Pasta Concepts uses Access ERP to improve visibility and traceability

Conor McGarry

Financial Controller

Pasta Concepts is a supplier of frozen pasta products to food retailers across the UK, part of The Culinary Food Group, Ireland and the continent. Following its Access ERP implementation, the company has achieved greater traceability, improved resource planning and reduced its manual processes which combined, have decreased overheads by 10%.

Growing Pains

Established in 1996, owned by the Queally Dawn group, Pasta Concepts found itself facing typical growing pains as it made the transition from small to medium-sized business.

While it experienced the obvious benefits of being part of Ireland’s largest privately-owned agri-food company – such as the acquisition of new customers and an increase in capital – this growth also introduced new levels of complexity into the business. An increasing amount of regulation, (such as retail audits), expansion of facilities, movement into retail sector and demand for ever sophisticated products were key factors that prompted the move from a basic accounting system to a fully functional ERP solution.

Having considered several vendors, Conor McGarry, Financial Controller, was particularly impressed by the Access ERP solution.

“The consultancy was also of an excellent standard; their people convinced me that they really understood our business needs.”

 

Demand for information

Like any responsible food manufacturer, Pasta Concepts wanted to be sure that they’d be able to meet requests for detailed product information – enabling them to deal confidently with, for example, product recalls or retail audits. While all the relevant information was meticulously documented within the previous set-up, a lack of integration made it time-consuming to manage and difficult to extract.

Take the company’s new product development process. This centres on a large number of internally produced templates termed NPDs. Each contains a mine of information, collecting everything from detailed ingredient/ recipe data to packaging specs, plus all the associated QA information such as test results, chemical analysis and nutritional information.

On the old system, this documentation was created by separate teams and re-keyed. Not only was managing this amount of data becoming cumbersome (each works order could have around 10 new product development documents sheets associated with it); the process was open to the risk of data duplication and errors that could impact the quality of the overall product.

In addition, a lack of integration on the stock/warehousing side of the business also meant that analysis e.g. finding out which pallets were despatched on a given day, was time-consuming and never fully up-to-date.

To create visibility across the business, Access centralised all this information, integrating, for example, hand-held barcoding scanners, NPDs and stock data
with the central accounts.

By linking these different sources, Conor and the rest of his team can now see, in real-time, the full chain of events from initial order through to despatch to retailers. Access then implemented a number of tools to improve overall planning and design processes. This has had several key benefits.

MRP (Material Requirements Planning) Pasta Concepts has carved itself a niche in bespoke product development; this comes with the challenge of meeting turnaround times of around three weeks (as opposed to their competitors’ six). Access implemented the MRP functionality to help the company increase margins on new business.

Conor continues,

“The challenge is getting the right products into a very small buying window – the work itself typically begins as much as two years’ in advance and encompasses lots of product trials and modifications."

"What the new system has done is provided us with the systematic approach we needed. Access ERP gives us definitive lead times so we can say with confidence that we’ll deliver on time.”

 

Product design

A second challenge is creating similar-yet-different products.

“Naturally, competing customers don’t want the same products on the shelves – we never end up selling the same things twice,” says Conor.

“Previously, product configuration could take some time as we’d have to start each order from scratch. Now the NPD dept has the potential to configure new and similar products using information that’s already in the system. It’s made things a lot simpler.”


The functionality in point is Item Definition – part of the software that enables Conor to translate customers’ requirements into accurate product definitions, based on how the product is made, its materials, lead times and other required resources.

 

Traceability


Merging the NPD information along with the warehousing and stock side of the business has given Pasta Concepts the end-to-end traceability they needed.

“I’m confident that the information we’re using is accurate and up-to-date, and it’s much more accessible,” says Conor.

“Say I wanted to find out what was produced on a given day, with full detail of batch and serial numbers. Previously, this would have taken hours - now it’s there at a click of a button, which is good to know should we need to recall products for example.”

 

Tangible benefits

“I’m very happy with our Access ERP solution. It’s increased visibility, traceability and by eliminating manual processes, has given us the potential to cut overheads by 20%. And I’m delighted to say that we’ve already realised 10% of that.”