Using Protean software, a new process planning ERP system from Wonderware, Pritchitt Foods has managed to reduce its production planning runs from 2 hours to a matter of minutes. Improved overall information management has also led to improved sales performance.
Pritchitt Foods is an independent dairy-based food manufacturer, specialising in food preservation systems using spray drying and UHT processes. The company has 350 employees across two sites, the Head Office is in Kent, and the production site is situated in Northern Ireland. The company has a £50 million annual turnover.
Three years ago, Pritchitt decided to implement a process ERP system in order to drive a major business improvement plan. Improvements were needed in the areas of production planning and scheduling, customer order management (COM), stock control, and a general improvement in information management.
When Pritchitt started to investigate their existing IT systems, they discovered that they were using seven different operating systems throughout the two sites. This meant that many complicated interfaces were required so that different systems within the business could communicate with each other. There was no corporate IT policy, and so each function of the business was given a free reign to decide which software to use. For example, the Head Office was using a VAX system running a sales order processing and financials system, whereas the Manufacturing staff were using a Unix-based discrete MRP system.
IT Manager for Pritchitt Foods, Brendan Gorman, explains one of the initial problems the company was faced with. “We had a real problem with the sales ordering and stock control systems. Staff were taking orders based on out-of-date stock information. The sales people needed live data from the stock system in order to provide accurate information to customers.”
“We identified lack of quality management information and wasted resource as being the two main problems with the original software,” says Gorman.
In 1998, Pritchitt decided to standardise their IT systems by implementing a process ERP system across the two sites. Among the shortlisted contenders were Marcam and Wonderware. Wonderware was eventually chosen due to its object-oriented software methodology, which fits in very well with Pritchitt’s COM and production planning systems.
The Protean software implementation began in January 1999 across both sites and was completed by January 2000, with a total project cost of £650,000, including software, hardware, training and support. The implementation was completed in stages, with COM first, then inventory systems followed, and then production planning and scheduling was completed last of all. Gorman states that, “the project originally was based around an 18-month payback period, and results so far indicate that we are on target to achieve this – although actually quantifying the benefits for senior management has proved difficult.”
Although not easy to quantify, the results of using the Protean software are very encouraging. “The original MRP software was based on discrete manufacturing rather than process manufacturing. This caused real problems for us. However, today 60 of our staff are using an object-oriented horizons function within Protean software. This means production planning runs can be tested outside of the main planning and scheduling software in a matter of minutes rather than hours.”
Gorman explains further about the benefits of Protean over the original MRP system. “Using object-oriented software means that Protean users can now dispense with the Bill of Material style approach to milk production. We receive milk from our suppliers by volume of milk, but the critical measures for us are the weight of butter fat and the weight of milk solids contained in the lot.” Gorman continues. “Protean allows us to track this on a lot-by-lot basis.”
When Pritchitt Foods processes a particular lot, it produces two outputs, butterfat in suspension and milk solids in suspension. Protean allows manufacturing to create a production model with one input and two outputs. Gorman states that this kind of output was impossible to achieve with the original standard MRP system.
Gorman describes Protean as software that enables “change without modification”. What this really means is that 90% of production changes can be made within the software itself (i.e. the software is customisable) without any problems.
Gorman states that, “business benefits have already been achieved through better data capture…better sales performance via improved sales analysis information, improved forecasting and planning, reduced stock holdings resulting from improvements in forecasting and planning, and improved stock management facilities and stock visibility.”
Author: Dean Palmer