About NZ Hothouse
When time is of the essence, only the best IT support will do. That’s the basic underlying premise for NZ Hothouse’s engagement with Lancom Technology, who take care of all the tomato and cucumber grower’s technology support requirements including the crucial task of keeping its specialist fresh produce packing software running. Lancom has also played a vital role in bringing NZ Hothouse’s technology estate into a suitable configuration to qualify for cyber security insurance, a risk management measure considered essential in today’s heightened threat environment.
Established in 1983 when founder and current chairman Brett Wharfe bought his first greenhouse in Ramarama on the outskirts of Auckland, NZ Hothouse today has some 18 hectares under glass, producing tomatoes and cucumbers predominantly for the local market. Selling into the major supermarkets, NZ Hothouse is vertically integrated, growing, packing, marketing and transporting goods through a sister company. Employing more than 350 people, NZ Hothouse products make it from greenhouse to supermarket shelf within as little as 24 hours.
Escalating Support Requirements
With escalating support requirements, NZ Hothouse looked to Lancom Technology as an established Managed Services Provider for assistance. “For us, the critical factor is getting product out the door every day. We use software developed in Tauranga to manage that process, with a ton of scanning with each crate receiving a barcode providing full track and trace capabilities,” explains financial controller Ron Baas.
Reliance on Track & Trace Capabilities
While the track and trace capability provides essential information on product origin, movement, and destination, it also means NZ Hothouse is highly dependent on the system for its daily success. The system – Radfords FreshPack Multi – is also the financial backbone of NZ Hothouse’s operations, handling orders, billing, and payments. “Our produce must move fast if it is to get to market fresh, whether in Invercargill or Hokianga within 24 to 48 hours. For that to happen, our teams of growers, packers, drivers and everyone else needs reliable systems which never let us down.”
He adds that with a large number of staff on board every day, any system outage means a lot of people standing around with nothing to do. “And that’s expensive!”
Need for Cyber Security
Baas goes on to say that in its quest to ensure system integrity, the company has stepped up its focus on cyber security. Any sort of breach or attack affecting its systems could effectively curtail its operations; while appropriately configured systems is one element of sound risk management, the board of directors also sought cyber security insurance as a further measure. “Securing cover depends on demonstrating suitable protection and diligence in people and processes. It’s not easy,” he says.
Lancom provides around the clock support from its Auckland headquarters, along with an on-site engineer who takes care of day-to-day IT and telecommunications infrastructure. It also provides strategic guidance with what Baas calls ‘the big picture’ elements of NZ Hothouse’s infrastructure, including server and cloud applications. “We run a hybrid environment, with our main systems on-premises; with the amount of scanning, we can’t have any latency in our production systems, though we do rely on the cloud for backups and disaster recovery measures.”
Over the course of two years, he says Lancom has proven its worth, with no issues of any note since the managed services provider took control of support. “An onsite person is a real advantage. Any issues which come up are dealt with immediately, with the backup of the broader company should higher level intervention become necessary.”
He credits Lancom with improving focus and systems related to business continuity and disaster recovery, along with extensive work bringing the complete company technology infrastructure in line with cyber insurers prescriptions. These requirements include a comprehensive security policy and demonstrated measures in threat assessment and quantification, network security, the use of multi-factor authentication, threat protection, anti-phishing, and employee security training. “Lancom’s expertise over the past two years – that’s how long it has taken – has got our business and its systems appropriately configured and set up to the satisfaction of our insurance company, and we now have the desired cover,” Baas confirms.
Baas says the best IT is that which works without hassle, interruption or delay. “With Lancom, we have improved our situation significantly and taken the stress out of the IT space. The service level agreements are comprehensive and very good, outlining exactly what we can expect, and aligning closely with what is delivered,” he explains.
In particular, Baas notes the value of an around-the-clock support partner. “If there’s a problem at 3 in the morning, we need it sorted out before our people start at 06h30. Our relationships with the supermarkets are built on never missing a delivery; our systems are an inherent part of that process, and Lancom makes sure that this area is as strong as every other aspect of the business.”
Ability to focus on other tasks
With the IT running smoothly on a day-to-day basis, Baas says NZ Hothouse is able to catch up on other priorities, secure that the technology is in the hands of experts. “We’ve put that in the hands of people who are totally focused on IT, and who clearly know how to get projects done. Could we do it cheaper? Maybe; but the real value is in knowing it is done well.”
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