SA fruit exporter Capespan uses software to track fruit shipments


Capespan, one of the world's leading marketers and distributors of fresh fruit, has implemented a leading in-memory business intelligence solution to help it manage its complex international business.

The company has its roots in South Africa and sources most of its produce locally from around 450 local suppliers. The South African export operation represents around 1,350 individual farms that produce 35 million cartons of fruit per year.

Fruit is a perishable product and to maintain quality control, Capespan needs to be able to track every pallet of fruit to its final destination in a supermarket anywhere in the world. Similarly, to complete its payments to farmers for their produce, Capespan must track exactly how much it received for each pallet, in what currency and at what exchange rate with South Africa's rand.

Until recently, Capespan managed these complex data requirements using a widely available financial system interfaced with a disparate set of custom-built sales, payments and logistics systems. Extracting management information was a time-consuming task requiring managers or technical staff to run complex SQL queries that frequently changed. This often led to disagreement about what was going on: "It was too easy to make mistakes with the SQL queries and people would get different results," says systems development manager Eugene van Vuuren. "There were too many different views of the data, resulting in disagreements."

Capespan's CIO was sceptical about the introduction of new business intelligence products following poor use of a second-generation OLAP-based product, but rapidly became enthusiastic about QlikView's revolutionary technology and approach after seeing a proof of concept demonstration using Capespan's own data. QlikView was implemented for 30 users across Capespan's South African operation in 2006, with the first model up and running in a month.

The major benefit of using QlikView at Capespan, says Van Vuuren, is that it has removed guesswork and disagreement about the company's operations and finances. "Everyone always has the same information, and it's always up to date," he says. "By 9am every morning, the MD can get precise information about the previous day's sales, payments and stock right down to the level of individual pallets."