Follett Ice: Three years of Demand Driven Supply Chain Efficiency

Follett Ice: Three years of Demand Driven Supply Chain Efficiency - Still Part of Continued Process Improvement


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Follett Ice’s senior purchasing agent, Jeff Craig wisely identified the key variables when selecting a demand driven supply chain three years ago. Craig knew he needed a commitment from management to support lean manufacturing and supply base that is open to change.  He also recognized that if the method of ordering changed, order quantities and lead-times would be reduced, yet needed people available for implementation and had to generate enough savings to cover start-up and monthly fees.
Follett Ice selected Datacraft Solutions’ Signum (demand driven supply chain solution) after a mere two and a half month evaluation process as a lean manufacturer’s indispensable partner for building dependable and cost effective digital supply chain replenishment networks. Delivering a revolutionary process of automation solutions to lean manufacturers through a secure Internet gateway, Follett Ice eliminated the need to install and maintain a complex IT infrastructure. There were no complicated, expensive, time-intensive software implementations necessary, no extensive training regiments and no internal support nightmares.
How Follett Ice Gets and Stays Lean
After World War II, the commercial ice machine industry in the United States was in its infancy. Roy Follett recognized the need for a broader selection of ice storage bins than the ice machine manufacturers were offering. In 1948, he founded the Follett Corporation to supply ice storage bins to meet the needs of the exploding foodservice industry. In 1954, after Roy’s death, his son Don took over the company; then located in Garden City, NY. In 1967, a new manufacturing facility was opened at the current location in Easton, Pennsylvania. Don’s son Steve joined the business in 1987, and the tradition of family leadership continued in 1994 when Steve became chief executive officer.
Today, Follett Corporation still builds more configurations of ice storage and transport products than any other company in the world, and the firm’s product line has expanded to include ice and water dispensers, low-profile ice and beverage dispensers and ice machines. Follett is recognized as a global provider of ice management equipment, providing innovative solutions to the foodservice, healthcare, supermarket, convenience store, and employee refreshment markets.
Follett Ice now has two manufacturing facilities, one in Easton, Pennsylvania and one in Gdansk, Poland; both operate on “lean” manufacturing principles with emphasis on Kaizen – rapid, continuous improvement. State-of-the-art fabrication equipment such as CNC controlled laser metal cutters ensures precise tolerances and quality control. The company’s “build to stock, configure to order” manufacturing strategy enables them to ship all products in three to five working days, 99% of the time! A world-class research and development lab enables the firm to produce the high-quality, reliable products that are associated with the Follett name. Follett has also invested heavily in information technology to keep plants and employees connected, and to closely coordinate customer demand to material requirements and workflow. Solid modeling software enables engineers to share their concepts with cross-functional product development teams, including customers, to ensure that products are developed quickly and meet customer requirements. Every cross-functional team includes a “voice of the customers.”
According to Stephen Parker, CEO of Datacraft Solutions, "We do not charge for upgrades to the system as we learn about new best practices that clients ask us to incorporate. Before Datacraft Solutions’ incorporates the request, it is reviewed buy a lean advisory board to validate the value of the best practices and the value added impact upon our partner community. Once it is passed, they develop, test, and implement. We practice what we preach to our customers."

The hosted solution provides the customer with their own set of servers which are maintained offsite by and outsourced set of administrators. All of the administration fees, equipment, support teams and software updates are all included in the monthly service fee which is less then the cost of hiring an internal system administrator.

Digital Kanban Internet-based on-demand delivery platform offers key benefits from the very beginning of an implementation - namely, the elimination of lengthy, complicated and expensive infrastructure upgrades. According to Parker, “We are able to draw on the insights and experiences of our clients to enhance the functionality of offerings. We are, in effect, applying the lessons of continuous improvement to our own platform, optimizing Signum to make an accessible framework to reduce inventory levels, increase productivity and continually improve process flow.”
Pressure to reduce lead times, expanding product lines, and global competition drives the value of Signum, a lean manufacturing product that automates consumption driven replenishment across suppliers, customers, and the factory floor. The ability to provide an ASP model allows for global visibility into the plant floor from anywhere in the world, with nothing to install and no software to maintain. Currently Signum is the only On-Demand SaaS (software as a solution) electronic pull-based supply chain solution which also provides real-time material flow status and intelligent demand load leveling.
Three years since their initial purchase, Follett Ice continues to demonstrate that replenishment-based supply chain is fundamental to business efficiency.  Reduced inventory levels, supply chain integration, and increased turns all eliminate waste and serve as hallmarks for continued process improvement.
Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, Inc., the largest manufacturing marketing firm worldwide –  Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing.   Cutler is also the author of the Manufacturers’ Public Relations and Media Guide. Cutler is a frequently published author within the manufacturing sector with more than 300 feature articles authored annually; he can be contacted at [email protected].