PLM streamlines operations by replacing wasteful manual processes with more efficient, standardized processes, and by replacing fragmentation with a single source of truth. At the 2019 Selerant User Conference, one project manager for a major global bakery shared the long list of manual processes previously handled by the use of Microsoft Excel and Word files which the company left behind in its transition to Devex PLM.
Because many calculations or manual workflows were both complex and performed regularly, the company created workflows within Devex to standardize them. Almost immediately, this company reaped the efficiency gains that automation provides.
Prior to implementing Devex, the PM says, formula developments were housed in Excel files, or random file types that a particular food scientist preferred to work in.
There was even a hard-copy binder room. The PM stated: “There was this room full of binder notebooks that each food scientist created. When someone left the company, you’d have no idea what they did.”
Once Devex was deployed, the PM joked with food scientists familiarizing themselves with Devex. She said, “I don’t want to see another binder in this room. Scan it, then attach it in the docs panel [in Devex]. No more binders!”
The company utilizes Oracle for database management and Genesis for regulatory labeling. Prior to Devex, every formula stored in the database was manually duplicated in Genesis. When a change was made, the Genesis entry had to be updated, too. “Then someone would write a macro in Excel to create the ingredient listing,” the PM said. “All that went into a Word doc. Now, it’s all done in Devex.”
The company maintained an in-house database for all product specs. “We had a monthly meeting to approve or reject changes to specs,” the PM says. “That’s all been replaced with a project workflow. There’s no more email, there’s no more Excel, there’s no more updates to a spec database. Everything’s been moved into Devex.”
When calculating whether a new formula met a certain criteria, Excel and good, old-fashioned calculators were par for the course. “We had food scientists and our regulatory group doing that,” the PM says. “After implementing Devex, though we built in several custom calculations so that with the click of a button you can see if something qualifies or not."
Perhaps the biggest—and most welcome—change Devex enabled has been the streamlining of project management. “Every time we do another phase or change request, I always sneak something in for the project,” says the PM. “We’re either modifying the workflows, adding workflows, or changing the order. We’re about to add another panel to the project because we’re getting so much product-related information.”
This PM knew that replacing manual processes would speed things up. However, until she saw Devex in action, she didn’t realize how much email communication and Excel communication for new products went around the business. She said, “Why are we still doing it this way? Let’s just add a new field to Devex and be done with it.”
This company used to have Excel files where people signed off on tasks as new products were being developed. They conducted a bimonthly meeting with upper management to gate vote on whether something was a go or a no-go. This meeting no longer happens. Said the PM, “All of it is done through the workflow. Tons of email correspondence that happened around projects and important information is now all housed in a Devex project and a workflow.”
Managing ingredients is the same story. The PM stated: “We had stuff in Word, in personal files. We had some stuff in Oracle. We had some stuff in a document management system. Again, everything is now in Devex. All of the Oracle pieces transfer over from Devex to Oracle. We don’t have to do any of that hands-on stuff in Oracle."
It’s much the same story for managing packaging materials and formula maintenance. Now there’s an audit trail. Formula costing was particularly fragmented. “We had stuff in Word, personal files and Oracle, as well as a document management system,” she said. “Again, everything is in Devex now. All of the Oracle pieces transfer over from Devex to Oracle. We don’t have to do any of that hands-on stuff in Oracle.”
A Senior Food Scientist’s Take
Following the PM’s overview presentation, this company’s Senior Food Scientist then explained the benefits of the migration to Devex from her perspective. Describing the pre-migration formula costing environment, senior food scientists would type up our formulas and then go to another document where costs were held. “We’d type in data and calculate what the cost per pound was, said the senior food scientist. “I found that I wasn’t keeping up with that important aspect. I’d be three periods behind and my overall cost wasn’t quite as accurate as I wanted it to be.”
Devex, she says, enhances accuracy. She states, “Formula calculations and costs update every single day. It’s great! At one point I was doing something for schools, and I was able to make six different changes with immediate feedback. I knew it was going to be right. I would never have done that many changes that late in the process before Devex. This capability is really powerful. That rapid feedback is so helpful.”