Müller Fleisch tracks & traces with Talend

Talend Data Integration allows leading meat processing company to integrate SAP to other systems
We are very happy with Talend. The tool fits right into our landscape and features a graphical interface that lets you define complex processes quite simply using drag and drop.
Thomas Reichenberger, , Head of IT

The customer

The recipe for success at Müller Fleisch is simple – forward-looking ideas and a progressive approach to business, built on long-standing experience. Founded in Birkenfeld, Germany in 1959 and now in its third generation of family ownership, this slaughterhouse and meat processing company is one of the most successful operations of its kind in the country. With a staff of 370, recent sales figures hover around the EUR 420 million mark. The majority of its customers are companies based in southern Germany, including supermarkets Edeka, real, REWE and Kaufland and a string of discounters such as Aldi and Penny.

“Future success depends on our ability to meet the changing requirements of rapidly evolving markets through forward-looking planning and an innovative approach to business”. This statement captures the management philosophy at Müller Fleisch, also conveying its driving forces – a strong sense of responsibility and vision for the future. Precisely this far-sightedness prompted company management very early on to invest in a high-performance IT infrastructure, and continually expand and upgrade it ever since. Talend’s data integration platform is now a key building block within this IT strategy.

The challenge

Business processes in the meat industry call for tailored solutions. The software deployed must be able to cover every step in the value chain – from procurement, slaughtering and carving up the animals through production and recipe optimization to integrated pricing and efficient picking and packing. To support all its internal processes, Müller Fleisch uses various SAP modules for financial accounting and controlling. These modules have been tailored more and more precisely to the company’s requirements over many years of operation.

“It’s vital to us that our systems can track the path of a piece of meat all the way from the farm to the supermarket counter,” explains Thomas Reichenberger, Head of IT at Müller Fleisch. “The key to this is the barcode on the back of the packaging. To ensure seamless tracking, we need to integrate individual data entries from production with our SAP system.”

As a mid-sized company with sales in excess of EUR 400 million, Müller Fleisch also requires rich analytical, statistical and metric functionality for controlling purposes. To support business intelligence (BI) needs, the company also needs to draw on the SAP-based controlling and financial accounting information to really obtain meaningful figures. When the previous approach based on MicroStrategy’s BI tool neared its limits in 2009, Reichenberger began his quest for a more powerful solution to deliver the functionality he needed.

The Talend solution

After several weeks of research, Reichenberger decided in favor of Talend’s open source data integration platform. This platform comes with around 450 connectors to a wide variety of systems, with new ones constantly being added thanks to ongoing development efforts by Talend and its active community. An extract, transform and load (ETL) process for SAP integration is also part of the package. This process extracts data from a source system, converts it and then exports it to the desired target system. Standardizing item numbers is an obvious example here – since every ERP system defines them differently, the numbers need adjusting to enable comparison. The data from different source systems is then combined in a data warehouse.

“We looked long and hard at the Talend solution and carried out initial tests with the open source version,” recalls Thomas Reichenberger. “What ultimately tipped the decision in Talend’s favor was the simplicity of the tool and how quickly we got it up and running. We were able to get results very fast.” Today, Müller Fleisch is using the commercial version, Talend Data Integration, which comes with technical support and enterprise-class features such as team development and big data processing. Migration to Talend took place in 2010 and was successfully completed in less than a year. The multi-step changeover process included equipping the tool with interfaces to the existing SAP systems.

The benefits

Since there was no time for lengthy staff training, system go-live needed to be swift and simple. Talend offers a wide range of data integration options with intuitive, user-friendly administration. “The Talend solution features a graphical interface that lets you define complex processes quite simply using drag and drop. The software then generates Java code that our developers can easily follow, so errors can be rapidly identified and fixed,” describes Reichenberger. All of which was a real bonus when it came to speedy deployment.

Talend Data Integration now enables seamless, real-time integration of data from the SAP systems at Müller Fleisch. The aggregated data is then loaded to the data warehouse, which runs on Microsoft SQL Server and is also managed from the Talend platform. Staff in finance particularly appreciate the optimized IT process flow, since they now have access to transparent sales and development data in a way that was not technically feasible before. More, higher-quality information flows into the decision-making processes, improving controlling and product selection. The native Java interfaces used by Talend also make it easy for developers to add their own functions, which comparable proprietary software definitely would not support.

Thomas Reichenberger certainly has no regrets: “We are very happy with Talend. The tool fits right into our landscape,” he confirms. “Plus the solution is stable and runs smoothly. We’ve had no problems or failures since the go-live in 2010.” Next, the IT team at Müller Fleisch is considering expanding the Talend platform with data quality capabilities and adding a master data management (MDM) component. “We’re not making that decision just yet,” comments Reichenberger, “but if we do go down that route, our positive experiences to date mean we’ll be talking to Talend first.”