The base for better decision-making
Globachem improves forecasting and planning with Optimact
To overcome the shortcomings of its ERP system, Globachem used to make its forecasts using numerous Excels. Not only was this process very time-consuming, but it was also hard to obtain an accurate picture of the supply chain situation. That is why the crop protection company called on Xeleos Consulting for help. Today, the Optimact solution provides a faster and more transparent view. In a following step, planning was also optimised through the software. Head of Supply Chain John Vanderstraeten and Supply Chain Coordinator Arnaud Doucé comment on this twofold project and present the (preliminary) results.
Who is Globachem ?
Globachem is an international, family-owned agrochemical company headquartered in Sint-Truiden, Belgium. Since its establishment in 2000, it is specialised in developing, registering, and marketing high-quality crop protection products for agriculture and horticulture. These are sold to major national distributors in some forty countries. Last year, Globachem generated a turnover of around €200 million.
Globachem invests heavily in the development of its own innovative products. In doing so, the R&D team goes in search of the crop protection products of the future. Globachem Discovery, the UK-based division, is proficiently and efficiently working to develop new molecules. In Belgium, the company relies on specialised researchers and the required infrastructure to quickly screen these and other molecules and further develop them into high-quality products.
John Vanderstraeten: “The formulation, packaging and labelling of all products is conducted in collaboration with professional European partners. As there are so many different formulations, it is not feasible for us to produce all of them ourselves. We therefore call on specialists who turn our ingredients into finished products. However, we do coordinate and control all the steps in the process ourselves.”
Finished products are either supplied directly to customers or are first stored in the warehouse in Sint-Truiden. That warehouse has 14,000 pallet spaces and holds a flexible labelling line. In total, some 15,000 references are stored there. A sophisticated supply chain network enables Globachem to supply customers quickly. By responding to its customers’ needs and requirements rapidly, Globachem also wants to differentiate itself from other major players.
The company’s launch of its own subsidiary in Brazil in 2021 boosts its international ambitions. The plan is to set up a subsidiary in China as well. Meanwhile, some 120 employees are working for Globachem, representing as many as twenty different nationalities.
Moving away from Excel
To support decision-making across its supply chain network, Globachem had been relying on Excel sheets for years. But the required flexibility and high complexity – the network comprises fifteen production sites across Europe, for example – made it challenging for Globachem to get an overall view and make solid decisions. A lot of time was also lost in downloading, manipulating, and preparing the data for use in Excel. That data was also rapidly dated and not integrated with the systems of colleagues.
A year and a half ago, Globachem decided to try a different approach. “At the time, we had just implemented a new ERP package, Dynamics 365. That did include a forecasting and MRP module, but it did not contain all the functionality to give us the required flexibility in this complex environment,” says John Vanderstraeten. “That’s why we started looking for high-performance add-ons for forecasting and MRP.”
“We talked to many players in the market. But most of them asked us to radically change our processes for their product to perform well. We didn’t want to do that,” he continues. “However, we felt that Xeleos Consulting really listened to our needs. After two meetings, it was clear to everybody in the project team that this was the party we wanted to work with. We finally made the decision in the middle of last year.”
Forecast optimisation first
To begin with, Globachem decided to tackle forecasting together with Xeleos Consulting. “Previously, forecasts were entered in Excel and then transferred to our ERP system. Since the arrival of Optimact, we now receive daily updates of all the changes made by the sales team,” explains Arnaud Doucé. “This allows us to take immediate action if needed, which means a huge step forward. It offers the sales team a much larger overview as well, enabling them to reach better forecasts.”
What was significant for Globachem was that Xeleos Consulting was able to provide a solution for the minimum and maximum forecast, which is specific to Globachem’s business. This implies that account managers will often use not one, but two forecasts for specific customers. The minimum forecast is what the customer will definitely take; the maximum forecast is the volume the customer might take further into the season.
Xeleos Consulting built and configured this minimum and maximum forecast for Globachem in Optimact. To reach an optimal minimum and maximum forecast, a large amount of extra information which was not taken into account in the past, historical data for instance, is now included in the application. That data is then picked up by the MRP system to formulate purchase and production proposals in the best possible way.
Arnaud Doucé: “The MRP now calculates the minimum we need to produce at customer level. Then the system calculates the difference between the minimum and maximum quantity of manufactured product that can be used by each customer. The system also makes proposals to stock up on certain volumes so that we can quickly respond to any unexpected demands in the market.”
It is a little early for Globachem to present hard figures on the long-term improvement of the forecast. “However, we do know that our extremely inefficient process, which involved entering and re-entering a lot of data, is gone,” says John Vanderstraeten. “We are also provided with reports that show us how far in advance the forecast is starting to be accurate. Over time, those reports will provide us with a wealth of information on customers and products. Another benefit is that we now have a rolling forecast of up to 18 months.”
A clearer overview for planning
Once forecasting was on track, the time was right to optimise the planning component. Xeleos Consulting ensured that the planning of production and purchasing is managed entirely within Optimact. The supply chain and production steps across sites were integrated and made transparent. As a result, the planner quickly obtains an overall picture, which enables immediate and efficient decision-making. A number of planning steps were automated in the process.
“That solution has only been operational for a few months, but our first impression is already a positive one. We can already tell that it has increased our efficiency. With Optimact, we can plan more proactively as the application offers suggestions and triggers which enable our planners to respond more quickly. This is particularly important in these turbulent times. We can now organise our raw materials, auxiliary materials and production in good time and continuously check the planning against the data in Optimact. The planning board in the system further ensures that we do not overlook anything.”
Some twenty employees at Globachem are currently working with Optimact. These are planners and customer service staff as well as account managers who deal directly with customers.
A. Doucé: “Of course, a new system always takes some getting used to, but our employees rapidly embraced it. Even more so because they discovered its advantages quickly. For instance, it was immediately clear to the account managers that the system made forecasting easier and more accurate. They can also retrieve explanatory charts, for example of historical data. That makes everything extremely visible. I myself was involved in the project from day one, but my colleagues in the planning department initially had less affinity with the project content. To create sufficient support among that group of people as well, we still have follow-up meetings. In these, we simulate situations we encounter daily within Optimact, for instance, and we try to deal with them by means of the tool. We also regularly share best practices. In this way, the planners are becoming increasingly aware of the added value of the tool.”
One of the main obstacles during implementation was the interface that had to be built to give Optimact the necessary daily input from the ERP system. For example, booked sales orders, production orders and purchase orders. Building that interface was more complicated than expected, which resulted in some unforeseen delays.
A Doucé: “In fact, Xeleos Consulting couldn’t do much about it, but they did work out a temporary solution for us. More specifically, they uploaded a dataset for us at the time, so that we could further develop and assess the MRP module during the delays. Even in case of smaller issues, we could always turn to Xeleos Consulting for a quick solution. The great advantage of having a small team at your partner’s is that you have short communication lines. When we explained a particular problem, the programmer was often present as well, so he too was immediately on board the story.”
“To me, it was also important that the budget agreed upon was maintained throughout the project,” adds John Vanderstraeten. “During these kinds of projects, unexpected costs tend to emerge, but that was not the case here. If we introduced features that were also useful for other customers, they were incorporated in the next update, without us having to pay extra for them. This also means that when updates are made, we benefit from the useful additions made by others as well.”
Now that the first steps with Optimact have been taken, Globachem plans to take a nine- to twelve-month break. “During that time, we want to assess what is going well and what we are still up against. Afterwards, we want to sit down with Xeleos Consulting again to discuss further optimisation possibilities,” explains John Vanderstraeten.
One thing Globachem definitely wants to tackle at the next stage is the S&OP (sales & operations planning) process. “At the moment this is still at an early stage, but we would like to develop it further with Xeleos Consulting. Optimact contains many features that can support this process, for example ABC analyses. We would like to explore those opportunities once the time is right. We suspect that will be in the second half of next year.”
“We look at Xeleos Consulting as a partner who can help us support our further supply chain developments, not only in terms of software, but also strategically. Their ability to fulfil this task is evident from the journey we have been on so far. They often advised along the way on how to tackle certain processes more efficiently. That is just as valuable to us as a well-functioning software,” says John Vanderstraeten.