Systems Audit and Operations Success for Foods Industry Customer

Helping one of largest consumer goods companies in the foods and dry savory sector increase ROI from their significant enterprise systems investments and in expanding their workforce' SAP software utilization.

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Company profile

The company used in this case study is one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world. They have over 400 brands and over two billion people a day use their products. This case study is based on their foods business which was established in 1838. Their brands are global brands that offer a wide range of products from soups to seasonings.

Business situation

This Consumer Goods Giant in Foods sector made a significant investment in expanding their utilization of their SAP software functionality. As the implementation project proceeded and they rolled it out to their end users something became very clear to them.

The SAP software was working as designed but their employees had become accustomed to using well designed applications that were simple to use. They have no patience for workplace applications that are confusing and not easily understood. Functionality was not the issue but usability was. The employees were accustomed to consumer software being easy and simple to use, and they expected business software to be the same. It was also observed that the planning functions for all 3rd party manufacturers were being done outside of the system.

Excel spreadsheets were developed and utilized for all planning. The fact that employee training was inconsistent, and sometimes missing, was identified. Resistance to change also became apparent. The long term manufacturing plan was of very poor quality when compared to historical data and deemed not accurate enough to rely on for internal manufacturing sites. The end users were also resource constrained because of work related to seasonality and end of year commitments.

The largest issue that was identified was the amount of unfulfilled demand the system was generating. Due to the complexity of the system and numerous master data issues, the SAP Advance Planner & Optimizer, APO Optimizer, was not able to function as designed. Planners were unaware of fields such as Planning Method, PTG Codes, Max allowed Delay and Procurement type. Incorrect population of these fields caused significant demand visibility issues. This meant that a capital investment was being underutilized.

Technical situation

The company has a very complex network across many different categories. Due to the differences in categories, coming up with standard operating procedures was virtually impossible. The sheer amount of end users makes training and hands on support nearly impossible. There were also issues with underestimating the resources required to have a successful implementation.

Other areas of concern were customization, on the job training, insufficient testing and not enough user training. The process that this foods company was utilizing, to plan and communicate with its 3rd party manufacturers was nonexistent. The system was not being utilized due to the complexity of the master data set up and the initial work needed. Many hours of planning via an excel spreadsheet were turning out to be more or less unproductive.

There was also a significant amount of forecast that was being lost due to incorrect mapping for new product transitions. Forecast on discontinued products was being ignored. This lack of visibility caused customer service issues and new product launch challenges.

Solutions4Business evaluated the current process and interviewed all stakeholders and identified many issues. Those issues included the below:

  • Lack of system knowledge
  • Limited training available
  • Internal Process’s not in place
  • System Setup issues
  • Master Data incorrect/incomplete
  • Material Transition error
  • Transition management non existent
  • Manual planning at 3rd party manufacturers
  • Lack of trust in systems outputs


Taking into consideration the business and technical situations identified along with the initial feedback gathered from the consumer goods company, S4B created a systems audit approach. S4B understood that lack of integration expertise, functional and technical, was an issue. They brought that expertise to the audit process.
The audit included the below delivery approach.

  • Scope Agreement
  • Build Team
  • Document high level issues & define baselines
  • Agree on success measures
  • Understand existing Supply chain strategy
  • Data analysis & Identification of issues
  • Execute agreed master data changes
  • KPI Reporting Measure Delivery
  • Sustain

Along with the above delivery approach, S4B conducted its proprietary 3-phase audit. Phase 1 was to gather data, organize the audit and define its deliverables. Basic project management skills were used such as timeline creation, stakeholder registers and creating minutes of meetings databases. Other areas of focus during phase 1 were, understanding the Deodorant categories sourcing strategies and structure.

Phase 2 included all SAP master data validation and manufacturing site details. Master data information included items such as obsolete data cleansing, third party manufacturing vs in house manufacturing set up etc. Items such as frozen periods, shutdown calendars and production calendars were validated during the manufacturing site audit.

Finally S4B wanted to make sure that the above process was sustainable. This was accomplished by training all of the individuals on the above process and verifying that the training was understood and agreed upon. All of this training was created and rolled out by S4B working in tandem with the consumer goods company.

Significant training was created and centered on the custom disaggregation process. The current process was not easily understood. S4B created and rolled out detailed training that significantly reduced their business waste. Reports were also created to validate that the audit was creating value for the company and to track ongoing improvement.

In order to maintain the system, there are 5 things that every company needs to continue to focus on:


Continue to update and roll out to new employees


Help desk/super-user assistance


Periodic audits are needed


Data constantly becomes obsolete or needs cleansing


Systems are never complete, if you show an ever adapting system you gain credibility with the end users.


The benefits to the client were numerous. Creating standard operating procedures, creating training that is clear and direct, educating planners on functionality of the system, and finally proving to the end users that the system is a value added activity and that it will significantly enhance the value of their functions.

As a result of Solutions4Business executing its proprietary and robust Enterprise Systems Audit, Process the Foods category observed many benefits which included an immediate increase in Customer service quality coupled with a reduction in inventory. Forecasts were now viewed as accurate and up to date.

Innovation launches were executed flawlessly and innovation launches/transition forecasts were corrected and confirmed. Training sessions were user focused and proved to be better understood. The communication/confidence between end users from different areas improved noticeably.

An ideal operating and service environment emerged as a result of Solution4Business audit and fix approach. Employees felt they were growing their knowledge and skills on the one hand, and experienced an improved service environment.

Other benefits include

  • Clarity on roles and responsibilities
  • Documented and updated Training
  • Reports in place to track and monitor performance
  • Focus on functionality of system
  • Engagement of employees on system issues
  • 3rd Party manufacturers relationship improved and deemed trustworthy

Customer Voice

"Prateek Parakh and his team were truly instrumental in improving the reliability of the SAP/APO tool for our supply chain planners. They started the process by performing a detailed interview with each supply planner on the intricacies of their business followed by an audit of their system settings. Over the course of several weeks they were able to make vast improvements to the system and gain back the confidence of the supply planners to utilize the tools of SAP/APO when planning their weekly production schedule. We also noticed a large decrease in performing offline planning along with a tremendous drop in unplanned demand. Prateek and his team are extremely knowledgeable and always had a can do perspective when asked for assistance in tackling questions the team had. Our team is grateful for all the assistance and improvements that have been made."

- Manager, Foods and Dry Savory Team, Fortune 100 Consumer Goods Company

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