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Dole Brings Fresh Thinking to Pineapples and Procurement

You don’t need to be a Harvard graduate to grow a great pineapple. Or do you?

When James Drummond Dole first arrived in Hawaii in 1899, he had a thousand dollars in his pocket and degrees in business and horticulture from Harvard University.Dole5.jpg

Dole started growing the fruit on a 64-acre government homestead, and it wasn’t very long before he turned his modest operation into the largest pineapple plantation in the world.

The success of the Dole Food Company is legendary. The pineapple – which is not even native to Hawaii – has become synonymous with the islands.

But in addition to his Ivy League education, James Dole grew his company with a number of ground-breaking manufacturing and business practices. “The Pineapple King” utilized new canning techniques that enabled his products to be shipped around the world. He implemented automated machinery that could peel, core, and cut pineapples at speeds of up to 100 pineapples per minute. Dole even helped create one of the first nationwide advertising campaigns in the United States designed to educate consumers on how to use the unfamiliar fruit.

James Dole was an innovator, and you can see this same kind of thinking in Dole’s business operations today.

Quality and Consistency on a Global Scale

These days, Dole is a global company that produces much more than pineapples. The company imports a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables from both their own farms and some 7,000 independent growers located all over the world. There are bananas from Latin America, pears from South Africa, and apricots from the United States, to name just a few.

Although the company has expanded significantly, Dole has always maintained consistent quality standards everywhere it operates. When it comes to ensuring consistency in global business practices, the company relies on the same principles of standardization and automation that helped James Dole grow his first canning operation.

For example, Dole is using a procure-to-pay solution from Ariba, an SAP company, to manage all of its spend for business units in several countries across Central and South America.

“We are using a business-to-business solution from Ariba in Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Columbia,” says Adriana Miranda, a customer service supervisor at Dole Food Company, in a recent video. “And we’re currently implementing it in Chile.”

Speed and Simplicity

The idea is to centralize, automate, and speed up Dole’s procurement processes in this widespread region.

“Many of our users are the people on the farms,” says Miranda. Dole’s new approach to procurement enables the people with the immediate need for goods and services to go into the system and create their own purchase orders (POs). “For them, having the information and catalogs so close makes their lives easier.”

Standardizing and streamlining the procure-to-pay process has helped Dole reduce the processing time on a PO literally from weeks to hours. And this is pretty significant. As Miranda explains, Dole is processing some 48,000 POs each year in Central and South America alone.

But speed is only part of the story. Having all the spend information in a central location and automating the process lets Dole’s managers concentrate more of their efforts on strengthening the company’s supply chain.

“This simplifies our procurement organization,” Miranda says, “so we can focus on identifying new suppliers and commodities and on better pricing.”

Much like the peeling machine helped simplify the canning operations, Dole is now using automation to drive complexity out of procurement processing.

It’s the kind of fresh thinking that James Dole himself would have appreciated.

Please join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

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The Ariba Business Transformation Study on Dole Food Company

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