Blacksmith Applications: Analytics to Manage Trade Spending

Paul Wietecha, President
One of the biggest challenges faced by the foodservice industry is the lack of visibility into the transactions between the distributors and the operators that span trade spending, deduction and price management. As materials flow through the supply chain from manufacturer to the distributor to different outlets, the lack of visibility to secondary transactions is blocked as it requires sophisticated data models and tools to integrate within the ERP.

The challenges become complex when the requirement of reasonable share arises among the operators and the distributors. Blacksmith Applications focuses on solving the unique needs of foodservice manufacturers through software solutions that help them plan, execute, settle and analyze trade spending and pricing initiatives while centered on visibility, accountability and profitability, thereby saving time and labor for the company.

Blacksmith’s flagship product “FORGE” integrates with manufacturers' ERP and other systems for master and transactional data such as product and product hierarchy, customer and customer hierarchy, invoices, claims, payment requests, payment information, deductions and pricing. The three primary solutions utilized to coordinate execution across both internal and external touch points include—FORGE Trade, a trade spending and price management solution for management, marketing and sales that centralizes the program data; FORGE Settlements that provide an automated workflow based environment which helps to settle trade events; and FORGE Analytics that provides both online and offline solutions to analyze customer and foodservice division profitability. "Many of today's trade spending software solutions are simply repositories for pricing and trade spending programs; they don't allow manufacturers to evaluate if an opportunity is profitable or if there are available budget dollars," says Paul Wietecha, President, Blacksmith Applications. "With FORGE Trade, manufacturers, sales representatives and brokers have a robust, easy-to-use application that calculates the expected profitability of an opportunity and ensures the available budget,” he adds.
Blacksmith Applications offers consulting services providing visibility and improvements to clients through leveraging industry best practices. The company also introduced an industry share group named Smoke Jumpers, which brings together leading experts in the food and beverage industry to share and discuss the challenges faced by the industry and the methods to solve them.

The company offers services to around 60 plus customers out of which 10 are among top 25 foodservice manufacturers like Hormel, Procter & Gamble, General Mills and ConAgra Foods. The foodservice department of Heinz had implemented the Blacksmith Applications back in the year 2003.

Earlier, when a Heinz representative requested discount or promotional funding, it would take an average of 35 days for the request to be approved. Each approved claim for reimbursement had to be authorized manually. For a company with annual sales of more than $500 million, the number of claims can exceed 100,000 per year. Leveraging the capabilities within FORGE, more than 70 percent of the transactions are now automated with a cycle time of less than 5 days.


With FORGE Trade, foodservice manufacturers have a user-friendly application that delivers the expected profitability of each opportunity


Going forward, Blacksmith plans to continue its investment in analytics. “It’s so much more than simply ‘reports’,” says Wietecha. “Analytics to us means giving our users the answer before they ask the question. That implies that the application needs to anticipate what the users need and then deliver that content to them based upon their role and the status of the transaction within the workflow,” sums up Wietecha.

Company
Blacksmith Applications

Headquarters
Lawrence, MA

Management
Paul Wietecha, President

Description
The company enables organizations to manage their trade spending and pricing initiatives based on profitability through software solutions.