Food Manufacturer

This £18M turnover company, part of a larger group, is typical of many small manufacturers under pressure from retailers on cost, with increasingly complex product ranges that come in ever smaller runs.

Prevailing conditions included

          • A standard finance software package, a CRM package and a rudimentary system built to house the bills of materials, but most everything else is run on Excel spreadsheets and bits of paper. This includes planning and scheduling, budgeting (the donkey work before it’s entered into the finance system), sales forecasting and sales reports, and all the management reports.
          • There’d been various attempts at implementing ‘lean’ in operations, even having some consultants in at some point, but most things had been done in Excel – again – and the various boards and reports had long since been stopped being used, and any performance gains had disappeared or been swallowed somehow.
          • An operations team who felt hampered by lack of investment, and that any gains were just given away by commercial, and a commercial team frustrated by operations inability to perform to the costs that everybody agreed were needed to retain the customer.

Industry specialists Applied Acumen were chosen to help diagnose and propose how to fix this.

The bedrock of performance improvement is having the right data to take the correct decisions at the appropriate time and place in the organisation.

The first step was to map the data sources and systems that housed them, identifying the gaps and the true needs within the business. Reviewing these in a ‘discovery’ session with the site management team – all of them, not just operations – was a crucial step to getting everyone ‘on the same page’; agreeing priorities, allocating responsibilities, and importantly ensuring that people understood the gaps were in process and systems, not the people!

The next step was to plug the gaps in data capture, clean up the data in the existing systems and install our data validation software – bits of cleverness which links up data sets, flushes out and corrects anomalies, and puts the data into formats which make sense to human beings. Bolting on our Power~BI reporting dashboards meant everyone from the front line managers to the Managing Director now had access to ‘one source of truth’.

Of course, there was a lot of work done in parallel, including training and development of shop floor and management, the development of improved process and management controls (carefully avoiding the long since derided textbook ‘lean’ phraseology). However, the key was having correct and useful information, the veracity of which was beyond question – acted upon far, far quicker.

Operations are able to identify profit improvement opportunities systematically and easily; the plan to hire a CI manager was changed since the line leaders themselves could see for themselves what to do – at a product level. Meanwhile, the planning manager was delighted to have a tool he could schedule the factory within 15 minutes, and track progress throughout the day, whilst also being able to model future demand scenarios.

Commercial were delighted to see exactly where margins sat, by product, and understand where and how these were under duress, and could collaborate more easily with operations to develop the product and the process.

Finance now has a set of standards and ratios which tie in with planning and sales, and can now also model demand scenarios in a P&L within minutes.

“Applied Acumen aren’t like the other guys. They really understood our business and culture, and actually delivered far more than I had hoped.  It wasn’t all plain sailing; there were some tough moments and we had to overcome a lot of entrenched views and skepticism, myself included – no one really likes consultants, do they? However,  AA delivered very quick results, and so [they] were quickly accepted as part of our team, were always supportive, and did an excellent job.”

Finance Director

“I will be using Applied again”
Managing Director