CIO50 2021 #26-50: David Scullin, Zespri
Zespri chief digital officer David Scullin says the company has built a global reputation as an exporter of healthy and nutritious kiwifruit. This achievement hasn’t come easily, and the business has implemented strict quality control measures, across its network of over 4,000 growers worldwide, to guarantee its promise of high-quality fruit.
As crops reach maturity, the packhouses work closely with the growers to send testers out to check the quality of the fruit. They test six characteristics of the fruit: including brix, size, weight, and colour. It is only when the growers are given the all-clear by Zespri that they start harvesting the fruit.
When the external technology system Zespri was relying on to manage and coordinate this maturity clearance was discontinued in 2020, it had to develop a new system quickly. Zespri had to design and implement a new system, in partnership with Qrious, that automated the end-to-end process and provided them full control, whilst providing data insights to help the company make more informed decisions. The new system was delivered in time for the 2021 harvest season and has revolutionised the horticulture industry – it is the first time a cloud-based technology solution like this has been used. 181.5 million trays of kiwifruit were delivered to 50 countries in 2021 with $3.58 billion of net kiwifruit sales.
Horizon digital transformation programme
Scullin says that with full executive team and board support, during 2020/21 it commenced an ambitious programme of work called Horizon, which will transform operations at Zespri. Its scope is to modernise, standardise and digitalise systems and processes in finance, grower enablement, supply chain, sales and operations planning. As well as mitigating the risk inherent in legacy systems, the programme will enable Zespri to be more agile and efficient in delivering kiwifruit to our customers and sustaining strong returns to growers.
“We’ve made good progress, having selected Deloitte as our design and implementation partner, leading a New Zealand-based consortium that combines expertise from Zag and Sysdoc. We have completed high-level design and detailed design for our finance and core supply chain processes and systems. Over the next two to three years, the Horizon Programme will take a phased approach to a significant scope, ensuring that we manage programme delivery well and mitigate potential impacts on the business,” he says.
Running parallel to this work is the scoping stage for the second phase of the programme which looks at grower enablement, quality management and integrated business planning. This means improving how Zespri collects and provides information to growers to improve their productivity and ensure we meet future demands in sustainability, market access and global agricultural practices.
“The benefits of the investment are multiple. In finance, for example, it will deliver integrated systems that provide the foundation for value-adding insight from our financial data. Another example is in the supply chain, where Horizon will increase visibility into our data and improve global management of performance,” Scullin says.
“Overall, it is about greater integration versus siloed information, more automation versus transactional tasks, scaleability and flexibility in our systems versus aging legacy systems. Ultimately, the Horizon Programme will help define the future of Zespri. It will have a considerable impact on the industry as we set ourselves up for sustainable growth for decades to come.”