Campbell Soup Cooks Up New Product-Life-Cycle Management System - InformationWeek

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Campbell Soup Cooks Up New Product-Life-Cycle Management System

The company is replacing a 10-year-old homegrown system with software from Formation Systems to help it manage ingredients, recipes, and new product development.

With so many product lines--from soup to cookies--it's always been a challenge for Campbell Soup Co. to manage ingredients, formulas, product changes, and new product development amidst internal and governmental standards. But the consumer-goods company is in the middle of a global, three-year product-life-cycle management implementation that should help.

Campbell Soup is replacing a 10-year-old internally developed system its research and development team, about 1,000 worldwide, uses to document product development and meet regulatory standards. The new Optiva system, a collaborative application suite from Formation Systems Inc., is designed to help companies manage product specifications and development throughout the design process. The new platform will alter approval and workflow processes that are expected to cut product costs, provide collaborative and real-time visibility for projects, and reduce cycle times from development to manufacturing.

Optiva will turn an antiquated, paper-laden process for approvals and changes to ingredients or formulas into an automated system, complete with electronic signature features, that is expected to cut routing times from weeks to days and sometimes hours. Today, for example, as new ingredients are added or changed to an existing product, the product developer must print and hand carry the document through Campbell Soup's six-story Camden, N.J., facility to obtain necessary signatures before sending the forms to the manufacturing plant. Since faxing formulas and procedures is against company policy to protect intellectual property, documents have to be sent overnight if signatures are required from someone located at another facility. "If the planets aligned and the project developer drops everything to gain approval for a specific assignment, they could get the required signatures in a day, but typically it takes five to 10 working days," says Susan Mayer, product standards manager at Campbell Soup. "Product developers are running around the building trying to find these folders; and when you have approval deadlines to meet plant schedules, it's not efficient use of their time."

The new system, which Campbell Soup first tested in March 2003, will increase visibility into product development, too. The electronic approval process tracks projects to give product developers insight into approved changes at the moment they occur.

It should also reduce errors. The product development team must manually enter into the system, for example, formula information that appears on labels as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The original documents are warehoused in color-coded manila folders for each business, and rekeyed into a Microsoft Word document in Campbell Soup's IT network. One person is responsible for maintaining the files and logging the information into the computer system. "Every time you do that, you're prone to error," Mayer says. "The automated system through Optiva gives product developers confidence they are passing on the correct formula information to those developing label information."

The complex PLM project is being rolled out by region in three phases. In Asia-Pacific, four out of six research and development centers already use Optiva. In April, teams in the United States will be able to track and monitor changes to ingredients with the system, and by April 2006 they will be able to manage formula changes. The system is also expected to be rolled out to Campbell Soup's seven European research and development centers toward the end of 2005.

Optiva will integrate into SAP AG's enterprise-resource-planning software, which is being simultaneously deployed throughout Campbell Soup's facilities worldwide. That project is expected to be finished by year's end. Next year in its U.S. facilities, the company plans to link the Optiva and SAP systems to the plant-floor automation systems that use programmable logic controllers to drive processes as formulas are pushed into manufacturing sites.

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