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Reynolds IT director Richard Calder: Customers want to see our IT systems before signing

Customers are increasingly taking an interest in the IT systems of their suppliers, not just to ensure GDPR compliance and other security related matters, but to ensure that they can innovate and quickly respond to changing demands.

That’s the warning of Richard Calder, IT director at food distributor Reynolds, talking to Computing this week. 

Reynolds has grown fast since Calder joined the company many years ago – driven in recent years by the boom in casual dining. With many of them owned or heavily backed by financially driven private equity groups, these chains have sought to shift as much of the labour (and risk) onto their supply chains as possible and, therefore, suppliers who can meet these demands have benefited the most. 

Within contracts now, there is normally a big section on IT systems and the risks associated with them

“The big step change came with the major implementation of the Infor M3 ERP system about eight years ago. That really gave us the opportunity – or the foundation – to be able to do more interesting stuff; things that could help our customers and which would really set us apart,” says Calder.

“That’s because within contracts now, there is normally a big section on IT systems and the risks associated with them. But also the large groups want to see potential for innovation from their food suppliers and they also want us to be flexible so that they can add product categories quickly. We therefore have to be able to demonstrate efficiency. It’s a fair crucial part of the tender process now,” he adds.

That means that before customers signed on the dotted line, they want to know what IT a company like Reynolds is running and how flexible it is – IT isn’t just about running the business, it’s about winning business.

The large groups want to see potential for innovation from their food suppliers and they also want us to be flexible

“They want to be sure that we can handle it, not only in terms of disaster recovery, that’s a standard question, but the processes we have in place and the systems we have in place: what can we offer over and above other food service distribution companies? What’s the quality of information that we can handle? How efficient is our picking?” says Calder.

“They are now going into this detail and, in some ways, instead of IT being a footnote in a contract, they want to know what we’re doing in this area, what we are doing in terms of our quality systems and that all sits within my purview,” he adds.

On top of that, because prospective customers are asking all kinds of questions that only the IT department can answer, as a result, the board of the company has also become increasingly interested in IT, what it does and how it can help the business, too.

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