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A Leg Up for Boots Boosts Productivity
July 2001

Boots Contract ManufacturingBoots Contract Manufacturing (BCM), the manufacturing arm of High Street chemists chain, has now implemented Preactor scheduling tools at three of its factory sites - with plans to expand to two additional sites.  The BCM operation is a very complex production challenge. BCM is responsible for the production of literally thousands of cosmetics and over-the-counter medicines for Boots the Chemists and other retailers.

“There are thousands of staff involved in what is a very diverse and complicated manufacturing process,” comments Nicky Cox, Advanced Systems Developer at Information Systems (BCM). “At the Airdrie factory alone, for example, we have some 100 manufacturing vessels, all of which need to be scheduled efficiently to achieve maximum productivity. Preactor is proving a great help in achieving exactly this - contributing to better customer service and improved profitability.”

Preactor has been successfully integrated so as to interface with BCM’s existing ERP systems (Hoskyns MAS/MCS/ MRP system and Mfg Pro). Work orders are downloaded on to Preactor from MRP system on a daily basis, with planners using a range of criteria such as order due dates, works order numbers and machines. This provides total flexibility as to the range of orders that can be planned in Preactor.

Once the orders have been loaded, Preactor can then sequence the orders according to due date, either backwards or forwards, by using standard stock holding or Just-In-Time methodology.  As part of this process, an ‘earliest start date’ can be used to ensure that stock is not made too early, thereby avoiding unnecessary overheads.

“One of Preactor’s several strengths is the way it takes account of plant availability,” continues Nicky Cox. “ If a line or machine breaks down or if we want to do some planned maintenance, we can put it into the schedule. This gives us an accurate view of capacity, enabling our planners to do rapid re-scheduling to ensure orders are completed on time.”
     
In addition to plant availability, Preactor also takes account of labour availability – allowing labour requirements to be calculated according to workload requirements. This means that casual labour and overtime shift working can be accurately planned without the worry of having ‘spare bodies’ or not enough staff.

Finally, Preactor is able to sequence orders according to their ‘physical attributes’. Nicky Cox explains, “For example, if a product has a cardboard outer and a blue fill, and another order has a cardboard outer and white fill, it is much more efficient to do the white fill product first. This is because it is much faster to go from the white to the blue than from the blue to the white (when you would have to wash out the vessel between the two processes). With this in mind, we have set up matrices in Preactor which enable planners to minimise changeover time – and increase productivity.”