Fast-Growing Small Manufacturers Transformed with Automated Inventory Control

  • October 25, 2019
  • Feature
Fast-Growing Small Manufacturers Transformed with Automated Inventory Control
Fast-Growing Small Manufacturers Transformed with Automated Inventory Control

By Thomas R. Cutler

Puppy Cake produces treats for beloved pets for special occasions or just to spoil them. No more feeling guilty eating dessert as a family member, your dog stares wanting something they cannot eat. From cooking ingredients, utensils, personalized cakes, and even clothes for humans and dogs alike, the company only uses natural ingredients (for food products) and holds themselves to the highest standards. Puppy Cake even has a wheat-free alternative for a dog to avoid certain food types. 

Kelly Costello, CEO and Founder of Puppy Cake

In 2007, Kelly Costello was looking at old cake mix advertisements for a client. She started with a few flavors and worked out of her kitchen in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment. Little by little, Puppy Cake grew, and began launching a whole line of treats. Since 2013, all the products are made at Evans City, Pennsylvania-based factory full of hardworking people who put their hearts into making great dog treats.                                     

Costello personally oversees the manufacturing of Puppy Cake products to ensure safety and quality. Puppy Cake only makes products that are good enough for humans to eat.


Challenges of a Fast-Growing Manufacturing Business

The company has grown quickly over the last several years and faced challenges to accommodate this rapid growth. The three major challenges Puppy Cake identified were:

Costello shared, “The biggest issue with manufacturing was forecasting ingredients purchasing and labor planning for several weeks out.  We struggled to figure out how many pounds of product we would need in X number of weeks after manufacturing Y number of different products. We regularly ran out of ingredients or assemblies on a weekly basis because it was so difficult to plan it out.” Costello quickly identified the need to get more control over their business, by:

  • Improving efficiency of day-to-day operations by more than 75%;
  • Finding a new method for monitoring material inventory management; and
  • Developing, implementing, and improving scheduling to optimize production planning.


Quality Efficiencies Quantified

Costello knew the challenges and needed to find a cost-effective solution geared specifically for small manufacturers like Puppy Cake. These challenges were impacting the QA/QC operation and while a lean manufacturing approach was not her top consideration, she knew the company could only grow by improving efficiency, material inventory management, and optimized scheduling.

Puppy Cake was spoiling dogs with treats, but the company was struggling to achieve the perfect balance of inventory management; it was impacting the bottom-line. Katana cloud-based manufacturing software best-suited for small manufacturers allowed Puppy Cake to measure and quantify efficiency improvements. Day-to-day operations are now maximized at 100%.


Small Manufacturers Lose Quality Control Without Managing Material Inventory

Costello was suddenly able to get more control of material inventory with the Katana auto-booking feature as well as guide the operations and quality manager with a master production schedule.  There is now a clear overview of operations’ progress with a task list, so team members know what tasks are left to complete.


Saying Goodbye to Spreadsheets Proved Critical

Costello noted, “We used Excel spreadsheets attempting to keep stock of our ingredients and what was needed to accomplish different manufacturing processes. It was tedious and inaccurate. Since abandoning the inefficient spreadsheets, Puppy Cake has been able to dramatically optimize operations, inventory control, and time management.”

Katana’s auto-booking system allocates available material to the most recent manufacturing orders, so Puppy Cake can effortlessly know sufficient resources are available to fulfill each and every order promptly and accurately. 

Katana Cloud-based Software 


Managing the Holiday Season

As a result of a significant influx of orders during the holiday season, the Puppy Cake operations team may wish to reprioritize the work order to finish an important holiday order even sooner; the drag-and-drop feature in Katana means they can refocus the workflow. The cloud-based system will redistribute allocated material to make sure the priority order is fulfilled first.

Onboarding this visual and easy-to-use interface allowed Costello to tighten control over all areas of the business. Improving the way material inventory is tracked has translated into a much more organized operations, helping to drastically reduce the number of production stoppages previously experienced due to stock-outs.

Costello attributes that having control over these business areas has had a direct impact on quality, commenting, "When we were last inspected for a food safety audit, the inspector said that we were the cleanest pet food facility he had ever inspected. We received a 97% compliance.”

Only when a small manufacturer has a grasp on operation elements can the promise of lean manufacturing and continuous process improvement be realized.

About the Author

Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., celebrating its 20th year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 7000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 1000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler. 

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