After a decade of perfecting their premium mochi ice cream, Bubbies Ice Cream was doing well, but in a strategic move from the company’s native Hawaii to a new HQ and production facility in Phoenix, AZ, the company started to flourish – and fast! Within three years, sales went through the roof, as discerning customers around the country continue to discover mochi magic. Bubbies’ main challenge was simply keeping up with demand.
Preparing for growth and overcoming capacity challenges
With such rapid growth, demand was outpacing production capacity, putting Bubbies’ planning functions under pressure. They didn’t have the production planning or capacity to successfully execute the increase in demand. Their planning forecasts only looked a week ahead and Bubbies needed to be more proactive and plan months, if not a year ahead.
The business urgently needed a scalable solution to keep up with demand. The production and sales teams had to quickly get together with leadership to organize and streamline the process while maximizing the company’s limited capacity.
S&OP bringing the business together
Initially, the team put a stopgap solution in place – spreadsheets with historical demand and rough growth assumptions. The priority was to keep the production lines running at full capacity, so the production planning manager stuck to the forecast and ignored all the noise.
The spreadsheets stabilized the situation but didn’t solve the fundamental problem – the disconnect between sales needs and production output. Bubbies needed a cloud-based planning solution to integrate with their existing Microsoft Great Plains ERP system. The company doesn’t have any on-premise servers and wanted to keep it that way.
The team evaluated and researched several vendors, but once they’d seen RELEX, it was an easy decision as all of the planning functionality was there.
RELEX delivered – it took the team 4-5 months to go live. Jeff Stites, Bubbies’ CEO has previously gone through planning system rollouts that were more lengthy and more costly.
“In the past, I dealt with a similar implementation in an environment like Bubbies. We had 15 people assigned to that project and ended up with a $1M implementation bill. The RELEX rollout was much quicker and a lot less expensive than if we’d gone with an ERP-based solution or any of the larger supply chain planning vendors. Best of all, we ended up with a much better solution,” he says.
To date, Bubbies has implemented the RELEX sales and operations planning, demand planning, production planning and inventory management capabilities.
“One of the best things about RELEX is the dashboards which are the main drivers of our S&OP process. For the first time, we’re all looking at the same data – in ways that are meaningful to our roles. RELEX has helped us link up the business, and streamline our cross-functional communication. We can now tie our financial plan directly to the demand plan in RELEX, which, in turn, connects with our inventory and production plans,” said Stites.
Bubbies’ growth trajectory requires a consistent deployment of cash to support its objectives, so inventory management is critical. The working capital consideration was one of the primary reasons Brian Locke, Bubbies CFO, owned and led the S&OP process. With Locke’s leadership, the communication and understanding between finance, sales and the operations team has greatly improved.
“Establishing trust, cultivating relationships, and building scalable platforms – these are the foundational elements of a business that you cannot attach a dollar value to. When our teams share observations, draw conclusions, and execute decisions on the unified platform that RELEX provides, it brings tremendous benefits not only to our P&L, but to our culture as well,” says Locke.
Business Team Leader Travis Daly supported the partnership by testing the system throughout the planning and implementation process. He coordinated key players from both teams to discuss current and future needs and outlined the project to ensure a smooth integration.
Daly says, “We used the system to improve our demand planning and to understand current and projected capacities, needs and gaps. RELEX enables the operations and sales teams to work more effectively and collaboratively. The system identifies when we’re at risk of not meeting customer demand and we can then pivot our production schedules accordingly.”
Better decision-making with accurate demand planning and inventory projections
Bubbies has a broad range of customers, all displaying different demand patterns. Large retail partners may order 30 days in advance without any promotions, while smaller retailers may be the opposite, with lumpy demand patterns. RELEX handles both and provides the support needed to both automate and fine-tune their demand plans.
The system also supports the logistics side of the business, which is important as Bubbies holds a maximum of 3-4 weeks of finished goods. And, storage and the transport of frozen products is expensive and not always available. With RELEX, the planners can see the projected inventory and spot potential issues early on. Then they know what demand to cut or if they need to re-schedule any events.
Next, Bubbies will start building its budget for next year which will be based on a full-year analysis of tied-up sales, inventory, and production plans, which directly link to the financial plan, for the first time. There will be no spreadsheets or competing data sets involved.
“I’d challenge any company of our size, or larger for that matter, to better what we’ve achieved with the amount we’ve spent on RELEX and with the limited resources we have available to us. RELEX has given us a perfect, scalable platform for growth, and we will continue to partner closely with their team on our next set of priorities,” concludes Locke.