“The one thing you should know about World Famous Fruit is that it’s a journey, not a destination that we arrive at.”

That’s what Stemilt Growers’ website says about the fruits of its labors—tree fruit, including cherries, apples, pears, and stone fruit, all commonly found at big grocery retailers across the United States.

But swap out “World Famous Fruit” for “RISE with SAP,” and Cristian Wulf, CFO and CIO at Stemilt Growers, could be expressing similar sentiments about the organization’s ongoing SAP journey.

A diversified, family-owned fruit company with growing, storage, packing, marketing, and sales businesses, Stemilt Growers recently planted the seeds of a major digital innovation and transformation journey by selecting RISE with SAP to support and accelerate its business growth.

After more than two decades using a highly customized, far-reaching Oracle ERP installation, Wenatchee, the Washington-based organization is shifting to RISE with SAP and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition, for finance, procurement, supply chain and warehouse management, transportation management, marketing and sales, and planning and analytics.

Understanding the Business and Culture

SAP got the nod for this ambitious endeavor in late 2021, edging out Oracle and Salesforce. One overriding factor was the discovery, response, and investment to deeply understand Stemilt’s business now and the ability to support the organization’s 2030 strategy, according to Wulf.

“SAP came out on top because of a much better understanding of our industry and a tighter fit between their solutions and our processes,” Wulf said. “They did their homework, understood us better, and adapted to our Stemilt culture.”

In keeping with this emphasis on understanding, the SAP-based transformation journey is named “Syndesi,” from the Greek word meaning “connection.” Syndesi will connect Stemilt’s employees with processes and tools for decision-making that will:

  • Improve quality and flavor for the consumers
  • Enhance service for Stemilt customers
  • Drive value to the growers
  • Improve effectiveness and reduce waste

Wulf said the new technology solution and industry-leading practices will help with several industry and business dynamics in Stemilt operations.

The first step—an implementation of the SAP Transportation Management application—rolled out in April 2022 and has already demonstrated how the right technology and updated processes can yield the information needed to make better decisions. SAP Transportation Management will continue to help Stemilt understand, tackle, and improve freight cost management through processes related to transport via air, land, and water, particularly in an era of supply chain and transportation constraints and volatility.

With RISE with SAP and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition, Wulf said Stemilt will leverage the industry-specific expertise of the SAP solutions across all business areas.

Sowing the Seeds of a New Cloud-based Platform

In discussing the business and technology factors behind the overall project, documenting the ERP business case, RFP elements, and decision-making criteria, Wulf said Stemilt leadership acknowledged the need for transformation via a technology platform, leveraging out-of-the-box best practice-based processes and evolving the overall landscape.

In addressing that need, Wulf said he took a big-picture look across all business areas while focusing on the key processes and use cases that will set Stemilt apart, both in the industry and with its customers.

Stemilt plans to go live with phase one (including Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain/Warehousing, Transportation, Sales, and Planning & Analytics) in January 2024. Marketing, Grower Accounting, Orchard Management, and Sales & Operations Planning are scheduled for late 2024.

Stemilt also has prioritized change management and communications throughout its SAP journey. Stemilt partners on the Syndesi program with consulting partner Westernacher.

Amid implementing RISE with SAP, SAP Business Technology Platform, SAP Transportation Management, and other SAP solutions, Wulf believes Stemilt’s transformation journey will help the company to “deliver business value,” he said.

“We are in an industry that has been under constant pressures,” he said. “Any dollar you make is important, right? That’s key. And, of course, [we seek to] cultivate our Stemilters and our consumers.”

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