A Case Study in Implementing a Batching Process Inventory Tracking Solution
A major beverage company identified a deficiency in the process used for blending their products. GP Strategies was contacted to evaluate the process and offer solutions. Based on the findings of this evaluation, a technology solution was developed and implemented.
The GP Strategies Solution
GP Strategies studied batching operations at several key facilities in the customer’s Southeast and Great West business units. The methods in place for verifying ingredients prior to batching consisted of a paper printout with checklists to be completed by Quality Control personnel. Personnel verifying the accuracy of the ingredients were often unfamiliar with the product being produced or the process of blending the product, as this was not their primary role. After observing the process, the GP Strategies team outlined the following proposed solutions:
- Develop a custom barcode scanning system to verify the correct ingredients are added to the batch
- Improve operating procedures
- Implement a training program to teach batching personnel the process for using the new technology
Once the areas of improvement and solutions were identified, GP Strategies began a proof of concept effort in scanning ingredient barcodes to verify the ingredients. Additional functionalities for the system were discovered, discussed, piloted, and implemented. The additional capabilities included the following:
- Inventory tracking
- Lot number traceability
- Additional reporting capabilities
The technology solution that resulted from the continual refinement and interaction is much more robust and provides more functionality than the initial conceptual system. Version 1 of the system allowed for the scanning of unitized ingredients for both the customer’s core and non-core products. Inventory is scanned into the system and a real-time inventory list is viewable at any point in production. The hardware used for this solution consisted of a laptop PC and mobile scanning computers.
Approximately one year into system use, the ingredient supply stream for the customer changed. The primary ingredient supplier for the customer underwent a merger. One of the results of this merger was the introduction of bulk dry ingredients into the production process. This presented a new challenge for the Quality Control group and GP Strategies was again asked to consult. After meeting with leadership and Quality Control personnel, a system was proposed that would allow the Quality Control group to package and label the bulk salts in-house. The label was designed to include a barcode that contained information such as:
- Ingredient identification
- Lot number identification
- Quantity of ingredient
Additional programming was developed to allow the scanners and computer to decode the barcode from the new labels, and the functionality of the system was preserved. A SharePoint site was launched and each customer location given access to the site. All software updates, training documents, and other shared documents are exchanged through this site.
The Batch Verification System has been fully deployed to 33 plant locations throughout the Southeast, Great West, and Central business units. All deployed sites have not experienced a batch loss since the launch of the system. This is an improvement of, on average, one batch loss per site per year prior to the system launch. Initial analyses based on stated batch losses prior to system launch suggests that each site deployed has prevented, on average, one lost batch per year with an average batch cost of over $50,000.