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Designing a Supply Chain to Support Global Brands

Big Heart Pet Brands is the parent company for many of the biggest selling pet foods, including Kibbles 'n Bits, Meow Mix, Milk Bone and 9Lives. Ryan Dimond, manager of supply chain optimization, discusses how Big Heart uses supply chain design to support its many brands and employs supply chain modeling to make better decisions.

Since being divested from Del Monte Foods, Big Heart Pet Brands is the nation’s largest stand-alone pet food company. As manager of supply chain optimization, Dimond works with all of the company’s brands and with its many different departments.

“Now that we are a stand-alone company, we are operating much leaner and we use a lot of modeling to make sure we have a ‘next generation’ supply chain,” Dimond says. “We want to be smart with our supply chain and our capital investments so that we don’t pin ourselves into a corner a few years down the road.”

Big Heart uses LLamasoft Supply Chain Guru as its modeling tool. He notes that the company does not use consultants but rather depends on an in-house supply chain center of excellence to work on supply chain design and to develop standardized procedures and processes.

There are three components to the modeling process, he says: the data that goes into the model, the actual modeling, and the outputs or results. “We have standardized both ends of that process,” he says. ”We have a very smooth  operation for gathering the data, which we review with all stakeholders – all the owners of the data have to sign off on it, so when we get to the end there is no going back and forth over the numbers.”

The middle piece, using the software, is the easiest part, he says. “We spend the least amount of time on this step. And with LLamasoft’s cloud-based solution, we can now run several scenarios simultaneously.”

On the back end, the company also has standard templates for viewing and analyzing results. This allows the team to easily see if the model is behaving as expected, and it provides a consistent presentation of the data for meetings with senior leadership, Dimond says. “The last thing you want in a meeting with executives is to have people trying to figure out what you are showing them and how the numbers match up,” he says. “So we are very big on using graphics that tell the story. All the utilities within Supply Chain Guru allow us to use color, size and shape to present the data in multiple ways all in one view.”

This is a vast improvement over the company’s previous use of Excel spreadsheets, he says. “With LLamasoft, we already have their questions answered for them and we go through the same cadence every time, which has been very successful for us.”

Having an optimized network is crucial to supporting Big Heart’s many brands, Dimond says. “The supply chain can be a differentiator, but only if your network is structured in way that enables you to meet service goals like lead times and fill rates,” he says. “And at the same time you have to save money from the bottom line. The supply chain piece is so important because it not only affects customer service but also costs.”

Big Heart’s supply chain success with the LLamasoft Guru application has prompted the company to use it to model and optimize other aspects of its business. “We use the tool for anything from risk mitigation around natural disasters to mergers and acquisitions,” Dimond says. “It actually has become so ingrained in what we do, and everybody trusts the data so much, that we also are looking at using it to assist with demand forecasting and with our financial budgets. This is possible because we have collected all the data and built-in rigors around it so everyone trusts the outputs.”

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