Bishop explains that what is expected to sell over a fixed time period is now all driven by Warburtons, something that sets it apart from most competitors. The FuturMaster software determines what every retailer will typically be ordering in two days time, usually over a two year horizon. It then breaks down the total volumes for different products or regional locations so that operations are more efficiently managed for just-in-time deliveries. Each driver will deliver to twenty-five stores daily, making a total of around 17,000 deliveries a day.
“This is much better for everyone, as we don’t carry finished goods.”
The company, which employs over 4,500 people, has a team of three planners who manage up to 2,500 forecasts every day. They report on business volume performance and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to enable more effective business planning. The team are also responsible for managing promotional volumes and measuring the impact of other external factors such as advertising activity, or even the weather. But they don’t just look at the short term and daily retailer’ requirements, says Bishop. Thanks to the introduction of FuturMaster’s “portfolio forecasting” tool (during a second phase of the project, which went live in 2016), Warburtons can now project up to five years ahead and see what improvements can be made, and what cash benefits will they drive.
For instance, based on heightened sales of its Sandwich Alternative Range over the next few years, the software can predict capital expenditure needs that might require more kit for producing higher volumes in future.
Planning promotions with retailers – often up to a year ahead – is another benefit derived from using the FuturMaster software. As it works more closely in future with many more retailers focussing on their sales, waste, availability and forecasting data, further improvements are expected.
“The software allows us to very quickly analyse whether a particular promotion is realistic or not and see any resulting sales uplift,” says Bishop.
This has speeded up the process for national account managers working across the country and planning promotions with various customers. Before, it took almost a day every month trawling through multiple spreadsheets for each customer. Now it takes just thirty minutes. So for servicing a total of ten to fifteen customers, account managers now only have to spend two to three hours on administrative tasks, leaving much more time for selling and other important tasks.
Overall, Bishop says that Warburtons has been able to benefit from significant time savings – not only across its operations and production processes, but for customers as well – after implementing the FuturMaster software. So whereas previously there was a 65% to 35% split on administrative versus added-value tasks, now he estimates everyone spending just ten percent of time on admin, which has freed up ninety percent of time for strategic decision-making.
The project estimated savings of £430k over two years. And for a product like bread, freshness is paramount to success. So the improvements the company has made in ensuring its supply chain operates at the top of its game mean it’s sure to earn its daily crust.