Beef company drives efficiency across supply chain using cloud-based services
Customer: Agri Beef Co.
Customer size:1,200 employees
Country or region:United States
Partner: ZAG Technical Services
Partner website: www.zagtech.com
Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, Agri Beef Co. is a 45-year-old, family-owned company that is involved in every step of the beef life cycle from ranching, cattle feeding, and nutrition to beef processing, sales, and marketing.
Software and services
-Microsoft Office 365
-Microsoft Exchange Online
-Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus
-Microsoft OneDrive for Business
-Microsoft SharePoint Online
-Skype for Business Online
-Tablets: Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Agri Beef Co. provides high-quality beef products under several brands to a global market. To reduce costs and simplify IT, the company retired its on-premises email and collaboration solutions. Today, it uses Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based business services. From the ranch to the head office, Agri Beef Co. staff easily access and share data using mobile devices and an Internet connection to build a more collaborative, efficient organization.
Agri Beef Co. locations span ranching and feeding operations across the northwestern United States (US). It supplies superior restaurants across the US and can be found in the aisles of high-end supermarkets in Taipei and Japan. From pasture to plate, the company oversees the entire supply chain from ranching, feeding, and processing to delivery. “We’ve used 45 years of experience to build a unique, branded beef program,” says Clint Cooper, Executive Director of IT at Agri Beef Co. “We offer exceptional beef products that cater to different markets under our brands.”
Bringing beef to market at this scale is highly technical. The company’s IT staff develops and deploys sophisticated systems that employees use in every aspect of the business, from calculating cattle feed mixes to analyzing processing plant data to paying vet bills. “To keep the business running smoothly, we need to communicate and collaborate among the moving parts that make up our complex supply chain and delivery schedule,” says Cooper. “Our approach to these essential communication and collaboration capabilities is changing. We ran email and content management solutions on-premises, but today we see them more as commodity services.”
For email, Agri Beef Co. used Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, maintaining servers at headquarters in Boise, Idaho, and at the Washington Beef processing plant in Toppenish, Washington. “The distributed scenario solved our bandwidth issues, but we had to manage the connection between the two installations and maintain the hardware,” says Cooper.
Eases the cloud journey
All that changed when Agri Beef Co. decided to move to the cloud with 300 seats of Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 offers interoperable, cloud-based communication and collaboration services such as email, file sharing, online collaboration, unlimited cloud storage, instant messaging (IM), and videoconferencing with Skype for Business Online.
“We see Office 365 as our first step into cloud computing—it’s a great way to transition without having to move everything at once,” says Cooper. “We worked with one of our IT partners, ZAG Technical Services, to help us smoothly migrate to the cloud. The collaboration was a great success.”
Agri Beef began with Microsoft Exchange Online, thereby avoiding future replacement costs of $30,000 for two Exchange servers. “Since that move, we’ve experienced 100 percent uptime for our email, with less labor required on our part,” says Cooper. “We are also considering migration to Microsoft SharePoint Online in the future, where in addition to content management, we are looking forward to document management and using new collaboration tools.”
Agri Beef is also excited about the new Litigation Hold and eDiscovery features in Office 365. “While companies like to avoid legal holds, eDiscovery provides the tools to make the process easier to manage,” says Cooper. “The Exchange Control Panel is easy to use for setting email retention policies and single item recovery capabilities to help in any legal issues that we might face.”
Boosts mobile productivity
With its cloud-based email service running smoothly, Cooper and his colleagues are now promoting Office 365 services to enhance mobility. This is a big benefit for the approximately 300 users—from executives in meetings to managers at the processing plant to cowboys in a truck in a feedlot—who use mobile devices. Now everyone can stay in touch with email, access their business files, and connect with colleagues through IM and videoconferencing whenever an Internet connection is available.
“We’ll use Office 365 as the connection between all the moving parts in our company,” says Cooper. “With it, we can streamline and coordinate the steps required to achieve our ‘pasture-to-plate’ business model. Everyone loves the convenience of Office 365—not having to use our VPN [virtual private network] solution makes it so much easier to connect to the data that we need.”
Employee mobility is amplified by Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, which employees use to install the latest version of Microsoft Office on up to five devices, including iOS and Android devices. The service includes Microsoft OneDrive for Business online storage. “Employees use Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and other devices in different scenarios,” says Cooper. “Managers use them to pull up data during meetings, feed truck drivers use them to check email and work with our cattle management system, and our sales staff use them on the road to request orders and price changes. I use my tablet at home to work on files, then I store the files in the cloud and retrieve them the next morning from my office PC. Accessing files from my different devices makes me more productive.”
Improves business intelligence
Agri Beef is also interested in the advanced capabilities that Office 365 offers with business intelligence. It is starting to explore use of the cloud service Microsoft Power BI for Office 365 to share, collaborate, and access Excel 2013 reports from anywhere on any device. Employees will also be able to take advantage of new data visualization capabilities in Excel 2013—Power Query, Power Pivot, and Power View—for analyzing sales and production. This data is used to make smart decisions about purchasing cattle and marketing products.
Speeds business through spontaneous communication
“Office 365 is a fantastic tool, and more and more people are adopting it. We all benefit from more readily shared information now that employees can see who is available to contact,” says Cooper. “For example, I collaborate with consultants and share documents with vendors. And in IT, we’re providing faster, more helpful remote support by using Skype for Business Online to share desktops. We’ve only just begun to explore all the ways to benefit from Office 365.”