In recent years, plant-based foods producer Alpro has made significant progress in making its supply chain more efficient, systematically taking advantage of the newest insights and solutions in supply chain planning. Achievements include accurate capacity-constrained optimization of overall equipment effectiveness, shorter throughput times leading to increased freshness and increased sales.
The ability to have quarantined products transported without losing track and to more accurately link forecasting with order and sales data are also positive outcomes. The most recent step forward is the creation of a true S&OE, connecting tactical and operational planning levels. “We now see our tactical decisions reflected in the production and logistics data,” says Alpro project manager Peter Decroos with some pride.
Alpro makes a wide variety of plant-based food products. With soya beans as a key ingredient, the range includes ambient, chilled and frozen products with varying shelf lives. While it’s a make-to-stock operation for the most part, significant volumes are order-based. And the business is growing fast, given the rising demand for healthy food. “This gives us the dual challenge of keeping track of growing demand and balancing production and storage capacities for the best value per cost ratio,” says Decroos.
A major breakthrough came a few years ago when Alpro implemented a new version of the OMP planning solution. “This version significantly speeded up the solvers, allowing us to begin tackling problems of a higher level of complexity,” says Decroos. “For example, it allowed us to implement the MPS solver in such a way that it optimizes overall equipment effectiveness over a wide range of parameters, including capacity constraint, set-up, shelf-life requirement, and batch size.” (see also ‘Optimized production planning supports increased sales volumes’)
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Managing products in quarantine was also taken a step further. “We arranged that the system would allow products to be transported to their target distribution center while they’re quarantined waiting for food safety clearance. This has an impact on the management of local storage, but OMP keeps track of all that, of course, including shelf life.”
“Everyone knows that this is a tricky exercise that requires a certain level of abstraction without getting too far removed from reality. But OMP delivered an innovative solution for this, providing a hybrid solver with a time horizon of 19 months, handling four months in weekly buckets and 15 months in monthly buckets.”
The third major improvement was forecast netting. Decroos: “We work with netting scenarios to be able to more precisely balance orders and sales with forecast data. Each day, the system creates a new ‘latest estimate’ snapshot, showing a full year view of projected sales, which helps us to continuously fine-tune forecast methods and netting scenarios.”
Only recently, Alpro completed the second phase of this comprehensive planning improvement project, setting up a S&OE organization and system.
Peter Kesteloot, Int. Supply Planning Manager at Alpro
“S&OE is all about connecting tactical decision-making with operational planning,” explains Decroos.
“This involves allocating machine capacities, defining production and cleaning cycles, planning ingredient and material sourcing, managing co-packers, and setting target stocks in different warehouses over the medium to long term.”
Shelf life management is among the toughest challenges in the food industry, especially since retailers tend to negotiate ever tighter contracts. “Retailers expect us to deliver our products with a high percentage of the total shelf life guaranteed,” says Alpro supply planning manager Peter Kesteloot.
“Since fresh products have a limited shelf life, we have a limited amount of throughput time to play with. And there are several uncertainties to be reckoned with. Think variation in demand, transport risks, weekends and holidays and available production flows. So, it’s essential to plan production of the various products carefully, optimizing sequencing and set-ups. OMP did a great job in giving us extra visibility on the decisions that we take. This was a crucial enabler to our significantly increased sales volumes.”
Peter Decroos, Supply Chain Optimization Manager at Alpro
OMP helps companies facing complex planning challenges to excel, grow and thrive by offering the best digitized supply chain planning solution on the market.
Its Unison PlanningTM concept has a unique approach. It handles all supply chain planning challenges in a unified way, synchronizing all planning stages, horizons, functions and roles. From source to deliver. From strategic to operational planning. From leadership teams to schedulers.
Hundreds of customers run OMP’s cloud-based solution to generate more value by making informed decisions. Valued as a thought leader by experts as Gartner, OMP invests one out of every three dollars earned into innovation.
OMP was implemented at Alpro’s central planning team. Features include: