Go behind the scenes to see how a local Texas dairy farm uses custom technology to keep up with its rapid growth.
When was the last time you drank milk from a glass bottle?
In Central Texas, Volleman’s Family Farm is turning nostalgia into a flourishing modern business with a firm commitment to sustainability and innovation.
From Family Dairy Farm to Delivering Fresh Milk to 450+ Stores Across Texas
Frank and Annette Volleman started dairying on the family farm in Luxembourg, a small country in Europe. In 1993, they moved to Texas to live out the American dream.
But it was in 2020 that the two founders took the first steps in going beyond dairying. After bringing all four sons and their spouses into the family business, the Vollemans began building their own processing plant to produce glass-bottled milk products that feature unique flavors such as cappuccino and pumpkin spice.
Right away, the Vollemans found success in delivering rich, creamy milk to local stores such as mom-and-pop stores, convenience stores, and meat markets. They soon landed some bigger chains that led to explosive growth. Within 18 months, they grew to over 450 stores across Texas!
Paper-Based Tickets Bogging Down Their Operations Amid Explosive Growth
But behind the scenes, their operations weren’t as smooth. They were still managing deliveries manually through paper tickets, tracking everything by hand with carbon copy tickets. As orders ballooned in early 2021, the logistical headaches mounted.
“We started out with my brother-in-law delivering in our one truck with paper tickets,” remembers Anna Volleman, CFO at Volleman’s. “As the business grew, we were manually entering 600 to 700 tickets each week into our accounting system back in the main office.”
Their paper-based ticket system relied heavily on its drivers and staff to record accurate and timely information, but there were too many points of failure that were now magnified by their rapid growth. The Volleman family quickly realized that they needed to “make a leap” and bring their systems into the 21st century.
“It was integral to get real-time data and integrate with our accounting system for efficiency and our bottom line,” lamented Anna.
Trial and Error: From Off-the-Shelf Tools to Investing in Custom Software
They first tried off-the-shelf tools to solve their operational problems but eventually found the tools too rigid. “It had some of the core functionality that we needed, but just trying to implement those core things and get the data back out of it, we were running into some very large hiccups,” explained Anna. “That was our hold up on moving forward on some possible business opportunities because we couldn’t manage the data the way we needed to.”
Next, they turned to a developer to create a homegrown application. While it worked decently, it still lacked key data integrations into their accounting system.
The Vollemans were at another breaking point and knew they needed to invest in a different solution. Anna remembers thinking, “We better just cut our losses now, because as difficult as this has been so far, we need this to work, and we need it to work every single time in the future.”
After some initial research and vetting of software development firms, they discovered Michigan-based SPARK Business Works. Right away, the Volleman family clicked with SPARK’s team and their transparent and collaborative approach to custom software.
“SPARK was very upfront and wanted to create a lasting partnership as opposed to just trying to make a dollar. We knew they wanted to be there to support us as our business needs change and evolve,” said Anna.
Developing their Custom Mobile App For Managing Orders and Deliveries
The SPARK team dove into understanding every aspect of their distribution operations and production flows. After a few months of collaboration, SPARK developed a custom driver delivery app to manage and track their bottled milk deliveries to stores, along with a backend portal that shows real-time delivery data. No more paper tickets and manual data entry.
Here’s how the custom driver delivery app works:
- Item data and sales orders from their ERP system NetSuite automatically sync to the mobile app
- Driver delivery team uses the app to view and manage their daily deliveries and routes
- After delivery, drivers can create real-time invoices and credits for their customers
- Once a driver’s trip is complete, the app automatically pushes the invoices and credits back into their ERP system NetSuite
“We cut two office staff just processing paper tickets,” remarks Anna. “We are so much more efficient.”
Not only does the app eliminate manual data entry of invoices, but it also allows supervisors to view real-time delivery data in the backend portal and proactively plan future trips to their 450+ stores.
“There’s so much more opportunity for us and our business to expand into whatever we can put our hands on. Just knowing that the integration is possible, we’re able to tailor it to our needs and get exactly what we need out of custom software,” Anna noted.
A New Mindset: How Custom Software Is Evolving With Their Business
With SPARK as their technology partner, the Vollemans have a new mindset towards their operations and expanding their product lines. They’re now writing the next chapter in both family legacy and business growth!
“Now that we’ve done it, the options are endless. It really changed the narrative and the questions that we were asking ourselves, “ reflected Anna. “It’s not oh, we can’t do this, we can’t deliver this. Now it’s like, okay, let’s make this happen!”