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CIO50 2021 #26-50: David Scullin, Zespri

  • Name David Scullin
  • Title Chief Digital Officer
  • Company Zespri
  • Commenced role October 2019
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 58 staff, seven direct reports
  • 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.”

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