Co Limited roll out their new TROPOS system

Case Study: James T Blakeman & Co Limited roll out their new TROPOS system

Sausage makers have always enjoyed a special place in the nation’s heart. Although such firms might follow old traditions, James T Blakeman & Co Limited has enthusiastically embraced modern technology too. Thanks to SSI, James T Blakeman & Co has introduced new IT systems to reduce production costs, increase management information, and ensure full traceability.

As one of the UK’s largest independently-owned sausage makers, James T Blakeman & Co has state-of-the-art manufacturing, storage and distribution facilities. Based in Stoke-on-Trent, the company employs 90 staff with a turnover of £11 million. Sausages are produced for catering, food service, and retail customers as well as for export.

Before its recent investment in the TROPOS enterprise resource planning system, the company relied heavily on manual systems along with applications for invoicing, ledgers and traceability. As production planning and stock-takes used paper-based methods, managers found it difficult to complete accurate reports or track raw ingredients to finished product.

According to Managing Director Phil Blakeman, production planners had a particularly demanding job. There was a worrying tendency towards small uneconomic production runs to replenish manually-calculated stock levels.

"Although a manual production record was made at the end of each day, it was becoming inaccurate and our costs were rising. Management was also burdened with far too much paperwork," said Blakeman.

A new computer-based solution was required for full traceability, better quality control, and a complete understanding of stock-in-hand in relation to works orders for optimum production planning. Core business applications needed to be closely integrated to provide the right information for management decision-making. Manual paper systems would be replaced with barcodes, touch screens, and label printers, for real-time tracking of ingredients, production movements and stock.

Several suppliers were carefully evaluated in the search for a resilient end-to-end solution. James T Blakeman & Co went to see SSI’s TROPOS, an integrated supply chain and manufacturing system, at Uniq in Paignton, Greenalls Distillery, and Cauldron Foods. SSI was found to have "far better support and size of business" than the other suppliers considered.

The decision to use TROPOS for planning, production and financial reporting was well founded. Not only were SSI specialists in process industries but TROPOS offered a superior level of reporting. It also met all the company’s requirements off-the-shelf for a lower cost of ownership.

By early 2004, a phased deployment was underway. SSI provided full implementation services including process review, documentation, solution design, configuration, training, technical support, and implementation support. The new system is now also managed by SSI.

TROPOS was installed on Windows servers to cover sales orders, forecasts, purchasing, scheduling, inventory, warehousing, despatch, product traceability, and customer relationship management. It was integrated with CODA Financials for sales invoicing and accounting, Mitrefinch for payroll, and business intelligence from Cognos.

In the production areas, Nematron industrial PCs handle production recording with Intermec label printers for labelling and Intermec handheld barcode scanners linked via a radio-frequency network. Described as ‘second to none’ in terms of quality, SSI’s training programme ensured that, by August 2004, everything had gone live.

TROPOS now provides user-friendly features like web-enabled access, visual planners and business intelligence. Manual production planning sheets have gone from the walls, other paperwork eliminated and stock muddles ended. Thanks to shop floor automation and programmed factory disciplines, TROPOS maintains high levels of stock accuracy, supports quality controls, and ensures batch traceability.

"At the touch of a button, I can see production figures and the system will tell me about any wastage too. It's superb," said Blakeman. "Managers and supervisors know exactly what they’ve got to do and, at the end of each day, we now have very accurate figures."

TROPOS has also improved communication between production departments while posting financial information to CODA for sales invoicing and accounting. Cognos is used to provide online business reporting via ‘data marts’. Managing Director Phil Blakeman can drill into the details to identify yields, costs, profitability, and waste of each department.

"The major benefit for us is productivity costs. Our productivity is now starting to increase because we can do better planning. TROPOS is enabling us to get the best cost-efficiencies from everything," said Blakeman. "It helps us make big savings and better decisions in the business."

Given this new insight, TROPOS is also helping James T Blakeman & Co offer keen product pricing in a demanding marketplace. What’s more, product traceability puts the company "far in advance" of similar manufacturers.

"Everybody is very impressed with what they are seeing from the TROPOS system," said Blakeman. "We have absolutely no regrets whatsoever about our choice of SSI and TROPOS. The level of commitment and support that SSI has given us is second to none."

In April 2005, TROPOS will be extended into a brand-new £1.3 million distribution centre. After that, it will introduced into a sister company, James T Blakeman (Services) Ltd, which produces cooked sausages. When it comes to the business of making British bangers, James T Blakeman & Co is leading the way.

High resolution images available from Lynne Hughes 01256 685276 or


About SSI
SSI is the developer of the class-leading TROPOS™ ERP solution, selected by many companies in the food and drink and other regulated industries including chemicals, pharmaceuticals and mill based manufacturing sectors. ‘Lean’ discrete manufacturers also benefit from reduced lead times by using the TROPOS demand-pull model. To complement TROPOS, SSI offers end-to-end supply chain solutions including inventory optimisation, advanced planning, data collection systems and business intelligence solutions.

SSI provides all the services required for implementation and lifecycle support with a single point of responsibility: project management, application consultancy and training, hosted application services, hosted web collaboration, remote managed services, bespoke systems development, systems integration, web development and technical consultancy. SSI’s team of consultants have many years experience in these specialist process manufacturing sectors.

Since 1982, SSI has been providing competitive advantage to a client base operating in the mid market, including small companies and subsidiaries of multinationals and large independent companies: Adams Pork Products, Axminster Carpets, Corus, Roxel, Brintons Carpets, British Nuclear Fuels, G&J Greenall, Morganite, Pfizer, Rangemaster, Saxbys, Shell, Sony, UNIQ, Sundora, Tullis Russell, Turtle Wax, UCB and CWV (formerly Vymura). Recent new customers include Fox’s Confectionery and Kettle Produce.

SSI is a Chelford Group company (AIM – CHR).

TROPOS modules cover the scope of ERP, including customer and order management, demand planning, purchasing, warehousing, production scheduling, production monitoring – including machine integration, bar-code and touch-screen data collection – quality control, traceability, HMC&E compliance, outbound logistics and financials. TROPOS Active provides integrated workflow tools, to drive events within TROPOS and across the supply chain to supplier and customer systems. TROPOS is fully web-based, and job and role-based portals are available to provide a single point of access to all systems used by the individual, with the presentation of information and transactions configured to suit the job in hand. TROPOS is supplied with software toolkits to enable new or modified screens, processes and system interfaces to be built quickly and easily. TROPOS runs on Microsoft Windows or UNIX platforms.

About James T Blakeman & Co Limited
One of the UK’s largest independently-owned sausage manufacturers, James T Blakeman & Co Limited employs 90 staff with a turnover of £11 million.

A determination to put quality first, in every aspect of the business, has been the foundation of the national - and international - success of James T Blakeman & Co Limited. Founded in 1953 by Mr James Blakeman, the company has spent years perfecting sausages for all types of catering and retail distribution. Keeping pace with the changing demands of catering and retail customers, Blakemans has not only developed unbeatable products, but has invested in state-of-the art manufacturing, storage and distribution systems to create an operation which is a model to the rest of Europe.

Today the Blakeman name is the hallmark of supreme quality, its reputation underlined by the vast range of establishments which rely on Blakeman products, and by the prestigious Higher Level Efsis Approval the company is proud to hold. Blakeman's are also a member of the British Frozen Food Federation and the Institute of Meat. Blakemans sausages will be found wherever quality meat is sold or consumed; wholesale cash and carry stores, superstores, freezer centres, hotels, restaurants, van sales and many more food distributors, not to mention the large number of small grocers, butchers' shops, take-aways and canteens.

Serving the whole of the UK, Blakemans is a key supplier to overseas markets too, quality products being exported to Spain and Balearic Islands, Greece and the Greek Islands, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates.

SSI Contact:
Neville Merritt, Sales and Marketing Director, 01256 685200.

TROPOS is a registered trademark of Strategic Systems International Ltd. SSI believes that information in the publication is accurate as of its publication date; such information is subject to change without notice. SSI is not responsible for any inadvertent errors