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Vanilla Solutions helps decode Fujichem Sonneborn in preparation for their IFS upgrade

About Fujichem Sonneborn

Established in 1899, Fujichem Sonneborn (FCS) are a leading designer and producer of high performance coating technologies for wood, metal, glass, and many variations of plastic. Fujichem originally implemented IFS Applications in 2009.

The situation

During the original IFS implementation FCS had adopted a number of modifications as well as a number of unorthodox practices. Vanilla were asked to assist with one of the most difficult challenges any organisation has to tackle, unpicking archaic practices that had been embedded in the business for a long period of time. These practices had been built around their original IFS implementation alongside a number of modifications that had resulted in the data being locked-in.

One of the practices was the use of IFS’s Condition Code functionality, which is usually used to express the state of repair of inventory assets as a way of controlling the package size of saleable inventory. This meant that product ‘X’, which might come in 1 litre tins or 2.5 litre cans, was maintained solely as one part number, with the can size being expressed using the Condition Code. The result of this was that many elements that rely on knowing the full structure of a product such as sales forecasting, material planning and shop floor execution were being done partly off-system and with a large number of workarounds.

“The use of Condition Codes meant that we were constrained in our ability to forecast sales by package size. Frustratingly, this sometimes resulted in us finding that we had enough stock of a product to satisfy and order, but it was packaged in the wrong size can for the customer! ”

Stuart Houghton, Production Planner at FCS

The solution

FCS were fortunate enough to have some strong internal resources and the services of two senior contractors working on a freelance basis but in order to address this issue FCS needed a structured and proactively managed project that would remove their reliance on Condition Codes. As an addition, they required assistance to remove some obsolete modifications to set them firmly on the path towards an upgrade to an unmodified instance of IFS Applications 8.

Vanilla created an in-depth plan of action with the FCS team and managed the project through to completion. We provided specialist Manufacturing and Planning support to help with the creation of a new solution in order to replace the gap left by the removal of Condition Codes.

“Like all successful manufacturers FCS are very busy maintaining their high customer service level and so the disruption of changing core elements of their IFS set up was always going to be a challenge, a challenge we were well equipped and eager to tackle.”

Mike Williams, Project Manager at Vanilla Solutions

It was essential for Vanilla & FCS to work together to build a cohesive team including the multi-site key business managers and the highly experienced IFS consultants to maximise everyone’s input and performance, particularly as the team were only together for two days each week. A critical element to the success of the project was using Vanilla’s unique project methodology VIPA™. The use of VIPA™ ensured smooth lines of communication across the IFS team and rest of the organisation as well as a detailed schedule, where every member of the team knew their expected targets and timescales. Another crucial component of VIPA™ was the regular, structured, open communication of the key performance indicators of the project including progress towards deliverables, risk review, timeline and outstanding issues with the project team on a weekly basis and the steering committee every month followed by the rest of the organisation at each phase of the project.

The results

Vanilla delivered the essential system and business process changes to FCS in just six months with the project team working strategically, focussing two very intense days each week specifically to the project.

Project Morse, named by the Project Sponsor due to the amount of ‘code’ needed to remove Condition codes, went live on schedule. With the support of the Vanilla team, the business made a smooth transition over to new working practices over the course of a single weekend.

The success of the project has now given the team the confidence and knowledge required to move forward with their upgrade to Apps8 in 2015.

The key business benefits summarised by Stuart Houghton, Production Planner at FCS:-

  • The business is now able to forecast by correct can size rather than bulk product, reducing the risk of stocking product in wrong can size
  • MRP is now able to ‘net off’ against correct Part/Can combination avoiding the problem of stock being in the wrong size can for a Customer order, but no supply proposal being generated by MRP
  • We now have clearer information when looking at stock levels of Products and we are able to plan for supply of cans to avoid stock outs

According to Andy Bell, Director at Vanilla Solutions, “Fujichem Sonneborn are a good example of a customer who were trapped by the effects of a small number of unusual practises dating back to their original implementation. The journey back to a more ‘ordinary’ solution involved a huge effort on the part of the business, but it is already paying dividends. Importantly, they are now free to develop, expand and upgrade their solution as they had originally hoped”.