Best Maid
657ca4a5cf8231001e4c25a9 Pickle Factory

A Pickle Manufacturer’s Dilemma Is Solved with Tech

Dec. 18, 2023
Best Maid had trouble keeping up with and certifying its growing business, until smart manufacturing came to the rescue.

Founded in 1926, Best Maid Pickles has grown to become Texas's largest pickle manufacturer, specializing in various pickled products and niche pickled vegetables. As the organization expanded, the need for better data management, integrated systems, a serialized inventory system and Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF) certification became apparent. To tackle these obstacles and enhance operations, Best Maid embarked on a journey to embrace smart manufacturing technology.

The implementation of a cloud-based manufacturing ERP solution delivered significant returns on investment (ROI) and drove improvements in efficiency and revenue.

Addressing the Challenge

Across the food and beverage industry, the adoption of smart manufacturing technologies, while extremely desirable, has been slowed by concerns around cost, lack of knowledge and lack of skills. As Rockwell Automation’s recent State of Smart Manufacturing report on the Consumer Packaged Goods market found, 36% of industry leaders believe that the deployment of technology and the use of data present significant internal challenges.

Like many other food and beverage manufacturers, Best Maid Pickles faced a number of challenges. The absence of digital manufacturing systems resulted in a reliance on a disjointed legacy database and manual data management through Excel spreadsheets. This lack of integration created hurdles in efficiently managing inventory, necessitating five days of manual audits per month. Moreover, production planning was limited, as the production schedule was written just one day before execution. As the company grew in size and complexity, the need for a serialized inventory system became apparent to facilitate prompt and efficient recalls. Additionally, achieving SQF certification required a dedicated inventory system to ensure compliance with critical food safety standards.

Crafting the Strategy

In 2016, Best Maid embarked on a mission to find suitable manufacturing software solution that included both ERP and manufacturing execution system (MES) functionality. The organization sought a cloud-based system to avoid the complexities and costs associated with hardware requirements and logistics. Leadership chose Plex for its purpose-built functionality for the manufacturing floor and its granular and detailed implementation roadmap for integrating the new ERP and MES solutions.

The implementation project commenced in February 2017, culminating in the successful launch of the solution in August that same year. The entire implementation process was accomplished without the assistance of a third-party implementation partner. However, an on-call consultant was within 30 minutes away to assist if needed

Enhanced Operations and ROI 

Improved Inventory Management

Prior to the implementation, Best Maid struggled with inventory management due to a disjointed legacy database system. The new ERP solution brought digitization and automation to the inventory management process. As a result, raw material holdings were reduced from six to 12 months to just six to 18 weeks, leading to an annual reduction of $500,000 in raw material inventory costs. Moreover, manual processes were replaced, eliminating $50,000 in annual lost revenue from mislabeled items. Advanced demand forecasting capabilities allowed Best Maid to eliminate 1% of annual raw material spoilage, resulting in increased safety stock confidence.

Streamlined Order-to-Cash Process

The new system played a pivotal role in simplifying Best Maid's order-to-cash process, with the digitalization of operations empowering timely deliveries—which are especially important to major customers. Best Maid achieved its target of delivering orders within the three-day window to avoid penalties. Before the transition, over 1% of orders to major customers incurred penalties due to delays, impacting over 50% of the company's revenue. By eliminating these penalties through efficient order management, Best Maid significantly improved customer satisfaction and revenue streams.

Enhanced Financial Management

The changes also brought substantial improvements to Best Maid's financial management processes, reducing the financial closing process from four months to just four weeks. This enabled the company to close the books every month more efficiently. The software’s financial reporting capabilities provided valuable insights into cost expenditure and profitability. This newfound clarity allowed Best Maid to optimize pricing strategies, resulting in a 3% increase in annual sales.

Cost Considerations and Lessons Learned

The primary cost for Best Maid during the implementation was the base subscription cost for Plex. Additionally, expenses included maintenance add-ons, web services connections, MES Automation and Orchestration (A&O) system integration, implementation consulting, training, ongoing support and hardware upgrades and maintenance.

Best Maid's experience highlights the importance of thorough research into hardware compatibility when deploying shopfloor hardware alongside an ERP system, ensuring a seamless implementation process. The company also emphasizes the advantages of cloud deployment, citing version standardization, resilience during upgrades and scalability as essential benefits.

Leveraging Smart Manufacturing 

Best Maid Pickles' success story stands as a testament to the transformative impact of smart manufacturing technology. With the new technology, the company efficiently tackled inventory management challenges, streamlined the order-to-cash process and enhanced financial management.

The implementation delivered a significant ROI through reduced costs and increased revenue, empowering Best Maid for sustained growth and success.

As manufacturers across the industry look to future-proof their operations, the Best Maid Pickles journey illustrates how embracing smart manufacturing technology can drive efficiency, productivity and profitability. By leveraging technology, companies can position themselves for a thriving future in the ever-evolving manufacturing landscape.

Gerry Abbey is analyst relations manager, Rockwell Automation. Lance Heinen is vice president of supply chain and finance, Best Maid Pickles. 

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