Microsoft case study

Tradition and technology: Tillamook’s key ingredients

Tillamook County Creamery Association is a farmer-owned cooperative based in Tillamook, Ore. Founded in 1909, Tillamook is owned by almost 80 farming families and is known for their internationally recognized cheese, as well as ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese spreads, sour cream and butter.

Scalable systems keep the 112-year-old dairy co-op aligned to changing times

With roots stretching back to 1909, Tillamook has maintained its respected brand by caring for the land and cows that make milk and by continually innovating how it brings its fresh dairy products to market. These commitments have helped the co-operative not just survive but also thrive in a changing world.

Sometimes the world changes slowly, such as when consumer demand began to drop for products derived from cow’s milk after the introduction of such alternatives as almond and oat milk. Other times, changes come on suddenly, as in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic quickly drove up demand for fresh groceries as people hunkered down at home.

Tillamook has been able to respond to challenges like these because of digital transformation, a process the dairy's consumer packaged goods' division started when it decided to grow from a regional to a national brand as a result of the increasing demand for cow’s milk dairy products. Due to the incredible demand and fandom for Tillamook’s premium dairy products, they wanted to find ways to connect more people to their products nationally.

To support the expansion, Tillamook replaced its legacy applications with a modern system designed specifically for dairy operations. The co-op went from operating with multiple spreadsheets and an outdated, heavily customized system to having just one version of the truth in an integrated cloud platform. This helped improve access to information for decisions and visibility to inventory, which are crucial to cost-effectively fulfilling demand on a national scale and during demand volatility.

The new system helps in other key areas, including allowing the co-op to more easily enter new channels and markets to attract new customers. An example is the addition of new third-party logistics storage and co-packers, which extends Tillamook’s supply chain to serve customers all over the United States. 

Accelerating digital transformation

To achieve benefits faster and mitigate risk, Tillamook partnered with RSM to accelerate its digital transformation, which included implementation of cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 and RSM solutions designed specifically for dairies. It was this new system that enabled remote workers to securely access the co-op’s ERP system from home and use automated processes to manage the unexpected spike in demand during pandemic sheltering.

The implementation also set the foundation for streamlined back-office processing, a necessity for taking the brand from regional to national. Tillamook’s executive team knew that to cost-effectively handle the financial-processing requirements of a national brand in the highly regulated dairy industry, the company would need to address a number of existing shortcomings: a lack of controls and real-time reporting on dairy financials, manual processes that managed inventory and production, and limited visibility into operations. 

With the Microsoft and RSM solutions, we’ve been able to address these problems by making accurate, real-time information about operations available to everyone who needs it. This not only makes us more productive and cost-effective, but we continue to augment and improve the flexible Microsoft Dynamics 365 system, adding more agility to engage with existing customers and gain new ones.
Travis Pierce, Director of Information Technology

Foundation for success

Tillamook’s leadership team knew they needed a partner to execute this plan and chose RSM to help. One big reason for selecting RSM was the company’s industry focus and approach, in this case within the dairy industry. For example, RSM’s industry involvement extends to the International Dairy Foods Association, where the firm has received multiple awards for its technology solutions that support the dairy industry.

Tillamook’s CFO and other team members worked with RSM to define a change-management process to move to the new cloud-based ERP system. This kept the dairy operation running smoothly and store shelves stocked while the new system was implemented.

RSM’s Rapid Verification Model (RVM), a framework of implementation tasks, pre-configuration and industry-specific processes, enabled the combined Tillamook and RSM teams to quickly model the full solution across all business processes. This greatly decreased the project’s time-to-value, enabled secure cloud connectivity, defined the change management process and helped the company effectively plan the deployment of financials and shared services for Tillamook’s manufacturing and distribution facilities. Overall, RSM’s RVM helped the company reduce project risk and disruption.

Tillamook chose to deploy the solution at all plants at once. This deployment included integration with Tillamook’s production control system for scheduling and reporting, a simplified user interface for operators and advanced lot trace across the enterprise.

The single-deployment phase strategy also included the deployment of RSM’s Dairy Accelerator. A true farm-to-shelf solution, it addresses the dairy industry’s unique, complex requirements while ensuring compliance with substantial customer and regulatory requirements. This solution gave Tillamook’s managers real-time visibility into milk components cost by class and class utilization through automatic dairy reclassification, as well as the ability to recalculate dairy blending equations from the production floor. 

The RVM implementation toolset accelerated time to value by enabling the team to quickly adopt the right mix of best practices that fit their needs. This focus on the minute details enabled Tillamook to fast-track its Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation, cutting overall deployment time by months and saving the co-op time and money.

“We chose RSM because of their dairy industry knowledge and tools that focused on the dairy industry,” said Travis Pierce, the co-op’s director of information technology. “They hit the ground running and already spoke our language, which really minimized the learning curve. And the RSM dairy accelerator makes Microsoft D365 a truly comprehensive ERP solution for the dairy industry.”

Partnership Benefits

Key benefits of RSM’s relationship with Tillamook include:

  • Implementing a modern platform that supports long-term growth
  • Designing an integrated platform that serves as a single source of truth and offers enhanced visibility across all operations
  • Eliminating manual re-entry from a former disparate system model
  • Enabling real-time visibility into dairy components for dairy reporting compliancy
  • Configuring automation to accelerate processes and improve productivity
  • Improved visibility, performance, transparency and accountability 

Farms for generations to come

Tillamook now has a highly scalable, innovative ERP platform that can accommodate the co-op’s growth strategy as it fulfills increased business demands and moves toward becoming a nationally recognized brand.

Best of all, the co-op families can keep farming as they have for generations with confidence that the byproducts of their dedication attract new loyal customers every day.