REVIEWER: Dale Hosack, CFO of Western Container Corporation.

BACKGROUND: Western Container Corporation is one of the leading U.S.-based bottle manufacturers for the Coca-Cola Company. The company is responsible for producing multiple types and sizes of PET (polyethylene terephthalate)  plastic containers, such as 12-ounce DASANI bottles and one-liter Coca-Cola bottles. With seven manufacturing plants across the U.S., Western Container Corporation has a versatile financial structure where we carefully manage expenses and production costs.

PLATFORMS: FRx Software's Microsoft Forecaster runs on SQL Server and Windows Server, giving all plants and financial staff access to the system at all times from any location.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our complex budgeting cycle was really a process of going through the motions. Each of our plant general managers and directors would submit budget numbers to the accounting department. From there, the solo budget manager would turn these projections into an accounting format and enter the data into a Lotus 123 spreadsheet. The 52-tab spreadsheet used a series of links and complicated formulas, which had been frequently tweaked over the years to produce the final, consolidated budget numbers. There were several challenges in relying on a spreadsheet as the company's main budget tool. The plant managers never felt they could trace where the information came from, and there was no quality control. The last straw came when we noticed that a miscalculation in a spreadsheet cell cost the company $1 million.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The implementation of Microsoft Forecaster was simple and allowed us to quickly build a chart of accounts, create HR codes, set up accounting trees, assign security rights and create report templates. We have a detailed budget that we upload into our general ledger package. Instead of entering a general and administrative budget as one sum each month, we upload a detailed budget with individual line items. With this level of precision and with the same data in all accounting systems, we perform important month-end analysis not possible before. We benefit from access to real-time budget information. With this ability, plant managers are better equipped to manage and predict expenses. Today, plant managers have much more financial detail and perform thorough analysis to determine freight expenses, breaking them down by customer, number of bottles, location, product, freight per mile and more. Plant managers use the drill-down capability within Microsoft Forecaster to review, analyze, and reconcile numbers and expenses.

STRENGTHS: One of the many reasons we selected Microsoft Forecaster was because of its simple implementation process and its cost-effective price tag. We were also immediately drawn to the familiar Excel look and feel. Microsoft Forecaster has also greatly increased the quality of our budget. With Microsoft Forecaster, our plant managers enter their numbers securely online, and the information is automatically submitted and rolled up into the plant and company-wide budget, eliminating any chance for error. We've cut nine days off the organization's month-end close process. With Microsoft Forecaster, we completely freed one of our accountants from working 72 hours per week performing and verifying data entry. Now he's actually working with plants and involved with operations.

WEAKNESSES: The human resource module is more complex to work with than the other modules within Microsoft Forecaster. Although we have perfected using it to include every company employee, it takes a little more time to become comfortable with it.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Microsoft Forecaster's combination of affordability and the fact that it functioned like Microsoft Excel were our deciding factors.

DELIVERABLES: The accounting team has created custom reports out of Microsoft Forecaster to provide further itemization by sales, customers and products.

VENDOR SUPPORT: During pre-implementation, we worked with our implementation consultant to have all information available in the right format to make the implementation process simple. Since implementation, every time we have called the support line, we get fast and very effective help.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is very easy to understand and use.

Microsoft Forecaster
FRx Software Corporation,
    a Microsoft subsidiary
4700 South Syracuse Parkway
Suite 700
Denver, CO 80237
(303) 741-8000

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