Software Helps Consumer Goods Manufacturer Thrive Amid Pandemic Uncertainty

Skin Actives proves that digitizing production operations doesn’t necessarily require big ticket software technologies. Modern Material Requirements Planning software can address every step in the production process, from order processing to fulfillment.

When sourcing ingredients and materials from around the world, and making dozens of different and often customized products, staying organized is a mammoth task. That’s especially true for a small manufacturer like Skin Actives, a manufacturer of skin and hair care products.

To get a better handle on the company’s operations, Skin Actives chose MRPeasy, a cloud-based material requirements planning (MRP) software specifically designed for companies with 200 or fewer employees. This manufacturing-centric software was introduced six years ago and is now being used or tested by an estimated 1,000 manufacturers worldwide to keep track of everything from inventory control to demand forecasting to managing production workflows.

“There’s a lot of redundancy built into MRPeasy to help us stay on top of sourcing, inventory, and orders, which has been particularly valuable during the virus shutdown,” explains Michelle Murnighan, chief of operations at Skin Actives. “Like everyone, we’re working with reduced staff, but the software enables us to know which sources of material to use for each order, what staffing is needed, and how long and how much it will cost to make a product. This was particularly important at the beginning of the shutdown when we had a major increase in online ordering.”

Skin Actives sells directly to consumers and professional salons, as well as distributors and online merchants, both under the Skin Actives brand and as white label products. “When we receive an ingredient, the software automatically gives it a lot number so we can designate which lot to draw from—whether we’re making standard or customized products. Batch number allocation is also necessary to comply with FDA regulations,” adds Murnighan.

The company has a staff of 15 and annual sales of more than $2 million. The company is based in Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix. While raw ingredients and materials for manufacturing are sourced from the U.S., Europe, Australia, China, and other Asian countries, all products are made in the U.S. Sources of materials used by Skin Actives range from one-person specialty operations to large corporations, supplying everything from essential oils, botanical ingredients, and research chemicals to packaging.

While some ingredients are kept in stock, others are ordered on demand. This makes staying on top of inventory especially important when it comes to bulky packaging imported from China, which has a lead time of many months to minimize shipping charges.

Skin Actives replaced its original hybrid customer relationship management (CRM) and MRP software with MRPeasy in March 2017. The software is used for every step in the production process, from taking an order all the way through the manufacturing process, including private label sales and fulfillment. The company also uses MRPeasy for data analysis, looking at historical trends to create demand forecasting. This enables a more efficient purchasing process and avoids product shortages.

The software is used by all employees, including customer service for order entry and CRM interactions.

“Different views of the data are determined by user profiles, so different functions see the most appropriate information for their job,” says Murnighan. “This allows workers to verify information or error check without having to consult with managers. The quality control department, for example, can check incoming ingredients to ensure specifications have been met. They can also attach certificates of analysis and compare each lot to prior lots.”

Murnighan says MRPeasy has been particularly useful in five key areas. First and foremost is its ability to allocate lot or batch numbers to products or ingredients, which allows for traceability at all times. “We used to have to create a traceable trail using a paper-based manual process, which made tracing a nightmare and often required us to recall additional products to make sure we had caught everything. Now, if there’s ever a problem with a product, we can locate the source of the issue immediately.”

Inventory management is another area that’s seen a vast improvement. “We can track product movement much better now,” she explains. “We have the ability to enter in customer write-offs when there is a need to dispose of a portion of an order or damaged product. We can also see the reason for stock counts being off or lost ingredients.”

Tracking bills of materials is also easier. “This software allows us to keep a change log that we can view at any time,” says Murnighan. “If a customer says they want to change and go back to a version we supplied them before, we can do so easily.”

MRPeasy has even helped Skin Actives better define its workflows. “It uses workstation systems, so we can note every step of the process,” she says. “This helps a lot with costing since it lets us see how much labor is going into a product, especially when it’s a custom one. It also gives us ideas for efficiency improvements.”

Murnighan says one of the most important benefits of MRPeasy has been the ability to have complete information sharing across the facility. “It’s been fantastic, and it’s very intuitive to use. Everyone can see everything, which helps with the flow of information. It helps everyone connect to the process flow and where products stand in the process.”

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