14 Oct Preactor Wraps up a Successful Scheduling Solution for Yorkshire Fresh Salads
Yorkshire Fresh Salads, part of the market leading Geest Group, is a specialist producer of packed salad and vegetable products, supplying to household name stores such as Asda. Produce is sourced from various companies, from local market gardens to suppliers in countries such as Spain and Italy. Orders for packed leaf products can as much as double in the summer compared with the winter, but demand is strong throughout the year. With a wide variety of orders arriving each day, and with an increasing number of products having to be processed, Yorkshire Fresh Salads realised it needed a more flexible scheduling software solution as part of its overall business process system. This is how the company came to rely on Preactor International for its complex and time-critical planning and scheduling operations.
Each day raw food produce first enters the site at Goods-In. Produce then moves to the preparation (Prep) stage. From here it goes through a rigorous wash system. After drying, produce is weighed and put into white crates. These are then issued to the company’s production lines. From here they are sealed and taken to the collection area where they are packed into despatch crates (‘outers’), and then strapped on to pallets. The precise amount of time produce spends in the production area depends on a host of different factors.
Prior to using the Preactor Advanced Planning & Scheduling system (APS) Yorkshire Fresh Salads had relied largely on an Excel spreadsheet. “This meant that if someone, say, changed some of the standard data in the Bills of Materials (BoM) in our Protean MRP software system these changes wouldn’t automatically show on the Excel spreadsheet,” said Yorkshire Fresh Salads Planning Supervisor, Paul Cope. “It had to be manually adjusted. Because of the growth of the company, and the wider range of products we had to process, we realised we needed to source a system that would allow us to more easily import and export data. The amount of time wasted using the previous system also meant that the new scheduling system would also have to save us a lot of time.”
Cope explained the limitations of the company’s previous scheduling system in terms of overall visibility and flexibility. “When we used Excel for our scheduling processes, we had separate spreadsheets for different processes and didn’t have clear simultaneous visibility throughout our complete operation.” Geest had previously begun using Preactor APS at various other companies within the Group.
Because of the impressive benefits and results it was then decided to roll the system out to more sites, including that of Yorkshire Fresh Salads. “Before transferring to another Geest company, the Planning Manager at the time attended various planning forums with managers from other Geest sites,” said Cope. “Here he learned about the Best-of-Breed planning tools. Then a Geest implementation team came on site to configure the Best-of-Breed system, of which Preactor was an important integral part. I then visited Preactor’s HQ in Chippenham to learn more about the system and to talk with Preactor personnel about required elements of customisation. With Preactor’s guidance, modifications were then made internally.” After a short implementation period of five months, Preactor APS went live in January 2002, on schedule.
Preactor is now a critical part of the company’s Best-of-Breed planning tool. The APS system works in conjunction with Protean, Yorkshire Fresh Salad’s MRP system containing all the company’s BoM and product information. This includes the various salad ingredients that go into each bag ready for delivery to the retail outlet. It also includes packaging codes and all costing information.
All yield information is built in as well, such as percentage of yield loss during the preparation and packing processes. All these bills are then imported into a program called RGP (Recipe Generation Program). This is an interface to obtain the BoM from Protean and import to Preactor. Yorkshire Fresh Salads can then access Preactor and easily extract the BoM from RGP.
“Since we have been using Preactor we have had real time visibility of all the stages of food preparation throughout our plant,” explained Cope. “With Excel we had to cut and paste scheduling data all the time, and this could be very time consuming. With Preactor’s Gantt charts it is easy to drag and drop and to change a schedule within seconds. This has speeded up the whole process and has proven especially helpful now that we have more bagged products in terms of volume and variety. When we started using Excel we could keep things ticking over because we only had 5 main products. However we now have considerably more and Preactor has proved invaluable.”
Another major benefit Preactor has delivered is the ability to schedule routine maintenance and hygiene requirements. In addition it can ensure workflow is running at optimum efficiency, for example, during peak periods. Potential bottlenecks can be resolved more easily.
Preactor International Managing Director, Mike Novels, says of the project: “We have been working with the Geest Group for a number of years, in fact they were among the first in the fresh food processing sector to use Preactor APS. They have excellent staff that we enjoy working with and both companies have gained much from the partnership between us”.