True to its name, Florida Crystals grows, harvests, and mills its organic sugarcane entirely in Florida, making it the only producer of organic raw cane sugar products 100 percent made in the USA. Known for its golden hues and authentic flavor, the company’s homegrown raw cane sugar is mill-made and unrefined, traveling from stalk to sugar crystal across farming and milling operations within 24 hours of harvest.

As the state’s largest organic farmer, Florida Crystals cultivates sugarcane, rice, and vegetables across 190,000 acres in Palm Beach County, where it also owns and operates two sugar mills, a sugar refinery, a rice mill, a packaging and distribution center, and the largest renewable power plant of its kind in North America. Its subsidiary, ASR Group, jointly owned with Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, is the world's largest cane sugar refining and marketing company, with an annual production capacity of more than 6 million tons of sugar; it sells sugar under Domino, Redpath, Sidul, and Tate & Lyle brands.

Maintaining a fully integrated farm-to-table operation at scale requires a fully integrated source-to-pay applications landscape, according to Arturo Schuler, Global IT Solution Owner at Florida Crystals.

At the center of that landscape sits SAP S/4HANA, which serves as Florida Crystals’ core ERP system and is orbited by many satellite applications, all of which play a role in the corporation’s procurement process.

Implementing SAP Ariba

Since 1995, when SAP was first introduced at Florida Crystals through an implementation of SAP R/3 2.2E, the two companies have remained aligned through more than 25 years of mergers and acquisitions, optimizations, and technical upgrades. As operations grew, and Florida Crystals acquired subsidiaries running distinct ERP systems, different areas of the business were left running different versions of SAP.

In his tenure at Florida Crystals, Schuler has seen the company shift from SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) 6.0 to an on-premises deployment of SAP S/4HANA 1709, completed in 2018. Following a period of functionally driven process transformations, Florida Crystals more recently consolidated ERP systems into one global SAP S/4HANA 2020 environment, which went live in September 2022.

Even before that, in 2019, Schuler worked to implement SAP Ariba across Florida Crystals’ source-to-pay processes within the U.S. and Canada. “It was a huge investment by Florida Crystals to implement SAP Ariba,” Schuler told ASUG, estimating that the system—which went live in January of 2020—touches 80% of the company’s source-to-pay processes.

Across a three-phase rollout, Schuler oversaw the implementation of:

  1. SAP Ariba Invoice Management and Invoice Conversion Service partnership
  2. SAP Ariba Buying & Invoicing, Sourcing & Contracts, Suppliers integration and Ariba Catalogs
  3. SAP Business Network Supply Chain Collaboration (SCC) for Supplier Managed Inventory (SMI), SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP) Forecast Collaboration, and Quality Collaboration

Part of Florida Crystals’ procurement strategy involved onboarding more suppliers into the SAP Ariba network, now SAP Business Network. Initially having only two or three suppliers through SAP Ariba, the business now works with more than 700 suppliers in the SAP Ariba network. Schuler noted change management, overseen by leads on the procurement and accounts-payable teams, involved “constantly monitoring how adoption was happening and reinforcing it through communications and training,” in addition to monthly calls.

Implementing SAP Ariba solutions meant upgrading user interfaces for various end users, some of whom had worked for multiple years in previous on-premises SAP systems and were initially wary of logging into a web-based application like SAP Ariba to complete tasks.

Integration issues encountered post-go-live took time to address, adding to internal issues with adoption. Given that Ariba was acquired rather than custom-built by SAP, for example, input fields initially varied in length between the applications, meaning that transactions couldn’t always be copied successfully from SAP S/4HANA to SAP Ariba, he said. To close such gaps, Florida Crystals engaged customer success managers assigned to their account as part of its SAP Preferred Care support offerings.

“We relied on top management and various vice presidents to be on board with this project and to support the program,” he said. “It was not easy, but I think we fully stabilized a year after the first go-live, and we were able to shift the focus to continuous improvement and maintenance.”

A Strategic Source-to-Pay Landscape

As at many intelligent enterprises, source-to-pay processes at Florida Crystals start with a demand for goods or services. A purchase requisition is generated, and its procurement team evaluates different potential sources of those items. Once a supplier is selected, the requisition is converted into a purchase order and sent to the supplier, which then ships goods or renders services. These and other transactions are documented in SAP S/4HANA, at which point an invoice receipt is processed.

Today, Florida Crystals’ source-to-pay landscape is made up of various applications that revolve around its implementation of SAP S/4HANA 2020, now running on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“These applications are not creating new transactions as SAP Ariba does, but some could be extracting data for reporting or for mining,” Schuler explained. SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP), for example, is used to enter the forecasted demand of finished goods. Data from bills of materials can be analyzed to cascade that demand into forecasted demand for components, aligning procurement and production planning processes at Florida Crystals.

Florida Crystals creates its purchase requisitions in either SAP S/4HANA or SAP Ariba. In instances where requisitions come from planned maintenance work orders, the SAP Ariba Catalog workspace is leveraged; when requisitions are created from materials requirement planning (MRP) runs, SAP IBP is leveraged to maintain alignment with procurement and production planning processes.

Anaplan, meanwhile, is leveraged for budgeting purposes, while DocuSign is embedded in SAP Ariba for e-signatures, and SAP Business Technology Platform is connected to allow end users to approve purchasing documents via the standard BTP inbox solution. SAP Analytics Cloud provides Florida Crystals with enterprise dashboards, while Celonis is used for process mining and automation, and Microsoft Power BI is used as a self-service reporting tool.

Though many of its vendors are SAP Ariba-enabled, Schuler also noted Florida Crystals is engaging in automation via Relish’s Invoice AI, digitizing invoices from vendors without an SAP Ariba account through OCR (optical character recognition) and ML (machine learning), then transmitting them into SAP Ariba’s invoice management application to enable invoice reconciliation. For onboarding and SAP Ariba training, Florida Crystals utilizes digital adoption platform Whatfix. OneSource additionally serves as its tax engine, connected to SAP Ariba and used to validate tax data during invoice reconciliation.

Facing the Future

In governing the landscape, Schuler is driven to simplify the source-to-pay process as much as possible for end users.

“There are cons to having too many applications and making end users log into too many different websites or desktop applications to complete their work,” he said. “This also adds complexity in implementing governance control for applications maintenance and security.”

That said, functional stakeholders across Florida Crystals operate from a position of wanting to keep the company competitive in terms of technology adoption, which often leads Florida Crystals to adopt new solutions as they hit the market. “Ideally, I’d be fascinated to know if one application, such as SAP S/4HANA, can deal with every process we require,” Schuler noted.

Since consolidating Florida Crystals’ ERP systems into one global SAP S/4HANA 2020 environment, the company’s source-to-pay processes have been positively impacted, particularly in terms of user experience.

Florida Crystals’ procurement team is a centralized, shared services department based in the U.S., which meant that regions were represented in multiple instances. “Imagine having the same region in two different ERP systems,” he said. “The same buyer or end user had to log into multiple instances to perform their work.”

Logging into one ERP system has considerably simplified this workstream. Project organization, process standardizations, and new configurations no longer need to be duplicated across systems, nor do multiple end users need to test these updates in each system separately.

“It was once a convoluted process, but we got rid of all that,” Schuler said, noting that the overall direction of Florida Crystals’ technology aligns with his approach to the company’s source-to-pay landscape.

“I always go for simplicity,” he said.

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