The Exporter

Video is an important part of a major factory innovation process for Florentines Patisserie, says managing director Greg Knight.

Florentines started over 20 years ago with one patisserie in Tauranga, and three staff, making premium cakes and desserts in the middle of the night. But as demand grew we started freezing and wholesaling our products to cafes, restaurants, hotels, caterers and other food outlets. Now we have a staff of 40, making up to 3,000 cakes a day and we export to Australia, Tahiti, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East.

Video meetings – with reps on the road and customers – are far better than talking on the phone, and save a lot of time and money in terms of travel. I used to fly to Australia all the time; now I can make immediate contact with them whenever I need to via Skype video conference.

We might, for example, show them samples of a new product we are developing, and talk about the look and the texture. Or they might demonstrate how a dessert prototype was damaged in transit, and we can discuss modifying the design. Having a fast broadband connection means we can share big documents or design files, and everyone can be looking at them on screen at the same time. Another advantage of video conferencing is that other staff members, such as our product development team here in Tauranga, can take part in discussions with customers, without the cost and time of travel. That makes our food technology experts feel part of the process, and customers get to know the people who are designing their cakes.

Our goal for this year is to double our turnover. This includes a major process improvement project for the factory. Software will give us instant or live data and KPI [key performance indicator] reporting, and putting video cameras in the factory means we can look for continuous process improvements. Our plant is running 20 hours a day, so management will be able to “see” what’s going on in the production process, both from the office and from home. In the future I can imagine using the technology to give virtual tours of the factory for overseas customers – they could watch their desserts being made and even ask questions of people on the floor.