By Nicole Nguyen, Marketing Manager, Oracle SCM Cloud
Imagine a world where used cooking oil, food waste, sewer grease, and other degraded wastes were transformed into biofuel instead of being sent to landfill. That’s a fundamental part of Argent Energy’s vision—to reduce the world’s carbon footprint using sustainable resources.
In the UK and elsewhere, discarded oils and grease cause problems for both the people and businesses who need to discard them and for the infrastructure that supports them. So-called “fatbergs”—collections of solidified fats, oils, and grease—create blockages in the sewers. Argent collects those fats and other residual grease- and oil-based raw materials—saving government institutions money—and turns them into a sustainable fuel option.
Argent uses degraded waste to produce biodiesel, which it supplies to truck and bus fleet operators across the UK. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce carbon output. “It's all about sustainability for us and helping to mitigate climate change through the use of renewable fuel,” says Hazel Matthews, strategic service and supply chain director of Argent Energy.
As it turns out, taking some of the world’s most unpleasant raw materials and turning them into cleaner fuel sources is big business. The unprecedented demand for biofuels has led to exponential growth for Argent, which has tripled in locations and employee count over the past three years. At first, Argent’s systems were very people-centric, “and a lot of information was held in people’s heads,” Matthews says.
But, as growth accelerated, it soon became clear that the processes that worked for a one-location, 76-employee company weren’t going to work across four sites and 350 team members. Argent’s parent company, Swire, had invested £ millions in Argent and wanted it to adopt more sophisticated, powerful cloud systems that would allow them to see performance in real time.
“We were definitely Excel-reliant,” Matthews says. While they had a finance system in place, many other administrative functions were done manually, creating opportunities for delays and errors. As the company grew, it had to automate and become more efficient. It was a technical challenge for Argent to transition to a new and more powerful system, so it was important to be thoughtful about the process.
“We can't underestimate the impact that new systems and new processes have on people, especially when it affects their authorities and their responsibilities,” Matthews says. “We needed something that would grow with the business. We needed something that would be user-friendly and would take the business forward.”
When the Oracle team met with Argent to discuss a potential move to Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle SCM Cloud, they took the time to understand and listen to the concerns and challenges the company faced. “That was absolutely critical for us,” Matthews says. Since Argent produces and distributes biofuel as well as dealing with wastes, it has a unique business model. Argent needed a solution that would be able to manage all elements of the business in one system.
The goal was to work with Oracle to address the business-critical modules first. “We wanted to create strong financial reporting, manage our inventory, create a strong purchasing model, and ensure that our processes were automated,” Matthews says.
Argent is unique in that its sourcing isn’t a typical procurement process, but also requires careful customer relationship management (CRM). With new supply chain cloud systems including procurement, maintenance and inventory, the team is better able to manage inventory accurately, get insights into re-order levels, and put a stop to random buying. The solution offers the company the opportunity to manage key suppliers and prioritise them for reordering and invoice processing. Their automated, standardized processes give the company more control over and insight into its processes and needs.
The team also sees opportunities going forward with Oracle's predictive maintenance solution. “We want to become, as a company, more demand-led rather than supply-driven. And that will all be helped by the fact that we can look at the end-to-end process within Oracle,” she says.
Argent wanted a straightforward solution without a lot of customized code that could still run their complex business.
“When you start to bespoke these systems, they just get more difficult to manage. So, Oracle was able to give us a vanilla system that would be a great platform for growth going forward,” she says.
Hitachi led the implementation project, which took about six months—but it didn’t take long for the benefits to become clear. “Our distribution center in the north of England handles thousands of transactions a month, and we're able to see that on a day-to-day basis, identify the pinch points, and start to correct them,” Matthews says. Financial teams are beginning to achieve their reporting timelines and the Oracle system is now being deployed in their Netherlands facility.
Change is never easy, Matthews notes, but the training and support Oracle and Hitachi provided helped with the transition. The transaction visibility alone has made a difference to how Argent operates.
“We’ve got confidence that Oracle works for us and we now have to use it to full potential,” Matthews says.