Snack Brands’ business is heavily driven by promotions. New product introductions, frequent updates to flavours and packaging, and regular product deletions are constant features. Short order lead times of circa 48 hours add to the pressure.
David continues, “One of the keys to our production is the synchronisation of the packaging machines with the fryers. These critical resources are shared across multiple product groups, and packaging must be available to draw from the fryers as product becomes available.”
A complex planning environment required a smart solution
It was clear that any solution Snack Brands would consider needed to offer a breadth of capabilities. David tells us, “The demand we have to support is heavily impacted by short SKU lifecycles, seasonality and shut-down periods. Add to that the complexities of our production, and the numerous resource constraints we need to account for. We quickly understood that we needed a solution that went beyond the capabilities of a traditional planning tool.” He continues, “Our ERP application partner suggested Optimity as a potential supplier. Their Supply Chain Optimizer offered the right depth of capabilities, with the benefit of an already available interface to our Microsoft Dynamics AX system. That’s really how it all started.”
A comprehensive pilot laid the ground for a swift implementation
David Colburt and his team went to work. The decision was made to run a pilot on one of the key production resources. “We ran a pilot model for one of the fryers. It took us quite a bit of time to understand how to drive the system in order to get the outputs we needed. But this was always going to be time well spent. We knew we had to really understand how each individual manufacturing operation worked and interrelated in order to define this in our ERP system and to subsequently drive Optimity. This was perhaps the hardest part of the project. However, once we’d done it, it opened up unlimited possibilities for us to develop planning scenarios and look at our production from completely new angles.”
On the back of the pilot project, the solution was rolled out to the rest of the production. From the start of the pilot to the go-live, the whole process took one year.
A new level of decision support
Today Optimity provides up-to-date, optimised production plans every week, covering two factories and twelve separate resource operations. Snack Brands uses Optimity to sequence like products, and products that use the same equipment. The software also optimises production around shutdowns and planned maintenance to ensure the right amount of stock is built to service customers while these essential works take place.
David says, “The tool is very intuitive to work with. This was one of the things we really liked about it. And the speed at which optimised plans and scenarios can be generated is invaluable. It’s a real decision support tool. It is so fundamentally different from our old Excel approach.”
Any initial concerns regarding the interaction with existing systems have also been removed. All master data is drawn directly from MS Dynamics, so the information is always up-to-date. This includes material activation dates, a critical piece of information for a company that so frequently updates its packaging.