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PFF Packaging Group

PFF Packaging Group is one of the UK’s largest independent food packaging manufacturers with over 25 years of experience.

Business Imperative

Formed in 2006 as two companies – one company manufacturing extruded PET plastic, two-thirds of which was sold to third parties, and one company using this as a raw material for the production of thermoformed food packaging products – family-owned PFF Packaging Group recognised that its existing systems were acting as a brake on growth.

Based in Keighley, West Yorkshire, and with an extensive customer base within the UK supermarket sector, the lack of real-time information provided by its existing systems was holding back its effectiveness in responding to customers’ fast-evolving requirements.

“Consumers’ demand for particular foodstuffs is largely seasonably dependent, requiring supermarkets – and their suppliers – to respond very quickly,” says Stephen Tomlinson, PFF’s Head of Group IT. “The previous systems, supported by an extensive set of spreadsheets, struggled to deliver the necessary real-time visibility into the business.”

PFF’s core remit has always been to deliver, in full, the client’s requirements. Therefore, the challenges for PFF were customer delivery, customer service, control of stock and a need for real flexibility in production planning.

Challenge

A review of the ERP marketplace quickly resulted in a recognition that some of the solutions on offer were too expensive, while others would fail to supply adequate functionality. Still, others appeared to be very complex to both set up and operate.

“The expectation had been that PFF would be doing the bulk of the implementation work itself, with users actively involved,” says Tomlinson. “With some of the systems out there, that simply wasn’t going to work.”

At which point, the management of a local manufacturing company recommended taking a look at Exel Computer Systems, and its EFACS E/8 ERP system. This manufacturer, it turned out, was a very satisfied Exel client, and couldn’t imagine that EFACS would not meet the needs of PFF as well.

The way forward was clear: Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 ERP system. The contract was signed, and implementation duly began.

Why Exel?

Like PFF itself, Exel Computer Systems was a British business, aiming to punch above its weight in a crowded marketplace. Moreover, Exel was the developer of EFACS E/8, rather than a reseller. Significantly, too, it was agreed that Exel would further develop the EFACS quotations module, in such a way so as to better suit the needs of PFF.

And while EFACS contained a lot of valuable best practices ‘out of the box’, it was also clear that Exel’s powerful customisation and workflow toolsets could genuinely enable PFF to work in the way that it wanted to, flexibly and reactively.

Finally, rapid and powerful traceability functionality remained high on PFF’s list of required features – and here, thanks to the use of batch control, EFACS excelled.

“In the end, it seems that the decision more or less made itself,” sums up Tomlinson.

Implementation

To begin with, a production ‘model’ was designed to suit the very different needs of the two manufacturing businesses within the group.

The implementation progress slowed at this point as PFF acquired another thermoforming business in Washington, Tyne & Wear; the integration of this business into PFF absorbed a great deal of management time and attention.

As senior PFF management led the reorganisation and integration efforts of the group, it was clear that EFACS would, on paper, also be an ideal solution for the Washington business, now known as PFF Packaging North East.

“It had almost everything that the business needed,” comments Tomlinson.

The new EFACS system went ‘live’ at the Keighley site after a short period of parallel running. This was used as a model for the Washington site which went ‘live’ in mid-2018. By March 2019 implementation was complete for the group as a whole.

Business Benefits

“The impact has been significant,” says Tomlinson. “PFF now has the required real-time visibility into its operations, leading to greater responsiveness. The focus on the implementation of batch control has given significant benefits in all aspects of the business, especially in stock control, finished goods management and delivery to customers.”

“The business’ traceability capability has been transformed, with traceability queries taking just minutes, rather than days. The provision of management information to users has been greatly enhanced, not least through EFACS’ integrated Microsoft Power BI capabilities. Operationally, warehouse receipt and delivery processes have been streamlined.”

A further benefit – largely unanticipated at the time of the original purchase decision – has been the achievement of significantly improved machine-level planning and scheduling, which has led to greater manufacturing efficiencies.

“The integration of Visual Planning, a third-party tool, with the EFACS Database has enabled PFF Packaging Group to establish a highly specialised planning process for master production. The, now, real-time planning and scheduling capability continues to improve the business’ performance.”

“The implementation of EFACS within PFF Packaging Group introduced many challenges, for both PFF and Exel. In all aspects, the efforts to overcome these challenges have been completely justified.”

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