Imperial Brands

Imperial Tobacco Group (now Imperial Brands). Designing a process for Bills of Material (BOMs) to make manufacturing more efficient

Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG) grew through a series of successful acquisitions but in doing so it inherited a wide range of processes and systems. The resulting variations in procedures for creating, controlling and modifying bills of material (BOM) and product specifications were causing a number of problems.

Product Development had already created a central system to hold details of tobacco blends, but the accountability for packaging specifications, artwork, design, and pack shape was less clear. The full BOM could be found only at each local factory. This was preventing managers from eliminating errors when transferring products between sites, from making the best use of available capacity to meet demand, and from standardising materials in the best way to reduce costs. The business was in the process of setting up standard systems - SAP for the supply chain processes and QAD for manufacturing - so there was a good opportunity to come up with one standard, 'failsafe' process for creating and controlling BOMs and product specifications for use throughout the group.

All the functions for manufacturing, supply chain and regulatory approval based in Hamburg and Bristol were involved, together with representative sites. They had different perspectives on what needed to be done. ITG asked Collinson Grant to work closely with them to come up with a proposal for the process, clear accountabilities and the requirements for a system to support it. The project was split into three phases:

  • Understand the 'current state' - to review existing processes and provide an overall critique, setting out the variations in approach, the potential risks, weaknesses, and elements of good practice. Process audits were carried out at a dozen factories in western and central Europe and the USA
  • Design the 'future state' - to run a series of workshops (of up to 20 people) with a project team from ITG to design a single, group-wide process with accountabilities and systems requirements
  • Set out a plan - to finalise and cost the systems requirements with a smaller team and to create a timeline for implementation.

A participant in the workshops said of the role played by Collinson Grant's consultants: 'There was a good balance between giving an expert external perspective and getting us to own our own ideas.' A senior ITG executive said afterwards that the business could not have completed the project on its own.

Neil Hickton, Project Manager, explained:

"The support given by CG enabled us to quickly gain an independent view of the current BOM processes in our company. Through the use of workshops, the partnering style of their consultants enabled the project team to formulate and own the final proposal."

The proposal was endorsed by the senior team and approval to implement has now been given.