Whitworths, a UK food supplier to Tesco and Sainsbury’s, hopes to improve productivity and stock visibility with IFS Application 8.
The dried fruit, nut and seeds manufacturer will process business intelligence in real time, which will speed up its supply chain, stock management and factory operations in its Northamptonshire site.
“Our stock is key to us because we have long lead times for raw materials. If we need to buy more raisins we have to go to California, to Turkey or to Cyprus. Once we place an order, it could be anything up to 13 to 14 weeks before that stock comes onsite,” said Steve Griffiths, head of IT at Whitworths.
Long lead times mean Whitworths’ forecasting needs to be based on as near real-time information as possible. Deliveries, consumption, holding too much stock - or too little - needs to be accounted for.
It is migrating to IFS Applications 8 after an almost 20-year struggle with its legacy BPCS system. The business previously ran on BPCS, an IBM mid-range platform implemented following the millenium scare in 1999.
“It wasn’t put in well and we had pretty much been suffering from that since. It is quite limited, it works well enough for us to run a £165 million turnover company on it, but inadequate in many respects. We had to run many Excel spreadsheets, Access databases around the application to supplement its inadequacies,” Griffiths said.
Factory operations will be transformed within the next 18 months, Griffiths added. At present, staff rely on documenting their line operations manually, describing how many packs of food they have made, if machines have gone down or they are waiting for an item. The records are not processed until the next day.
Griffiths said IFS will allow that to happen in real time, allowing factory managers to look at a dashboard to see what is happening on the factory floor.
“They can see the lines, why we might have downtime and we will be in better control of our factory - consequentially our productivity will go up and we will be able to concentrate on what we need to do rather than fire-fighting,” he said.
With a team of three, Griffiths said that Whitworths, a single-site organisation, outsources IT wherever possible, allowing his staff more time to work on business-aligned projects.
IFS has written mobile applications for its salesforce to get data from core applications while on the move and engineers can look at part availability for machine fixes. It is about to begin testing on new Samsung smartphones it has rolled out to employees to replace legacy Nokia and Blackberry handsets.
The manufacturer is currently rolling out upgraded Cisco switches and the wireless infrastructure in the factories and warehouses to support the new IFS system.