At the beginning of 2020, Alexander Schrijvershof left the family business Schrijvershof after more than 15 years to found Zest. It is his answer to the demand for ERP systems for fruit and vegetable importers. With his cloud-based solution that enables importers to easily manage all internal business processes, Alexander hopes to help many fruit importers. "There is still a demand in the market for a simple ERP system that actually takes work off your hands."
Having grown up among fruit and with over 15 years of experience in the fruit and vegetable trade as part of fruit importer Schrijvershof, Alexander knows the ropes like no other. In his work for the family business, he was responsible for finance and IT and experienced the pressure points of many existing ERP solutions on a daily basis. “Within the fruit and vegetable sector, you could roughly choose from two flavours to manage your business processes: specialised fruit and vegetable trade packages with separate accounting software and many Excel sheets. Or unwieldy all-in-one solutions from major IT developers," Alexander outlines the situation.
“The first option is error-prone and unclear and the second is so far standardised that there is little room left for company-specific nuances. A good ERP system for fruit and vegetable importers must structure the relatively simple but fast trade process. And be flexible enough to move easily with the dynamics of the market. I did not find that reflected in the existing range.”
That is why Alexander decided to take matters into his own hands when the family business was looking for a new system in 2012. “We really only had three requirements,” Alexander explains. “The system had to be easy to use, ready for the future and affordable. We did not find that in the offer on the market and that is why I decided to develop a system based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV myself. With success, because the Schrijvershof team has been using the system to their full satisfaction for 8 years now."
After 8 years of practical testing and refinement, Alexander and Zest are now independent. According to Alexander, his solution is right on time. “A trend has been visible among importers in recent years whereby logistics activities are being outsourced to logistics service providers such as cold stores, transporters and packers. The sector is faced with intensive government supervision when it comes to food safety and quality. And the sector is characterized by large volumes, small margins, a fast pace and a lot of dynamism. That requires an ERP system that has been made by someone who knows fresh produce from the inside out.”
Party management is the heart of Zest. That's where all the lines come together: commerce, logistics, quality and finance. Alexander mentions the cancellation of parties as an example. “Growers expect a quick notification from their batches, but as an importer you sometimes still wait for cost invoices from logistics service providers and you prefer not to make settlements yet. Zest offers an accurate estimate of all batch costs. As a result, you can unsubscribe quickly and with confidence and you do not have to wait for all cost invoices to be received. Zest makes the difference with this kind of nuance.”
“You often have to switch quickly in the fresh produce sector. And so does the ERP system. Incoming order numbers and quality may be different than expected and customers sometimes change sales orders at the last minute, "Alexander explains. “You want to know where exactly parties are located and what the exact origin of a product is. When can you cancel a batch to the grower? And which certificates do the parties have and which quality requirements do they meet? These are all relevant questions that fruit and vegetable importers have to deal with on a daily basis. With Zest you have all the answers and you can act quickly based on current information. ”
Zest's Order Management module mainly supports logistics people in their daily work. “Mistakes are easy to make on hectic days. With Zest you follow every order from step to step. You can immediately see which changes have been made to the latest version of an order. With a phone call, an email or an EDI message, you can pass on the current information quickly and without errors to the parties involved. Order management gives peace of mind in the tent.”
Zest is built on Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft's cloud platform. This means that you do not have to purchase special servers yourself. With an internet connection and a password you can get started anytime, anywhere. Since its foundation, Zest has been working with BriteBlue Solutions from Etten-Leur. BriteBlue is a true Business Central specialist and serves customers in various sectors. Gert-Jan Bierkens, co-founder of BriteBlue, is pleased with the collaboration with Zest: “The collaboration between Zest and BriteBlue provides a strong combination of in-depth knowledge of the fruit and vegetable sector, and specialist knowledge of Business Central and other Microsoft products ”.