Keg-existential issues: Fullers pours away £10m Infor ERP system after selling brewing business


Pub and hotel company Fuller’s has decided to ditch its Infor ERP system and search for a simplified accounts package a year after selling its brewing division to Japanese beverage biz Asahi for £250m.

The UK company, which dates back to 1816, had completed the implementation of the cloud-based Infor system, and was looking forward to reaping any benefits, its FY19 annual statement (PDF) for the year ended 30 March 2019 said.

“Completion of the rollout of our new ERP system [has] taken up significant management time during the year, but with new systems in place and the transaction completed we can turn our attention to building for the future,” it noted on page 13 of the report.

Despite the sale to Asahi in January, among Fuller’s ambitions for 2020 was to “deliver [a] continuous improvement programme using the ERP system to drive [those] improvements,” the report, released on July 2019, said.

However, by December, the mood had changed. Fuller’s half-year statement (PDF) for the six months ended 28 September 2019 explained: “Planning [is] underway to replace [the] brewery-focused ERP system with a proven, appropriate and simplified accounting system.”

This week, Bronwen White, head of IT development at Fuller’s, told The Register: “The process of implementing a new ERP system started three years ago, and the solution was designed for a vertically integrated business that included brewing, packaging and distribution. It is clear that it is no longer appropriate following the sale of the Fuller’s beer business to Asahi and we will be replacing it with a simpler, proven accounting system designed for the premium pubs and hotels business that Fuller’s is today.”

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Asahi has not responded to The Register’s request for comment, but some history might shed light on its views of the Infor system it inherited.

After the Japanese firm acquired SABMiller’s eastern European brewing business for €7.3bn in 2016, it took the decision to shut down around 25 legacy ERP systems across Europe and migrate to SAP, according to a report in E3zine.

Meanwhile, Asahi Beverages in Asia-Pacific is cited as an SAP s/4Hana case study (PDF).

But Fuller’s brewery Infor system is hardly a legacy application. In 2017, the company signed a 15-year deal with Infor to roll out its ERP applications in the cloud. This included CloudSuite Food & Beverage, Infor Enterprise Asset Management, Infor Contract Lifecycle Management, Infor Customer Relationship Management and Infor Dynamic Enterprise Performance Management. They were deployed on AWS.

The aim was to provide a “single version of the truth” for financial and business performance, allowing more rapid decision-making than supported by the earlier patchwork of systems. Such ambition highlights one of the difficulties with ERP projects: a single version of the truth rarely survives complex business change, especially during mergers.

Fullers said in its fiscal ’19 accounts that its continuing investment in the new ERP systems had been £6.7m, primarily comprised of “consultancy and incremental additional staff costs to support the project”. This is in addition to the £3.4m confirmed in fiscal ’18 profit and loss accounts.

That equates to a good few rounds in one of its establishments. ®

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