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ERP system helps Kendal Nutricare hit the ground running

11 August 2018

Suzanne Gill visited the Kendal Nutricare factory to find out how the plant has fared since it was bought from Heinz by entrepreneur Ross McMahon

Although Kendal Nutricare has only been in existence for a few years – producing a range of infant and toddler milks, infant cereals and adult meal replacements –the factory in Kendal does have a long history in this sector. It started life as Farley Health Products (FHP) 55 years ago, built by Glaxo to benefit from the closeness of a Milk Marketing Board/Dairy Crest facility being built next door.

Food scientist and entrepreneur Ross McMahon purchased the facility from Heinz in 2015 and since then, as Kendal Nutricare, he has succeeded in turning around the fortunes of the factory, already doubling turnover despite competing in a particularly competitive market sector.

When McMahon took over the business he was contracted to produce Heinz infant cereals and several other branded products at the plant. But his ambitions for the new company extended further than this and, to help differentiate itself from the rest of the market, the decision was made to create a new range of infant formulas. McMahon explained more: “In a bid to save on ingredient costs the trend for infant formulas has been to move away from using the full cream of the milk and to replace this costly ingredient with vegetable fat and skimmed milk. However, it is my belief that vegetable oil does not metabolise in the same way in the human body as milk fat and this can cause problems for some babies. I think this is why so many babies today are diagnosed as being lactose intolerant. With our Kendamil-branded infant formula we have returned to a more traditional infant milk recipe which includes the full cream of the milk and no oils.”

The company has also recently introduced organic and Halal products to its range and offers Super Kosher certified infant milks. It has also recently launched Kendalife, an adult meal replacement product which contains whey, casein, vitamins minerals and a high percentage of fruit.

The Kendamil infant formula starts off as whole milk concentrate which is mixed with lactose, whey, minerals, vitamins, vegetable oils and other key ingredients. It is then sent to a spray dryer where it is sprayed under pressure through a primary drying tower onto a moving belt where it continues to be dried until it reaches 3% moisture. Further minerals are blended into the powder before it moves into one of two high care packing rooms – one packs into tins, the other packs into sachets.

A range of cereal products are also produced at the facility site. Cereals are blended with key ingredients before being either steam cooked and roller dried or extrusion cooked. They are then blended with dried fruit or vegetable powders and other ingredients including prebiotics prior to packing.

“BRC regulates our business and our yearly audit has been lifted from grade A to grade AA since I took over the factory in 2015,” said McMahon. However, to enable us to continue to expand our supplier list we are now also preparing to move to BRC unannounced audits which means that within 30 minutes of an inspector arriving at the security gate we must to be able to produce all of the files available for any batch that they pick. To achieve this, it is vital that we are able to quickly trace every step of our process. To meet our BRC obligations a reliable ERP solution is vital,” continued McMahon.

This requirement posed a big problem for the factory back in 2015, when it was given just six months to replace the originally installed Heinz corporation SAP system when it became Kendal Nutricare. “A critical feature of any ERP solution that we might have chosen was the need for comprehensive traceability throughout the entire operation. This is fundamental to our business to guarantee the quality of every product that leaves the factory,” said McMahon.

While searching for a suitable solution The Kendal Nutricare team read about how the CSB-System had been used in a similar plant in Europe and got in touch. CSB-System reacted very quickly to the initial enquiry and was able to rapidly provide a proposal that outlined how the system could be installed and implemented to meet the tight deadline facing the company.

The CSB-System solution has been designed from the ground up to meet the very specific needs of the food industry so processes and tables for food manufacturing were already in place as standard. The system is built on a series of modular building blocks which can be used to create bespoke solutions. “Many standard ERP systems do not, as standard, have the necessary functionality built-in to cope with the traceability and shelf life issues that are vital to the food and beverage industry,” explained Mathew Simpson, sales UK & Ireland at CSB-System. CSB-System started life as a recipe management system and has evolved over the years to offer a full business management system, always with the food and beverage industry needs in mind.

“The phrase ‘hitting the ground running’ really did sum up the challenge we were facing back in 2015 with just six-months to get a new ERP system in place and operational,” said McMahon. “We had a very steep learning curve with the system but quickly managed to overcome all the early teething problems.”

Sarah Woodhams, IT manager at Kendal Nutricare, takes up the story: “What we found particularly beneficial about the CSB approach was that the company has specialists available for every part of the system – including the handheld devices, production, finance and sales modules.

“Because we had such a short timeframe to install the new ERP system we started out running it in a terminal server environment, on a separate network, while the original Heinz SAP system was still in operation,” continued Woodhams. “Since installation in 2015 we have updated to the latest version of the ERP system and today the organisation is using sales and purchasing, finance, warehouse maintenance, production, dispatch, QA and the management modules.”

Today the CSB-System solution is providing Kendal Nutricare with traceability at every stage of production, throughout the plant. Ingredients are ordered and then receipted into the factory through the system while the stock management module allows the production team to accurately plan each run, calling off the ingredients as required.

As a product moves through each step of the production process, data is sent to the ERP system via handheld terminals. Finished goods are then recorded back into warehouse storage with scanners on the forklift trucks to monitor goods in and out. Quality control and testing operations are also linked into the CSB-System so that it is possible for each test batch to be traced back to a particular production run.

In conclusion, Simpson said: “CSB-System solutions have the ability to interface even with the often ageing legacy equipment found in many food factories. We have conversion programmes for most PLCs so factory floor equipment can be connected to the ERP system.

“It is even possible to add connectivity to completely mechanical production systems by using smart sensors and adding such functionality can help identify production bottlenecks and can highlight areas where inefficiencies could be improved, which can help companies increase productivity and become more competitive.”

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