Issued by 4most
Johannesburg, 23 Jan 2020
Read time 7min 20sec
Founded in 1956 as a mail order business, the past 30 years have seen Peppina change direction to become one of approximately two dozen contract manufacturers specialising in the pharmaceutical industry. This sees it manufacture and produce not only its own range of over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical products (haircare, skincare, joint support, stress relief, energy and muscle relief), but also pharmaceutical-related products for many other suppliers within this industry.
With its head office in Johannesburg, Peppina enjoys a national and global presence. All products manufactured at its facility are available in both the local and international market, complete with an online shopping facility. “Thirty years ago, we made the move from mail order to producing our own products. However, it was only about eight years ago that we began the manufacturing side of our business, never once predicting the success that has it accounting for the largest part of what we now do,” says Liesl Groenewald, Operations Manager.
Growth = challenges + opportunity
With demand for its pharmaceutical contract manufacturing facilities taking on unprecedented growth, Peppina was fast outgrowing both its legacy infrastructure and its current method of managing its operations. “Our legacy system was largely responsible for the sales portion of our business,” says Groenewald.
Everything else was captured by hand and on Excel, predominantly by just one individual. Not only was this time-consuming, but the scope for mistakes and human error was fast becoming an unnecessary challenge, potentially hindering what could otherwise be a far more streamlined, smoother and efficient way of doing business.
With its growth trajectory showing no signs of abating, coupled with strict industry regulations and processes needing to be adhered to in the manufacturing and production of pharmaceutical products, Peppina began to review potential technology solutions capable of enabling it to meet current requirements together with continued future growth.
Although not entirely sure what was available, Peppina was very clear on what it both needed and wanted: a fully integrated system, capable of customisation where necessary in order to meet its unique industry-related requirements.
“We weren’t interested in developing anything from the ground up or running separate packages,” explains Groenewald. “Our requirements included, among other things, automatic stock reconciliation, real-time access to information, the ability to capture batch numbers and expiry dates (vital to the pharmaceutical industry, yet unique compared to other industries), together with full integration, automation and absolute traceability."
Biting the bullet
Although painfully aware that a new technology infrastructure was vital to the sustainability and future growth of the business, the sheer magnitude of embarking on such a project resulted in it being discussed, but no real steps taken to make it happen.
Having looked at a few potential solutions, no real answer or way forward had been found as a large portion of offerings seemed to come from global vendors, offering very little to no local support.
At about the same time, a representative from 4most Systems, a leading supplier and implementer of SAP Business One and ERP software technology, contacted Peppina as part of its cold calling process.
It was perfect timing. Conversations indicated that Peppina had potentially found the answer to its problems, not only with regard to day-to-day requirements but also those unique areas specific to the pharmaceutical industry and its stringent requirements.
“I had not realised the amount of customisation possible and afforded by SAP Business One,” says Groenewald. “It is as if we were able to take the best off-the-shelf package suitable to our needs, and then tweak and customise it to create a solution best suited to our environment, our requirements and the industry in which we operate.”
To sweeten things still further, with Dis-Chem a SAP user, it opened the door to potential integration with various stakeholders and third parties further down the line.
Some market research conducted on 4most as a vendor yielded positive feedback and recommendations. “4most’s reputation as one of the leading vendors for SAP Business One in the local market cemented our commitment to move forward not only with implementing SAP Business One, but also with 4most as our chosen vendor.”
Flipping the switch
On the Saturday night of 1 March 2019, at about 11:30pm, Peppina went live with its new installation of SAP Business One.
“It’s a tough and scary moment,” says Groenewald. “But you get to a point when you have to switch over and trust and believe that the months of planning and preparation will yield the results you need.”
Between change management and getting used to a whole new set of processes and an entirely different system, the first few months proved challenging. “We didn’t know where to find anything at first. And, no matter how much training one has, it is only in the actual ‘doing’ that one can really learn, thereby making a new system one’s own,” says Groenewald.
“There were also things we didn’t know we didn’t know.” For example, customising customer statements and invoices to suit a business’s corporate identify (CI) and financial regulations, as opposed to simply running SAP Business One’s generic templates. “But, as we learned, we got better.”
Yes, we would do it all over again
Yet despite the challenges, and less than a year since implementation, Groenewald is quick to point out two significant benefits already yielding advantages for Peppina:
Smoother operations, reduced errors and hands-on efficiencies
The pharmaceutical industry and its accompanying regulations make for very time-consuming processes, irrespective of the underlying technology infrastructure. A set of paper copies, physically signed off, needs to be kept as part of industry compliance. However, the beauty of a fully automated and integrated system means that any human errors are now immediately spotted.
“If something is captured incorrectly by hand, it will be immediately evident on attempting to enter it into the system,” says Groenewald. This has not only reduced the propensity for human errors previously experienced, it also allows for far greater efficiencies and data integrity.
“It’s also the speed of things,” continues Groenewald. “I am now able to simply log in to SAP Business One to find all the information I could possibly need so much quicker than what was previously possible. The customised reporting is also a great tool to have. Literally, at the press of a button, I can access a report on whatever I need to report on, with the costing of products now also possible in real-time.”
The management of Peppina’s stock levels has also benefited exponentially, with SAP Business One providing the functionality to not only immediately realise any potential errors, but most importantly, to allow for the fixing of them immediately, removing any potential knock-on effect. Peppina now knows exactly what is coming in, from where, and how much, all of which has a huge influence on improving daily efficiencies.
Industry compliance also sees Peppina needing to run a mock recall every year. SAP Business One facilitates this a lot easier, quicker and smoother than any manual system previously.
Whilst the procurement process has also benefited from the new technology infrastructure, there are some final tweaks Groenewald would like to look at, together with a few smaller issues pertaining to the display of currencies within its financial reporting.
“Realistically, it probably takes about a year from initial implementation to completely iron out all chinks,” says Groenewald. “But we are so much further down the road than we have ever been, and we look forward to continuing both our investment in SAP Business One and our relationship with 4most into the future.”
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