High-impact S&OP at Bubbies

Posted on: 23 August 2021

After a decade of perfecting its premium mochi ice cream, Bubbies was doing well, but there was a sense that the business could be doing even better. New owners took over in 2016, and they had a plan.

Bubbies premium ice cream selects Optimity Software for Supply Chain Planning

Following a strategic move from the company’s native Hawaii to a new HQ and production facility in Phoenix, AZ, the business started to flourish…and fast! Within three years, sales had gone through the roof, as discerning customers around the country continue to discover mochi magic, and the main challenge for Bubbies was keeping up with demand.

Preparing for growth

Growing an ice cream business from Hawaii was always a challenge, so in 2017 the leadership team decided to relocate to the mainland. The move signalled the start of a new era for the company.

Demand was outpacing production capacity, putting Bubbies’ planning functions under ever-increasing pressure. Bubbies’ CEO, Jeff Stites, who joined the company in 2019, explains, “We were thrilled to be growing at such a rapid pace. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the production planning or capacity to successfully execute the increase in demand. In fact, our planning only looked a week ahead, when in reality, we needed to be more proactive and plan months, if not a year ahead.”

Jeff was initially brought in as interim COO and was determined to make changes with the help of his team. The company had taken on some new and exciting major accounts, which required more streamlined communication and integrated processes between the sales and production functions.

The pressure was growing, and 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.

A need for real change – but first, a quick fix

To buy some much needed time, the team put a stopgap solution in place – simple 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.

While the spreadsheets stabilized the situation, they didn’t solve the fundamental problem – the disconnect between sales needs and production output. Later that year, the Production Planning Manager, VP of Operations, and Procurement Manager came together to find a solution.

Optimity – an easy choice

Bubbies was looking for 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 Optimity, it was an easy decision as all of the planning functionally was there. The business also needed a solution that would get them up and running quickly.

Optimity delivered – it took the team four to five months to go live. As a supply chain expert, Jeff had been through several planning system rollouts before joining Bubbies. “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 Optimity 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.

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 Optimity and with the limited resources we have available to us.
Brian Locke, CFO

S&OP brings the business together

To date, Bubbies has implemented Optimity’s Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP), Demand Planning, Production Planning, and Inventory Management solutions. Bubbies’ management is particularly impressed with how Optimity supports the S&OP process. Jeff explains, “One of the best things about Optimity 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. Optimity has helped us link up the business, and our cross-functional communication has become much more streamlined. We can now tie our financial plan directly to the demand plan in Optimity, which in turn connects with our inventory and production plans”.

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, the CFO, owned and led the S&OP process. With Brian’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 simply attach a dollar value to. When our teams share observations, draw conclusions, and execute decisions on the unified platform that Optimity provides, it brings tremendous benefits not only to our P&L, but to our culture as well,” says Brian.

For the first time, we’re all looking at the same data – in ways that are meaningful to our roles. Optimity has helped us link up the business, and our cross-functional communication has become much more streamlined.
Jeff Stites, CEO

Business Team Leader, Travis Daly, supported the partnership by testing the system at multiple points throughout the planning and implementation process. He coordinated the key players from both the Optimity and Bubbies teams to discuss current and future needs and outlined the project to ensure a smooth integration. Travis says, “We began using the system to improve our demand planning and to understand current and projected capacities, needs and gaps. Optimity 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. At one end of the spectrum, they have large retailer partners that order promptly 30 days in advance without any promotions. A club business is an example of the complete opposite, with very lumpy demand patterns. Optimity handles the full range and provides the support needed to both automate and fine-tune their demand plans.

The system also supports the logistics side of the business. This is important as Bubbies holds a maximum of 3-4 weeks of finished goods. As well as this, storage and the transport of frozen products is expensive and not always readily available. With Optimity, the planners can see the projected inventory and spot any potential issues early on. Then, if needed, the company knows what demand to cut or if they need to re-schedule any events.

Working with Optimity – real expertise, real experience

Another essential consideration for Bubbies was to team up with the right implementation partner. “When you speak to the Optimity team, it’s clear that there’s real experience there. I think the long tenure of the team speaks for both the company and the product. It’s not just about the software but rather about the entire package. The relationship we’ve had with Optimity from the very first meeting has been awesome, and the technical support has been outstanding. Nothing ever seems too difficult, and we work together as a team,” says Jeff.

A platform for growth

In the fall, Bubbies will start building out its budget for next year. For the first time, this is based on a full-year analysis of tied-up sales, inventory, and production plans, which directly link to the financial plan. There will be no spreadsheets or competing data sets involved.

Brian Locke sums it up, “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 Optimity and with the limited resources we have available to us. Optimity 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”.

About Bubbies

Bubbies Ice Cream is an iconic frozen novelty brand best known for its all-natural Mochi Ice Cream innovations. Starting with the highest quality real ingredients Bubbies crafts its creamy, super-premium ice cream using the same secret family recipe since Bubbies’ inception in 1985. Now one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S., Bubbies’ portfolio includes more than 20 traditional and unique flavors of Mochi Ice Cream and Vegan Mochi treats as well as a line of Cookie Dough Ice Cream Bites.



Food & Beverage


Phoenix, Arizona



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