Tropos proves to be a banger for Blakemans

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Sausage maker James T Blakeman has seen a capital return in under 36 months through improved planning accuracy and stock control after switching to Solarsoft’s Tropos ERP system.

The company has supplied sausage and meat products to domestic and export catering firms and the fast food market for 50 years, and is still owned and run by the Blakeman family.

Blakemans, along with its sister company James T Blakeman (Services), which supplies cooked sausage and meat products to the ready meal and contract cooking markets, operates from a production facility in Newcastle-under-Lyme with combined annual sales of £22 million.

Key to meeting customer standards is the ability to operate an efficient and consistent production process.

Prior to implementing Tropos, Blakeman’s managers found it difficult to complete accurate reports or track raw ingredients to finished products.

Managing director Phil Blakeman says: “Although a manual production record was made at the end of each day, it was becoming inaccurate and our costs were rising. Management was also burdened with far too much paperwork.” The company recognised that it needed a computer-based system, capable of providing full traceability and better quality control.

“Tropos immediately gave us a much clearer picture of orders and the production schedule which allowed us to do better planning,” says Blakeman. “Tropos helped us cut waste and increase production because it provides the information our operations managers need to make better decisions.”

The system also enables Blakemans to provide clients with live data and instant traceability of every movement.

The project first went live in August 2004 and by June 2006 the company had seen a steady growth in sales and increased demand for added-value products, which led it to invest £4.4m in consolidating and doubling capacity at its production facility with 20,000 sq ft of additional floor space and a new distribution centre.

Up to this point, the Solarsoft system had been used solely by the primary manufacturing business, but with all operations now consolidated at a single location Blakeman made the decision to roll out Tropos to James T Blakeman (Services) too.

Blakeman says: “The payback comes because we can see and easily update the schedule to keep our lines busy and we have transformed stock control and stock rotation.”

The company is now keen to extend the system to its customers. “More and more customers want greater visibility of our business so that they can plan ahead,” says Blakeman. “We’d like to meet this need by allowing clients to view their own accounts, previous ordering patterns and trigger new orders. E-commerce will be a key part of the full service partnership we offer our customers.”

Blakemans could also extend the service to its suppliers, multiplying the productivity and efficiency benefits along the supply chain by allowing them to line up stock in advance of orders from the company.

Blakeman says: “We’ve seen a capital return in under 36 months and we’ve gained a competitive advantage. While we could run the business without the software, we’d be playing in the same ballpark as our competitors, with manual systems and inefficient processes.

“It would be much harder to win the big names as clients. We’d need more people to handle the same workload too. Solarsoft allows us to be more competitive in the market, gives us credibility with our clients and enables me to run a profitable business.”

Blakeman estimates that without the Solarsoft system the business would need to employ two to three more people in quality control and the planning office, and would be 15 to 20 per cent less efficient in production with corresponding benefits in inventory management.

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