Walk into any grocery store, convenience store, or gas station across the Midwest and Mid-South of the United States, and, odds are, you’ll come across a Prairie Farms Dairy product.
Since 1938, Prairie Farms has grown from a dairy cooperative that only sold butter to one that produces a wide-ranging product line of milk (including organic and lactose-free), cheese, yogurt, sour cream, dips, juice, and ice cream – just to name a few. And to keep pace, Prairie Farms produces well over a billion pounds of milk annually for not only a wide-spreading food service network, but also schools, hospitals, and elderly care facilities.
That sort of volume and production has made Prairie Farms the 15th-largest dairy company in the U.S. and one of the 200-largest cooperatives in the world. The Edwardsville, Illinois-based company operates more than 100 distribution facilities and 45 manufacturing plants with around 5,700 employees (or as Prairie Farms prefers to describe it: 900 farming families) throughout the Midwest.
So, what does it take for Prairie Farms to successfully manage its ever-growing number of facilities, plants, employees, and brand partners? Reliable B2B data communications and digital transformation.
Prairie Farms had already been leveraging a secure file transfer solution, but it had grown outdated. With the thousands (and growing) of inbound and outbound EDI documents the cooperative was exchanging each month, Prairie Farms knew it was time to modernize to meet the various protocol needs of its largest- and highest-transaction-volume partners.
Why the Cloud?
After attending Cleo’s annual customer networking event, Cleo Connect, in 2017, Prairie Farms EDI analyst and programmer Scott Heffren realized the company could further improve its data flows using an advanced file-based integration solution. And since the cooperative didn’t have the hardware expertise to run it on-premise or the software expertise to run the data communications solution themselves, Heffren and company chose a cloud services model by leveraging a B2Bi-as-a-service (B2BiaaS) offering.
“Once we learned how a cloud integration services solution could simplify our in-house data communication requirements, by leveraging the technical expertise and using the enterprise data movement software, we immediately saw the benefit,” Heffren said.
Equally as beneficial, since making the decision to use MFT in a cloud integration services model, Prairie Farms saved time and money in additional education, hardware, or on-site maintenance – allowing company staff to commit resources to other projects.
With a strong B2BiaaS solution, Prairie Farms can now easily meet the requirements from its partners – highly secure and well-governed communications over AS2, SFTP, and other advanced protocols. The managed services team and the software collect Prairie Farms’ data files, append subsequent data to the customer file if it has not yet been retrieved, and assign a unique file name based on the requirements of the customer.
“Cleo’s services team has responded quickly to configuring our new partners and has alerted us to any file transmission issues that have occurred,” Heffren said.
EDI Integration Included
Prairie Farms also learned that it could integrate its incumbent EDI translation software running on its IBM iSeries to support all the B2B integration requirements of its customers, and all of it could be integrated with the cloud managed services model via a seamless migration process.
“During our conversion to MFT in the cloud, Cleo’s cloud integration services team was and continues to be very responsive and sensitive to the business requirement of accurately moving data to and from our customers,” Heffren said. “Our production downtime was minimized to only the time spent moving the iSeries from one city and building to another. Once powered back on, we reconnected to the Cleo Integration Cloud and resumed our production processing.”
With such vast technical expertise managing the company’s B2B data communications with diligence, Prairie Farms knows it can focus on what matters most: providing customers quality dairy products with the highest of standards and on an award-winning level.
“We’ve loved everything about Cleo and feel we have a technology partner we can count on to deliver added value to the Prairie Farms Dairy business,” Heffren said. “Cleo continues to provide outstanding solutions and support to allow Prairie Farms to meet the e-commerce requirements of our customers.”