The Easter Bunny’s here, but are manufacturers ready?

Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and even Shrove Tuesday, are all times to celebrate for the consumer, but can leave manufacturers with seasonal pressure headaches.

With customer interest in specific products peaking in their respective season, holidays are a big deal for manufacturers and retailers alike. A rise in customer demand means surges are part and parcel of all national holidays in the UK and, when handled and managed correctly, these surges provide an opportunity for huge profit.

Approximately 10 million turkeys are eaten annually in the UK at Christmas, around a billion Valentine cards are exchanged each year and over 80 million chocolate Easter eggs are sold yearly in the UK alone. Chocolate eggs are not the only Easter treat though - hot cross buns are also an established UK consumer favourite, with retailers expecting to sell millions ahead of and over the Easter period. With hot cross buns beginning to appear on the shelves from January and steadily increasing in demand right up to Easter, it has become vital for bakers to maximise this opportunity and meet the demand.

Bells of Lazonby is a family run bakery that has streamlined its manufacturing processes to ensure that they take full advantage of this affection for the hot cross bun. Last year saw Bells of Lazonby manufacture over 50 miles of hot cross buns to deal with the season’s consumption. But putting this additional demand on top of the company’s usual orders means that the workload of each employee also increases. This highlights the importance for the company to have effective and reactive systems in place to work with their key suppliers, manage staffing levels and monitor production and fulfilment of client orders.

David Simmons, Finance Director at Bells of Lazonby, says: “With the demand for hot cross buns ramping up from 1 January each year it is vital for manufacturers like ourselves to ensure we are on top of the demand as well as being able to maintain our usual orders for our customers. When these spikes in demand hit, we look to Epicor Tropos to help us to ensure that we can meet this demand smoothly.

“During these growth surges, we use Epicor Tropos on a daily basis in many ways - to analyse our stocks, predict stock levels, be responsive with our purchasing and handle the planning of our ingredients. We also find it very helpful managing the accuracy of our despatching - if there is a process problem during the night, management know straightaway in the morning and can respond accordingly. Labour resourcing is one of the ultimate challenges for us at Bells of Lazonby and this is an area that we intend to use Tropos further, in an effort to improve our processes for future seasonal surges.”

As helpful as it is to have processes in place to help with seasonal demand, it is also important for manufacturers to understand when such a growth surge has been worthwhile. Process manufacturing software helps manufacturers calculate yield and also profitability; analysing the surge and delivering business benefit. Learnings can be taken from this data and help them prepare for future seasonal surges.

In short, in order to ensure the success and profitability of seasonal demands, manufacturers should consider the obvious benefits of such software or possibly end up with seasonal eggs on their faces.

Stuart Hall, sales director for Epicor Software, UK and Ireland

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