This well-known frozen whipped topping producer was formed as a joint venture in 2000 to produce frozen whipped topping products for the retail, food service, and industrial sectors.
Preparing for growth
The Ohio-based company has since established itself as a leader in the US private label market and has even introduced their own brands. Despite this success, management is showing no signs of taking their foot off the gas.
The company’s VP of operations talks about business challenges and how using supply chain planning software is helping the company drive business transformation. “We’re still a relatively small company. We’ve built our success on close relationships and always being there for our customers. However, as we continue to grow, we need more scalable processes and systems, not least for supply chain planning.”
The company is in the process of transforming from a just-in-time operation into an agile make-to-stock business. They need to integrate all aspects of planning – forecasting, production, inventory, and procurement planning while remaining flexible to customers. They can’t make this transition if they continue to rely on disconnected spreadsheets for planning.
White and his team evaluated several software vendors, and RELEX came out on top due to their planning speed and solution completeness. It also complements their Microsoft Dynamics ERP system and allows them to phase out all planning spreadsheets.
Managing seasonal demand and building optimized inventory
A primary goal for the company is to improve forecast accuracy for their 270 SKUs.
“Demand for whipped topping products is very seasonal, with the bulk of sales in the fourth quarter of the calendar year. We start building inventory in July, so a reliable forecast is critical,” says the VP of operations.
The company already implemented the RELEX demand forecasting capabilities, and the system provides a baseline statistical forecast that the demand planning team can adjust if needed.
“Most of our products have relatively stable demand, albeit seasonal. RELEX does an excellent job of automating the forecasting process and delivering accurate projections. Anticipating demand for new customers and products will always be tricky, but the sales team does a great job keeping our demand planners informed about customer projections and activities.”
The seasonal nature of the business is one of their main challenges. They recently added 80,000 sq ft of frozen and dry storage, which will provide more flexibility. Going forward, the company will also use RELEX to optimize the inventory build phase to smooth the staff workload.
The VP of operations says, “We aim to run a 24×5 week as far as possible, keeping overtime and weekend work to a minimum. The RELEX supply chain planning tool considers the entire supply chain and allows us to strike the right balance between customer service, inventory levels, and resource utilization.”
As a private-label manufacturer, the production schedulers have a lot of different packaging, labels, and product mixes to manage. Numerous run rules, such as allergen sequences, further complicate the scheduling task. The RELEX production scheduling capabilities will help reduce complexity and automate the process, removing the need for Excel.
“We’re currently setting up the scheduler with all our production rules, costs, and constraints. RELEX already gets us 85-90% there, so all we’re doing now is tweaking the schedule. It saves a lot of time compared to doing everything in spreadsheets. We’re so much more agile now, and we can keep the plant working to the most time- and cost-effective schedule.”
RELEX helps to managing scheduling complexity
The company is live with the RELEX forecasting capabilities, while production and procurement planning are in the testing phase. “We’re currently running RELEX in parallel with our spreadsheets to validate the system-generated production and purchase orders. So far, everything is looking very good.”
The VP of operations explains how RELEX has triggered a cultural change at the company. He points out that it’s not just about getting people up and running on a new system, but also about changing old habits and established ways of working.
“Moving from spreadsheets to RELEX is a paradigm shift. It’s vital that everyone’s on board with what we’re doing and able to see the value. We’re all used to having our own spreadsheets, and people tend to gravitate toward what they know. Making the shift takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it.”