IBP helps to meet peaks in demand

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

Westmill's Jonathan Downes: 'I wanted the team to come together'
Westmill's Jonathan Downes: 'I wanted the team to come together'

Related tags: Product management, Management

To meet the planning challenges of fulfilling peak demand for specialist foods during religious festivals such as Ramadan, Diwali and the Chinese New Year, Westmill Foods has moved to an integrated business planning (IBP) model, which is already delivering forecast accuracy above 70% and rising.

In early 2012, Jonathan Downes, supply chain director at Westmill Foods – which supplies brands such as Patak’s, Amoy and Habib to restaurants and takeaways – suspected the key to taking the business forward was to introduce an IBP process to unite cross-functional departments and achieve shared goals.

“There were some links between planning processes, but financial reporting and budget setting needed to be brought into the fold,” ​said Downes. “I wanted the team to come together under clearly defined and joined-up processes, but without sacrificing the value in people's individual contributions.”

One of his early moves was to recruit Phillip Thorndike, a process expert who had recently led sales and operational planning for British Sugar.


Thorndike joined Westmill in the summer of 2013 to design and lead a new IBP project from scratch. His vision was for employees across all business functions to get involved in designing and synchronising the various processes so that change would be truly embedded and sustainable. For this purpose, he appointed Hughenden Consulting, whose first job was to present the IBP goals to Westmill’s board, emphasising that sustainable change hinged on leadership and being able to bring people along on the journey.

In the first ‘alignment’ phase of the project, Thorndike worked with directors and senior people to align their expectations of IBP. Together they came up with a list of characteristics and steps involved for four different high-level process streams: product management, demand, supply and integrated reconciliation.

For each high-level process area, the team then identified two ‘centrepieces’ at the heart of each review. For instance, the demand review focused upon a phased and summary demand plan. The supply process stream included a capacity plan that would deliver against demand requirements.

The next ‘process design’ phase comprised four day-long IBP design workshops. Westmill ran the first product management workshop and Hughenden supported the subsequent workshops on demand, supply and integrated reconciliation. In these, teams of eight and 12 people worked on further defining each of the process areas established in the alignment phase. This included agreeing the different review points, input and outputs, dependencies and the people and roles that should be involved at different stages.

A pleasant surprise from the workshops was the extent to which they started driving the change. When people could actually simulate how the processes might work in a production environment, they started flagging inconsistencies, duplications and other considerations, like the need for longer planning horizons.

The collaborative IBP effort gave birth to the ‘harmony’ phase no longer to be considered a project, but a way of working to be embedded into Westmill and continually evolved and improved.

Five stages

Five stages were subsequently put at the heart of the monthly planning process: product management – for a more focused approach to product management; demand – for a consensus of what Westmill thinks it can sell; supply – for more scenario planning to match supply and demand; integrated reconciliation – for financial evaluation of the plan; and management business review – for a direct connection to board-defined strategy and performance.

Westmill has now completed the roll out of ‘harmony’ to all its product segments and will continue to focus upon its development throughout the 2015 financial year. The aim is to continually improve the process, embed operationally and deliver business benefits.

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