This European meat supplier provides high-quality, traditionally prepared meat products, ready meals, vegetarian products, and soups and salads to all major supermarkets in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.
The company has grown rapidly through acquisition and autonomous growth – a strategy that has propelled the company to become a 280 million Euro operation.
Such growth brings challenges. The meat supplier’s supply chain manager says, “Since I joined in 2018, the group has added 12 production sites. It’s an exciting time, but also a challenge from a supply chain perspective. Our acquisitions come with their own history, IT systems, and processes, so integrating them into a greater supply chain can be tricky.”
With 17 production sites and two distribution centers across the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, a finely tuned supply chain is a must. The rapid expansion was starting to catch up with the company’s existing systems and processes, so they turned to RELEX implementation partner Supply Chain Company for help and advice.
Spreadsheets reaching the end of the road
As the business scaled, the meat supplier outgrew their planning capabilities. Their supply chain manager explains, “We did all our forecasting and replenishment planning in spreadsheets, which were complicated. We also only had a limited number of people who fully understood how it all worked, which left us exposed. We needed a solution that could support our planning needs and growth strategy.”
In 2019, the supplier contacted RELEX partner Supply Chain Company to explore how to future-proof their supply chain processes and systems and enable best-in-class delivery performance with minimum waste.
Following a two-day workshop to map the current processes and physical flows, Supply Chain Company prepared a list of software vendors for evaluation. When the software selection phase ended, the entire project team had come to the same conclusion.
“We needed a supply chain planning solution, not a new ERP system. RELEX ticked all the boxes. Coming from a spreadsheet background, the pivot-like interface from RELEX was attractive. We didn’t have to give up the flexibility we were used to with spreadsheets. We also liked the modularity of the RELEX application suite, which allowed us to implement it at our own pace,” says the supply chain manager.
He continues, “RELEX displayed a deep understanding of our business and industry, and we felt they were the type of company that would go the extra mile to support us. To us, RELEX is not just a software vendor. It is a company we can rely on as trusted advisors for our supply chain issues.”
Time for change
The distribution center is the hub of the company’s physical supply chain and serves as the base for the demand planners that orchestrate it. The project team started with demand forecasting, which was critical to the subsequent production planning implementation.
The company worked with a 1-2 week forecast, calculated in spreadsheets as a simple average of the last 10 weeks of sales with the highest and lowest values removed. This was replaced by an automated, rolling 8-week forecast in RELEX. The forecast quality improved immediately, and after just four weeks of shadowing, the team was ready to turn off the old spreadsheet solution.
The supply chain manager explains, “RELEX provides much better support for our forecasting process. Our two demand planners are more effective in their work and now work more closely with sales and marketing to plan for sales promotions and product phase-ins and phase-outs. RELEX has also given them the visibility they need to spot and address any potential stock and shelf-life issues before they become a problem.”
With some production lead times as long as seven days, forward visibility is critical to managing shelf-life for sensitive meat products. The production planning model was set up and tested in the RELEX supply chain optimization solution, taking full advantage of the improved forecast accuracy and the longer planning horizon in the new demand planning solution.
The four manufacturing sites included in the initial rollout now receive weekly updates of their production requirements for the next eight weeks. And while detailed scheduling remains a local responsibility, the more stable and forward-looking weekly production plan has made life much easier at the production sites.
With so many acquisitions, and an equal number of ERP installations and locally maintained data sources, it would take quite an effort to ensure master data consistency. The company’s supply chain manager says, “We had situations where two production sites used the same product ID for completely different items. RELEX knows how to address data inconsistencies, and they could suggest a pragmatic solution. We now have a planning system that links our entire supply chain together.”
Better forecasts equal better business
The meat producer is live with RELEX across five production sites and the central warehouse. Forecast accuracy is up by almost 10%, including a significant improvement on the individual item level.
The RELEX inventory optimization capabilities have provided improvements in stock levels and delivery performance, with stock levels 5-10% lower. “We’re cutting stock levels with maintained delivery performance. We’re delighted with these results,” said the supply chain manager.
Next up, the meat producer will roll out RELEX to all remaining factories and fully eradicate Excel.