With data and analytics, business process improvement, automation, application development and integration, artificial intelligence and more, the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) is foundational for organizations with existing and new SAP landscapes that strive to become ever more intelligent enterprises.
Swift Prepared Foods looks to do just that, yet focused first on pressing problems, like pork pricing. In this interview Matt Goldsby, Swift Prepared Foods Senior IT Director, describes parameters of the challenge, what SAP BTP delivers, and what ‘s next for SAP technology at the food company.
This is an edited version of our conversation.
Question: Can you tell us about Swift Foods’ SAP landscape?
Answer: We are currently an SAP ECC 6 and are on our way to SAP S/4HANA. We will be making the transition in February 2023. We're a subsidiary of JBS USA Foods. Swift Foods has our own SAP environment within the JBS instance of SAP. We may use the same modules, but don’t use the same modules between business units. SAP BTP happens to be one that I am using exclusively within Swift Prepared Foods.
Q: What problems did you fix by implementing the SAP BTP?
A: As with anything else, a problem brings you to a solution, and SAP BTP was our solution. The problem was the way that our marketplace works in pricing. We work in a commodity market. Bacon is where we have the largest investment in the SAP BTP world right now. Bacon is, as you know, a product of a pork belly. Pork bellies are traded on the exchange daily—those fluctuations in the market impact the consumer's price.
Typically, a retailer will want to come up with a way to flatten that curve. For example, they might use a formula that looks at the last three weeks of pork belly prices, averages those prices, and then uses the average for the next week’s pricing. But, they want the prices to be by the pound, not by case. And then you'll have another retailer who will flip that around eight different ways and come up with different permutations. If you can imagine and extrapolate the number of retailers we have across the number of products that we produce, you can see where an SKU-by-SKU pricing scenario could become quite tedious and quite challenging.
We have our pricing person, a fantastic resource. She has been with us for 20 years. She spent between 30 and 40 hours a week exclusively setting up the pricing records in SAP VK 11. The goal was not to replace her but to use the knowledge that she acquired over the years and to get her to bring more value to other areas of the organization instead of doing this tedious work. We wanted to repurpose her skillset. We stumbled across a consultant, Blue Boot, and discussed implementing SAP Cloud Platform—now SAP BTP—with them. We ended up looking at this solution from the SCP perspective, which took this out of SAP. Our apprehension was how do we create this solution side of SAP with all the ABAP code changes, all the business units that we have within our instance, and the regression testing that would take place just to make sure that we didn't break something. That massive effort became pretty simple when looked at through the lens of the SAP BTP.
We created this solution with Blue Boot set up a one time formula for a retailer. That formula can be fairly simple, or it can be incredibly complex. It’s dynamic. We capture the market prices daily and put them on a table. All of that is done automatically in the background. Unless a change is made to that form between the account manager of our company and the retailer, there's no need to touch it because it automatically rolls, recreates, and terminates the previous record. It also expires and adds a new record and pricing without a human having to intervene.
It's very, very accurate. So that's another problem solved. With the scale of what I had just described, you can imagine that the possibility of introducing an error is high.
There were times we introduced errors and we charged millions of dollars for bacon or, conversely, hardly charged anything. Obviously, customers don't like it when that happens. It creates work for both of us. Avoiding that extra work and simplifying the process was a significant motivation for us.
Q: What are the three main benefits you've seen from the SAP BTP?
A: It’s helped us better leverage the skill sets of our teammates and get them away from non-value-added activities. Additionally, it helps us improve our efficiency and accuracy because we no longer have to key in so many fields of data manually. Before SAP BTP, we had a manual mitigation for that SOX control. It was all manual. This allowed us to automate that mitigation. So that was a huge benefit to our SOX journey as well.
Q: What were some of the challenges you might have faced as you were implementing the SAP BTP into your landscape and how did you all go about overcoming them?
A: The challenges we faced were the number of permutations our customers require from a pricing perspective. With great relief, I can say that the SAP BTP was very flexible with our developing partner and us. It's very eloquent and ingenious how we're managing that complexity in just a few SAP Fiori tiles. We're able to accommodate pretty much any request a customer has. In the future, we plan on leveraging SAP BTP in our sliced meat business, which is even more complex than bacon.
Q: What advice do you have for SAP customers who either aren't using it or are sitting there right now thinking about how am I going to leverage this solution? Should I even leverage it in my infrastructure?
A: Do not implement technology for the sake of technology. I believe that technology should solve a problem. If you have a problem that is incredibly complex and daunting from a task or financial perspective, see what some of these more specialized solutions can do. What I enjoy the most about SAP BTP is not sweating at all. SAP doesn't sweat all this work in the cloud. If you’re already on your way to SAP S/4HANA, that’s great. SAP BTP is already SAP S/4HANA. It migrates very easily and quickly. When you get to SAP S/4HANA, it'll be there waiting for you, and you can turn it on. Whatever the hesitation, I think breaking problems down and assigning the appropriate amounts of technology for that problem is not just smart for SAP BTP. It's smart across the landscape, but SAP BTP fills that void quite nicely.