Thomas Foods International
Inheriting a diverse set of on-premise PABX hardware solutions as a result of business acquisitions, Thomas Foods International upgrades and standardises on RingCentral UCaaS for its Australian operations. The new platform has set the business on its UC journey and will support its longer-term digital transformation agenda and international growth plans.
We’ve been on a unified communications journey for a while and when we saw a demo of RingCentral it ticked all the boxes plus more in enabling our UC journey.
CIO, Thomas Foods International
A single collaboration platform across isolated regional locations
Supporting rapid remote provisioning of communications to new sites
Improved cybersecurity posture with fully managed web platform
Ability to add or upgrade sites and integrations when the business is ready
Thomas Foods International (TFI) began operations in South Australia in 1988, growing to become one of Australia’s largest family-owned food businesses. With teams in Australia, the US, China, Japan and Europe the TFI brands and business partnerships grow, supply, and distribute premium meat and seafood all over the world.
TFI’s growth from a regional abattoir to a global food supplier has been both organic and through acquisition, including the addition of new markets and also retail business. That included the acquisition of Country Fresh Nationwide, a processor and wholesaler with NSW facilities in Tamworth and Coffs Harbour, and Holco Fine Meats, a South Australian foodservice provider with operations in Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane and Melbourne. In 2020, TFI rebranded these businesses as Thomas Foods International Australia, a wholesale and retail supplier of quality Australian meat and seafood with a presence in all mainland states and territories. TFI Australia’s retail food products are branded as Thomas Farms for delivery to supermarkets, butchers, other retail outlets and direct to consumers.
As well as rebranding its Australian businesses, TFI has been working to consolidate their management and operation, including the various telephony systems in use nationally.
“As most of our core sites are regional, it’s been very difficult getting any kind of data connection so most have been operating with either PSTN or ISDN services. We had nearly every flavour of on-site PABX available, because a lot of our sites we operate from were from businesses we had purchased,” explained Matt Kruschel, CIO, Thomas Foods International.
Opportunity from crisis
Two coinciding factors required a rapid response from TFI Australia: five of its seven sites had PABX hardware that had reached end of support, and PSTN services were being shutdown at a number of its locations.
“It nearly created the perfect storm, but out of the crisis came an opportunity. We’ve been on a unified communications journey for a while and when we saw a demo of RingCentral it ticked all the boxes plus more in enabling our UC journey. Unified communications is a major cultural and educational shift for the business. As a web-based solution, RingCentral gave us the opportunity to fill all the gaps we were missing and move past that ‘just dial tone’ experience,” said Kruschel.
TFI rolled out a proof of concept to one site to test the ease of deployment and work out the cost implications for a national rollout. TFI Australia’s IT manager was then able to run the project on his own with the support of RingCentral’s implementation team. With minimal disruption to the business, 175 endpoints were deployed remotely in seven locations in under three weeks. The initial project came out at roughly break-even, but that included the decommissioning of all on-site PABX hardware, the replacement of most of the handsets and provisioning of new headsets.
One of the biggest benefits from the deployment of RingCentral MVP has been in improving collaboration among the business units. With each TFI Australia location quite isolated, they have typically operated with head office as the conduit for all sites, whereas now RingCentral’s collaborative features are allowing each site to integrate directly and work more efficiently together.
“We used to reinvent the wheel a lot of the time at each site. Now, we operate more like a mesh network making us much more efficient. For example, if one site creates a new report, or refines a process, they can much more easily share it and how it can be used with other sites,” said Kruschel.
It’s also allowed TFI Australia to remove the myriad web-based collaboration tools that had been in use across the business and consolidate on the RingCentral platform. It’s also increased the mobility and effectiveness of TFI Australia staff. When interstate and international borders re-open, TFI also expects RingCentral to dramatically reduce costs and improve communications for its travelling users.
“Through the RingCentral mobile app, communication with our endpoints can move seamlessly with our users. If staff were out of the office, they used to forward their calls to their mobiles, which takes them off our PABX. That had a big negative impact on our productivity,” said Kruschel.
Supporting rapid decision-making
As a family-owned business with a core group of decision-makers, TFI is fast-moving and quick to seize on business opportunities or respond to changing market conditions. As a result, the IT team can be asked to set up a new office or integrate an existing business with little notice.
“From the communications side, with RingCentral we can deliver very quickly. In fact, our IT Manager rolled out communications for our Western Australian office from his mobile phone; provisioned the line and everything was up and ready; sent the email off to the end user saying this is what you need to do,” said Kruschel.
Reducing cybersecurity concerns
Kruschel is also aware of the risks associated with legacy PABXs, which can be a “soft target” for hackers. This has typically been an issue for TFI’s more remote sites, where it has been more difficult to keep on-site hardware updated.
“Our cybersecurity posture is key for us, so keeping our environment current and fully maintained is very important. We have a small IT team to manage our whole environment, so knowing that the RingCentral platform’s technology and security is constantly managed and updated takes the pressure off our team,” said Kruschel.
The rest of the business can change at TFI’s pace – “as PABX hardware comes up for renewal on any of our sites, we will replace it with RingCentral technology.” That also includes any new sites that TFI establishes. At the moment, TFI is building a $300m state-of-the-art flagship processing facility near Murray Bridge in SA, which will be fitted out with RingCentral when it opens in the near future.
That also includes TFI’s other IT and business decisions, such as plans in the future to rollout a new CRM solution that will be able to integrate back into both TFI’s ERP and RingCentral platforms. That plan is initially focussed on Australia, but the longer-term goal will be to fully integrate and consolidate TFI’s global systems when these business units are ready.
“Our UC journey has really just started and investing in RingCentral gives us a platform that will enable us to mature in the years to come. Eventually it will enable us to take care of UC globally from a single pane of glass.”
“RingCentral came at the right time with the right price and with the right solution,” concluded Kruschel.