Olde Thompson Spices Up Forecasting And Heats Up Growth With Plex
You can’t drive growth with bad data. No business knows that better than Olde Thompson, the world’s largest manufacturer of salt and pepper mills. When the company shifted its focus from housewares to spices a decade ago, the business took off immediately – and the leadership team was hungry to maintain the trajectory.
“Plex DemandCaster has gone above and beyond what we expected. The platform gives us tremendous flexibility as far as using a previous item as a basis for forecasting a new one, or simply plugging in a different package size for an existing product and predicting demand based on that.”Marcus Merchant Director of IT
Forecasting for a better bottom line
Shortly after Olde Thompson went live with Plex, its attention turned to supply chain planning. Merchant and his team wanted to clean up the company’s master data to set more accurate lead times and increase supplier accountability. Olde Thompson implemented Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning in just 60 days, with near immediate results. Olde Thompson uses the system to track lead times for all of its suppliers, enabling it to catch up on raw materials ordering and establish a safety stock for its growing customer base.
“Before Plex DemandCaster, we were spinning our wheels,” Merchant explains. “We would regularly run out of raw materials on the shop floor. We were constantly flipping orders, rushing to get something on a truck today. By planning and keeping stock for our top-tier customers, we’ve been able to fill far more of their orders while at the same time slashing our air freight costs.”
Plex DemandCaster’s web interface displays forecasting data and allows users to run scenarios and see their impact. Its back engine drives the MRP engine. All team members see the same data from planning to execution and can work collaboratively to improve the bottom line.
“Not only did we implement safety stock functionality to ensure we could meet the needs of our top customers, but we’re also using manual forecasting that lets our sales reps punch it in when they get a call from a customer saying they’re going to purchase an extra 10,000 units next month,” says Merchant. “This is a huge help in our overall ability to service customers.”
Meanwhile, Olde Thompson’s whole team has visibility into supplier performance, preventing them from getting caught off guard by delayed shipments.
“In the past, if supplies didn’t come in, we’d call the vendor and hear, ‘Oh, it hasn’t even been put on the ship yet,’ so we’d be looking at a 30- or 45-day delay,” Merchant explains. “Today, with Plex DemandCaster, we can see those delays as they’re happening and get in touch with suppliers sooner—and we can also look at supplier history to see how accurate their estimates have been so that we can plan accordingly.”
Olde Thompson’s business is remarkably stable, with little seasonality. But that hasn’t stopped the company from finding many unexpected uses for Plex DemandCaster.
“Plex DemandCaster has gone above and beyond what we expected,” Merchant says. “The platform gives us tremendous flexibility as far as using a previous item as a basis for forecasting a new one, or simply plugging in a different package size for an existing product and predicting demand based on that.”
"Before Plex DemandCaster, we were spinning our wheels. We would regularly run out of raw materials on the shop floor. We were constantly flipping orders, rushing to get something on a truck today. By planning and keeping stock for our top-tier customers, we’ve been able to fill far more of their orders while at the same time slashing our air freight costs.”
Reducing inventory by $10 million during rapid growth
Thanks to the efficiency of doing business on Plex, Olde Thompson is approaching just-in-time delivery capabilities. The company has already reduced its inventory by $10 million. Savings like these have enabled the company to ramp up production without making a proportional increase in budget. And in the less than two years following Plex DemandCaster implementation, the company has become the largest private label spice supplier in the U.S.
“Our leadership has been ecstatic with how far our business has come in the last two years,” says Merchant. “We’ve gained significant capacity and generated far more revenue without having to increase headcount at the same rate. We’ve seen consistent growth without the expense and hassle of building a new production facility.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic arose in early 2020, Olde Thompson didn’t suffer a drop-off in business like so many smaller companies. In fact, its volume in March 2020 reached double the company’s monthly average. Revenue broke the company’s monthly record by 40 percent. This only presented Olde Thompson with more intense challenges— ones that Plex is helping the company meet.
“The demand in the food world hasn’t changed, but it’s shifting from the food service industry to the grocery industry as people ate out much less during the pandemic,” Merchant explains. “Plex has given us the visibility to know exactly who’s ordering what, the status of our supply chain and production, and what it’s going to take for us to keep service levels at 99 percent for a growing customer base. It’s an essential platform for the future of our business.”
"We’re now at nearly 99 percent on-time and in-full deliveries, which is extremely rare. That’s thanks in large part to Plex— and it’s opening the door to new business.”"
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