McLeod Russel is the world’s largest tea producer. The company employs over 90.000 people, and manufactures around 100 million kg of tea every year across its 54 tea estates.
“Our tea gardens are spread across north- east India, Vietnam and Africa,” says Surhit Bhattacharyya, Head of IT at McLeod Russel. “These remote locations have intermittent connectivity at best. Add to that the problems of inadequate technology and moderate skills, and the task of maintaining records, monitoring transactions and processing payroll all become major issues.” Poor connectivity, limiting operational visibility, was not the only problem at McLeod Russel’s estates. At the tea gardens, the company was using standalone custom applications for inventory, payroll, and finance factory operations. Every garden had its own item data master list and distributed vendor item, and each was created and operated in a silo. The large variety of systems in use made compilation very difficult. As each tea estate operated individually, the central purchasing team did not have visibility on total stock or consumption. According to Surhit, management dreaded monthly, quarterly and end-of-year closures, as manual compilation of data took an extremely long time.
McLeod Russel started looking for an ERP that could work with its existing infrastructure, with the consideration that internet access at the estates was limited. They evaluated Oracle, SAP, custom applications from different vendors, and finally chose LS Nav, based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV. At the remote tea gardens it would be hard to manage complex ERP solutions. LS Nav, however, presented the right mix of lightness and features. “We found LS Nav, based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV, to be a lightweight ERP, tested across the globe with hybrid architecture. It can work offline and then synchronize the data to central servers when connectivity is available,” says Surhit. The solution was deployed by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), LS Retail partner in India and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. The partner installed the solution at all 54 tea estates plus head office, where they set up a central data bank. The solution was structured so that it would not be dependent on internet access. Aside from standard Nav modules such as finance, purchase and inventory, the system was customized to include key modules for the tea business, such as factory, payroll and Garden Information System (GIS) modules. The LS Nav Data Director connects to the central server, transmitting data seamlessly between head office and tea gardens, and enabling the system to function as a whole.
By having just one solution instead of many standalone applications, McLeod Russel has simplified the management and saved time and money.
LS Nav now updates the data at all the tea estates and head office. “We maintain our entire operations in a single, central database. It allows us to track individual transactions and manage daily operations, maximizing business value,” says Debashis Lahiri, Lead Manager Estate IT.
Previously, the company had to maintain a large inventory, as they had no visibility into consumption. With LS Nav, they can keep inventory to a minimum, and still ensure availability of stock. Employees at the tea gardens can now send and receive inventory between gardens, which was not possible with the previous systems.
The company now has an overview of its key data in real time data. Management has better control on operations, as issues that arise are instantly flagged and fixed. The company can use LS Nav’s performance reports to take quick and effective business decisions.
With LS Nav, estate managers can quickly process payrolls on time for the circa 2.500 workers at each tea garden, even in absence of internet connection. “Each tea estate runs as a business unit. Data synchronizes with the head office where it is then consolidated,” says Debashis.
We were looking for a business application that would streamline our processes even in the absence of connectivity and improve our cash flow.
Insight into consumption helps us manage a healthy supply chain. At the head office, we have visibility into operations, inventory and cash flow, which allows us to be proactive in our planning and procurement.
Clear visibility into operations enables payments directly from our corporate bank. This considerably decreases our float at local banks and directly improves cash flow by one percent.