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Case Studies

Greencore reduces inventory costs after implementing sofco Planning


  • UK lead manufacturer of convenience foods
  • £1.7 billion food production company
  • Employs over 14,000 people and manufactures 2,000 products in over 35 UK sites.


  • Improved forecast accuracy
  • High customer service levels
  • Greater agility to Demand
  • Increased on-time delivery performance
  • Reduced production costs and cycle times
  • Reduced inventory obsolescence


Food Manufacturer Greencore reduces inventory costs after implementing sofco Demand, Supply Planning and Scheduling.

Greencore, a leading manufacturer of convenience foods in the UK, has managed to streamline the production of ready meals, sandwiches, salads, and sushi and for many of the nation’s major supermarkets, following the implementation of sofco’s Demand Planning, Supply Planning and Scheduling solutions.

The £1.7 billion food production company supplies all of the major UK supermarkets, along with convenience and travel retail outlets, discounters, coffee shops, foodservice and other retailers. Greencore have a strong market position in a range of categories including sandwiches, salads, sushi, chilled snacking, chilled ready meals, chilled soups and sauces, chilled quiche, ambient sauces and pickles, and frozen Yorkshire Puddings. It employs over 14,000 people and manufactures 2,000 products in over 35 sites throughout the UK.

Why sofco?

Previously, the vast majority of planning within Greencore was carried out using spreadsheets and various home grown systems. The company required highly configurable software with the ability to run over multiple ERP systems and other data sources. Greencore chose sofco because the software was deemed easy-to-use, functionally rich and provided an end to end view of the supply chain. The ability to implement the same software across all business functions and configure appropriately was also a key consideration along with sofco’s long experience successfully implementing similar solutions in the food industry.

“We selected sofco as they have an End-to-End planning and execution system that can be configured easily to fulfill these disparate demands.”

Chris Chestney

IT Business Partner for Greencore

The Challenge

The broad range of products Greencore supplies – some, like ready meals, have only a very short shelf life and often need to be made daily to order; others, like bottled pickles are planned and prepared months in advance – means that accurate forecasting of demand and production planning (for materials requirements, labour and productions schedules etc.) is essential.

“Greencore is involved in multiple categories, supplying a diverse range of products with different characteristics that in turn require very different manufacturing processes,” says Chris Chestney, IT Business Partner for Greencore. “Prepared meals have a complex multi stage manufacturing process that is equipment intensive; whilst fresh sandwiches are more labour intensive to produce; and pickles or sauces have longer production runs. We selected sofco as they have an end to end planning and execution system that can be configured easily to fulfil these disparate demands.”

Other important considerations to factor into the equation are seasonality, as well as planning promotions and working closely with retailers several months in advance. The demand patterns of all categories are constantly affected by the promotional activity that is so prevalent in retail today.

Previously, all plans were done manually – mostly with spreadsheets with minimal forecasting capabilities, and limited collaboration. “We lacked a proper planning system and could only make simplistic sales forecasts, just based on the last few weeks,” says Chris.

The importance of preparing ahead and meticulous planning is compounded by the need to avoid wastage and contain costs. “Raw materials cost money, inventory costs money, and changing over from one product to another costs money,” says Chris. “Changing the glass jar size for different types of pickle takes time and the cleaning of the piping system means residual product is lost, which affects yields.”

“The key challenge is to minimise the levels of inventory and the number of changeovers whilst maximising the use of resources; and, at the same time, respect the finite constraints of the filling process lines”, he continues.

The Solution

To help overcome these industry challenges, Greencore implemented sofco’s Demand, Supply Planning and Scheduling solution. According to Chris, having all the relevant information in one integrated system is alleviating such a complex process.

“Our approach is much more sophisticated and collaborative now.”

Chris Chestney

IT Business Partner for Greencore

The sofco solution supports Greencore in the demand planning process and generation of high quality forecasts which are then inputs for supply planning and scheduling, also managed within the sofco suite. The solution generates the best plan to meet demand and maximise capacity, so that Greencore can effectively minimise its stock requirements and any downtime on its production lines.

Each plant has its own detailed supply plan to maximise customer service at minimal cost, particularly with reference to stock obsolescence.

As for managing the wide range of products it produces, the software provides detailed scheduling and a breadth of category plans with guidance on what, where and when exactly to make meals over a fixed period of time.

“Planning for fresh food requires forecasts to the exact day of the week, and changes dynamically throughout the day,” explains Chris.

Overall, for the business, improved forecasting and planning has led to a significant increase in forecast accuracy and therefore marked reduction in inventory and waste.

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