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Author's profile photo Manju Bansal

Changing the world, one plate at a time

The last time you were enjoying your office party or the afternoon barbeque, did you stop to think about that disposable servingware in your hand? Likely not, right? And that is exactly what EMI Yoshi, Inc. would like to change. The North Brunswick, NJ based manufacturer of premium disposable servingware has made it its mission to raise the consumer’s consciousness and to bring class & elegance to the no-name world of disposable plastic plates and utensils. EMI Yoshi is a customer of SAP Business All-in-One and I had the opportunity to share some thoughts with Hillel Zafir, their CTO.

Plastic silverware tends to be a commodity business, dominated by the foodservice segment where price is a critical factor for success. EMI Yoshi realized that for them to change the fundamental nature of the business they were in, they had to turn conventional wisdom on its head. And that is exactly what they did, relying on technology to deliver the goods, in many cases quite literally. 

As a fast growing business, clocking double-digit revenue growth every year, EMI Yoshi soon found that they were struggling with the rudimentary back-end system they had in place. While the packaged, off-the-shelf application had worked great for them thus far, it was a huge anchor around their legs that prevented them from effectively competing and/or pursuing newer opportunities going forward. The product was designed in the US, manufactured at offshore factories in China and warehoused and distributed in the US. All the cost savings and efficiency that the company had gained by manufacturing in China would be frittered away if the warehouse operations were not fully optimized. And that is where the SAP Business All-in-One solution, coupled with SAP Best Practices came into the picture.

EMI Yoshi realized that for them to redefine their category, their warehouse would have to be Ground Zero for all the changes they had in mind. Integrating financials, warehousing and distribution allowed them to reduce the order-to-ship time from 5+ days down to mere 30 minutes or less. And because every warehouse worker has handheld devices that reflect the latest information from the SAP system, there is full visibility on every order until the time it leaves the warehouse and is loaded on to the freight truck. Which means that if a customer wants to make a last minute change to the order that can happen in a jiffy without jeopardizing the delivery schedule. By comparison, the standard norm in the industry still remains in the 5-7 day range.

Managing 1,200 SKUs manually was also a challenge, to say the least. Before the SAP system was implemented, the picking, packing and bin replenishment was handled manually, meaning that information on bin locations and replenishment status was invariably in some individual’s head. It was considered normal for large orders to get held up for several days just because a couple of items in that order were out of stock. As they began automating that process, they also optimized the warehouse layout, clustering all the fast moving items together to minimize the time spent in picking the items and assembling them on the packing bay. Integrating inventory management and procurement meant that perfect order fulfillment became a reality, saving lots of money wasted in secondary shipments and in discounts to assuage irate customers. Every warehouse worker used to have to put in 2-3 hours of overtime work every single day, just to keep things moving. With automation, that overtime disappeared overnight, delivering a solid ROI almost immediately.

One side bar anecdote that I found fascinating was that SAP was not the first choice as a vendor for EMI  Yoshi. They had already contracted with Infor to implement one of their solutions. Several months into the implementation process (and tens of thousands of Dollars later), EMI Yoshi realized that what they were getting from Infor was not what they were expecting, and so rather than flog a dead horse, they decided to start all over again and invited SAP to the table. Their logic was straightforward – they could keep working with Infor to try and make things right or they could lay the right foundation for the future with what SAP Business All-in-One offered to them. In July 2011, they went live with the core financials and warehousing & distribution modules, and less than a year later are working to implement CRM and analytics as well.

Of course there is no such thing as utopia. With all the improvement that has happened in their business, there is still one person who remains resolutely dissatisfied with EMI Yoshi’s decision to go with SAP. The warehouse auditor used to take a full day to do his thing, now he gets done in 7 minutes, leaving a bit of a hole in his anticipated billings. As Hillel Zafir says, “ah well, you can’t please everyone. All you can do is to use geometry, color and materials to make plastic servingware with the look of real china and use innovation to change the world, one plate at a time”. Who can disagree with that!

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