT and wait hours for a follow-up report to generate insight into the problem. He can drill down right away and look at numbers generated by district, by division, by route or by customer. This saves time and gets to the root of the problem.


It’s more than just time. It may have been in the past that somebody just didn’t have the ability to ask the right question and get the answer. Now, we can use this tool and say, “Get me the answer right now.” That’s even more important to us than the time it saves.


EBA fits the needs of small- to midsized businesses, because it generates excellent performance and can run online as well as offline. If a salesperson is on a call and needs specific information about a route, he can access his sales cube and pull out the information he needs on his laptop without having to request information from IT.


I wanted a real-time reporting tool, so I could empower users to get out of the static reporting realm and get to a real-time decision-making process. It is extremely resilient. I couldn’t be more pleased with the speed and the resilience of the tool itself.


So far, we have used EBA as a corporate reporting tool, delivering information cubes to about a dozen salespeople and manufacturing leaders. We also plan to roll out the tool to individual sites and additional functions in the organization.


If I had my way, we would start driving everything through EBA. We haven’t leveraged all of the capabilities, but just by scratching the surface, it’s already exceeded my expectations.

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