Most of Eurilait’s produce comes from twenty dairies owned by its €6.1bn parent companies Laita and Eurial in France, in addition to specialty cheeses from over fifteen trusted suppliers across Europe.
Eurilait delivers daily an assortment of various types of cheeses, in different sizes and weights (each individually cut, packaged and labelled) to a hundred retailer depots across the UK. Around a fifth are delivered directly to retailers from France, with eight outbound lorries a week crossing the Channel.
Some of its better known brands include France’s best-selling goat’s cheese, Soignon, as well as Boursin and Galbani mozzarella, although the majority of sales are from supplying supermarket own-brand platters and assortments for the likes of Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Asda.
Given the varied shelf life and production times for certain types of cheeses and demand fluctuating greatly throughout the year – sales spike up to a thousand percent during the run up to Christmas – Eurilait and its parent companies have equipped themselves with supply chain forecasting software from FuturMaster. The technology helps plan a long time ahead what to produce and when, as well as how to manage the peaks and troughs (of demand and supply) so that the right cheeses hit the shelves at the right time in the right quantities.
Steven Smith, supply chain manager at Eurilait, says that sales for November and December are higher than the rest of the year combined, and that the company has to start planning for peak sales at Christmas up to a year ahead.
“It’s a huge task for production and if you’re not prepared and ready for selling whichever cheese boards or camemberts are most sought-after at Christmas, you’re too late and have probably missed your window.”
From early in September, preparations ramp up a gear, with more seasonal staff being employed and double shifts to start cutting longer-life hard cheeses, like cheddar, to exact size and weight requirements. Depending on cheese aging and shelf-life – for instance, to coincide with when brie or camemberts (popular for baking at Christmas) reach maturity – production and supply is carefully planned and phased up to a peak in mid-December when up to a hundred employees are required on double shifts preparing every line.
After implementing FuturMaster’s demand planning software in 2016 for forecasting all its 400 different products, then adding materials planning software across Europe in 2017, since the start of 2018, Eurilait has been able to use the system more fully based on the valuable insights and accumulated data from previous years’ Christmas sales.
“We were reliant on a very rudimentary Excel-based system before, with huge amounts of manual effort and guess work,” says Smith. “Now, we’ve improved our visibility to plan ahead for Christmas and can reduce the risks of over or under-stocking.”