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Preactor and QAD is the right cup of tea for Twinings in Shanghai
May 2012
 Twinings of London is a global brand of high quality teas, selling its products in over 115 countries.
The company has a 300-year tradition, which makes it the world's oldest brand of premium teas. It belongs to the global food group Associated British Foods, one of the largest food manufacturers in Europe, and offers customers a choice of over 200 blends of teas, both loose and bagged.

Twinings products are manufactured in seven different locations in different parts of the world.
The idea of implementing Preactor APS in a new factory in Shanghai, China, stemmed from the need of the factory in the field of scheduling as well as from long-term positive experience of using Preactor in Twinings headquarters in Andover, UK.

The tea production process consists of two basic stages:
  • preparing tea mixes;
  • packaging of pre-prepared mixes on automatic packaging lines.

Preactor’s task was to support the scheduling for the second stage of production, in which several hundred brands of tea are packaged on about 50 packaging lines.

The starting point for scheduling of production is the main production plan generated centrally in Andover in Preactor GMPS for all the factories and distributed using the ERP system MFG/PRO (QAD Applications).used by Twinings.

Each plant prepares its own production schedule by means of its local tools on the basis of the master plan sent to it. Before implementing Preactor in the factory in Shanghai, schedules were created in MS Excel spreadsheets and updated with information from MFG/PRO.

The problem was that such a method was time-consuming, and taking into account the anticipated factory expansion it would become even more so. Another challenge was susceptibility to errors resulting from fully manually generated schedules.

Twinings decided to purchase the package of ‘Preactor for QAD’ which has an in-built integration piece developed by MPS Associates in the U.S. covering a predefined configuration of Preactor and interfaced to QAD's ERP system. The project began in October 2010 involving teams from four different parts of the world:-
  • a local team from the factory in Shanghai,
  • a team from the headquarters in Andover,
  • Preactor supplier for the link to QAD in the U.S.
  • and the services provider – DSR from Poland.


The main goal of the project was to create a solution that would reduce manual work needed to generate a feasible production schedule, which was supposed to ensure:
  • Reduction of time needed to create schedules
  • Increased schedule quality (fewer errors resulting from manual data input)
  • Increase in flexibility

The solution was designed to be as simple as possible, but with a possibility of making adjustments and developments in the future.

During the project it was necessary to make modifications to the existing interface to MFG/PRO, as well as to prepare solutions in support of data import into Preactor, such as tools for loading data from an Excel spreadsheet to the sequence dependant changeover time matrices defined in Preactor.

A dedicated scheduling rule (algorithm) was developed automatically creating a preliminary schedule, "refined" later manually by a planner based on his knowledge and experience. Non-standard mechanisms have been built into the rule, such as for example automatic allocation of production orders in the case of the occurrence of certain conditions.

It was also necessary to do some work on the basic data concerning indexes and their production technologies stored in the ERP system so that they could be used directly for scheduling.

Another part of the project was to create an emergency solution designed to take over the critical process of scheduling in the event of any problems. The emergency solution consists of a dedicated server, a copy of the configuration of Preactor and the process of a quick transition to the emergency mode.

Preactor was launched in early March 2011 after nearly two months' in-depth testing and successfully took over the process of scheduling the factory.

Gary Qian is head of planning in the factory.  "Without Preactor we would not be able to create schedules so fast and of such a good quality.”

Among the future plans is to implement Preactor in another newly established Twinings plant in Poland.