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Internationally Renowned Cheese in the Cloud

The shift to the cloud aligned with the company's philosophy of empowering teams to focus on making the best cheese, instead of managing software licenses, infrastructure and connectivity.

IAN MICHAEL RAYCypress Grove Chevre, a cheese maker headquartered in rural Humboldt County, CA, recently made the move to the cloud, running a vast majority of its business — from marketing to equipment maintenance to strategic planning — in two web solutions: Smartsheet and Google Apps. The shift aligned with the company’s corporate philosophy of empowering teams to focus on making and selling the best cheese in the world, instead of spending time managing software licenses, infrastructure and connectivity.

Today, Cypress Grove Chevre runs a state-of-the-art sustainable business. Tech costs are low, collaboration is at an all-time high, and both people and processes are more productive.

Artisan cheese companies, like many in the food production and services industry, have lacked technological prowess. Some in the industry are just starting to use barcodes, while others are introducing financial programs for the first time. Most don't know where to turn for computing solutions, so they end up at the mercy of whatever consultants come in to help them.

But Cypress Grove felt it needed a more progressive approach. The cheese industry is a highly competitive market, and the company has real requirements to make operations more efficient.

Technology Requirements Are Set

In January 2010, Cypress Grove came up with a list of requirements in order to fulfill its needs.

  1. The ability to work across departments — from marketing to quality assurance.
  2. Ease of use.
  3. Improved accessibility for wherever employees are, regardless of what device they use.
  4. A focus on making and marketing great cheese, not on managing internal networks.

A Winning Combination

For Cyprus Grove’s needs, the combination of Google Apps and Smartsheet proved to be a winning combination. The company used Smartsheet to collaborate more efficiently on a broad range of work projects and processes including:

  1. Creamery requests. Employees can make requests regarding safety, efficiency and quality concerns, and those requests show up for managers and assistant managers. They are commented on, approved or not approved, assigned to other department managers, and completion dates and employees responsible are recorded. “We now have a central location to assign tasks and record communications for a one-stop accountability system,” said operations manager David Estes.
  2. Preventive maintenance. Cyprus Grove records all maintenance issues to key systems in department records. Smartsheet's ability to track cell history is useful in mapping past commentary and observing the long-term status of equipment. Green/red symbols are used to quickly assess if tasks, such as oil changes and gear inspections, are on or behind schedule. Employees use their smartphones to enter data from the manufacturing floor, which allows Estes to view updates at his desk as they occur.
  3. Sales and marketing and events. Both sales and marketing are now able to track all facets of upcoming sales events and marketing programs. From task lists to shipping logistics to contact lists, their teams have all the pertinent information at their fingertips. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at an event somewhere around the world, and found I needed a sales contact or campaign detail,” said Jane Rasmussen, sales manager. “It used to be buried back in the office on a file server. Now I just look it up from my iPad.”
  4. Strategic plans. “The Gantt charts are extremely useful as they keep projects in one location. It also ensures that team members keep commitments and allows project leaders to reprioritize,” said general manager Pamela Dressler.
  5. File storage and management. Many distributors and retailers have fiddled with YouSendIt, Dropbox and other services to send us large files. But now our partners and employees can upload large files directly to rows. It is far better organized than random emails and unstructured Dropbox accounts.
  6. Cross-departmental meetings. Teams at Cypress Grove can now capture meeting agendas, and related tasks and notes. “We have weekly conference calls and from wherever we happen to be that given week, we simply look at the past agenda, note the progress made and immediately focus in on any trouble spots. It’s a real time-saver,” said marketing manager Jason Baxter.

“The combination of these powerful web tools has reinforced our corporate philosophy of keeping it simple, being efficient in everything we do and promoting personal responsibility,” said Baxter. “They’ve been at the heart of helping us achieve our business and manufacturing goals. They help us be the company we want to be.”

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