Simcoe Leaf Tobacco Company Ltd. (Simcoe) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Corporation (NYSE:UVV) located in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada. Simcoe processes all the raw, or green, tobacco grown in Ontario before it is sent to cigarette companies for manufacturing into cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Simcoe has been in business for over 50 years. A medium size business, there are 50 full-time employees, but this number swells with the addition of over 250 more workers during the active processing season, which typically runs from October through April.
Prior to our involvement, Simcoe had been tracking all production and inventory activity using copious paper records and two small, Clipper-based applications written by a local developer who could no longer support it. There was also another Microsoft Access application in place at Ontario’s tobacco auction for tracking Simcoe’s purchase information.
Processing data and inventory movement was tracked on ledger sheets, and then sent to the front office for consolidation and management reporting. Production planning decisions, inventory reporting, and accounting functions were all subject to the delays introduced by this paper-based flow. Mistakes due to simple typographical errors took hours to trace. Management could not respond effectively to changes in market conditions or customer demands for production and inventory information in a timely manner.
These processes had been in place pretty much since the company’s founding. In autumn of 1999, with the departure of the developers who wrote the existing auction and inventory applications, management recognized the need for a new, better, comprehensive system.
Upon our engagement in late 1999, we were tasked with replacing two existing Clipper-based systems with current technology, duplicating and extending their current functionality. We did this with an eye toward establishing a solid base for further development. Cognizant of the significant cultural issues surrounding such a radical change to the way users performed their daily tasks, we were careful to ease the introduction of new systems to the front office. A successful launch of the new office system in the fall of 2000 led to the introduction of real time capture of information in the plant, utilizing barcode scanning technology in the fall of 2001. Other areas of the plant followed in subsequent seasons, making heavy use of barcode and thin-client technologies. 2002 saw the rewrite of the existing auction purchase tracking system. In 2003, major changes in the Canadian tobacco industry led to a sharp increase in Simcoe’s processing volume and required some rapid, last minute changes to system functionality that we successfully integrated into our systems in time for the start of the processing season.
Simcoe enjoys unparalleled real time access to plant activities, most of the paper workflow has been eliminated, all data is consolidated in one large database, and our systems run the plant 24 hours a day, 5 days a week during the active processing season.
Today, KMP continues to enhance and extend the systems we’ve built to more areas of the plant. As the tobacco industry changes, so too do Simcoe’s requirements. Because of our careful planning and the solid foundation provided by our tools and practices, we are able to respond quickly and efficiently to these changes.