Citrus World puts squeeze on data

The biggest challenge to implementing a new application is not always technical. Often times, it is users fearing change. This is one of the biggest hurdles facing Citrus World Inc. of Lake Wales, Fla., as the company implements a new data warehouse and analysis package to some 400 possible users.

Citrus World is a 55-year-old citrus processing and marketing cooperative, and maker of the "Florida's Natural" line of juice products. The company works with 12 grower organizations that represent more than 1,000 growers and nearly 60,000 acres (160 square miles) of citrus. It recently passed Minute Maid to become the second largest seller of not-from-concentrate juice, according to Gary DeWitt, Citrus World's director of MIS and cost accounting. "We squeeze one out of every eight oranges picked in Florida," he said.

DeWitt, with the help of two decision support analysts, is trying to get users to overcome their dependency on paper-based reports. Citrus World is using Monarch/ES from Datawatch Corp., Wilmington, Mass., to generate online versions of the old "green bar" paper reports. The Monarch desktop product allows users to access and perform analysis on data. Users can also perform drill down directly from the report, a task they could not do with paper-based copies.

"This is something that is totally new to users, who are used to paper and its tangibility," said Mark Stoltz, one of the decision support analysts. How-ever, he added, "Users no longer have something to touch. Some cannot grasp the concept [of computer-based reports]."

"But once they do, stand out of the way!" DeWitt said. Stoltz gave an example of one user in Citrus World's purchasing department that used to re-key data from the paper-based reports into Excel, format the data, and then fax it out to various suppliers and customers. Now, all she needs to do is export the data from Monarch directly into the formatted Excel spreadsheet. "She estimates that we've saved her 1,100 work hours per year," said Stoltz.

DeWitt came into contact with the Monarch product line back in 1994, when he received a flyer in his mailbox. At about the same time, DeWitt's boss was trying to create a number of reports he needed by doing "mental drill downs," he said. DeWitt began using the product to produce reports for his boss. When the Windows-based version of Monarch arrived two years ago, the decision was made to begin putting the software on everyone's desktop. That way, any user that needed access to Citrus World's data warehouse could have it.

While the firm's I/S department is now out of the report-producing business, they still have work to do. The staff now concentrates on maintaining some 80 applications running on Unix-based servers, and handling new application requests more quickly. "The only maintenance we need to do in terms of Monarch is to add fields to the original output if a user requests data not previously included in the original green bar report," DeWitt said.