Debugging the Supply Chain

Amway is huge. With more than 14,000 global employees in more than 80 countries and territories, a sales force of more than 3 million distributors, 450 products and an Ada, Mich., world headquarters spanning more than 1 million square feet, the 52-year-old business is a wonder of supply chain complexity.

But that supply chain, which is counted on to deliver nutrition, beauty, personal-care and home-care products on time, could be delayed, interrupted or halted by something the naked eye can’t see: microbes.

Good business practices, not to mention strict government requirements, demand that products be uncontaminated. Testing products adds time to the production cycle and delays product release. And time is important to cash flow, working capital and maintenance of high safety standards. When contaminants are found, the quicker corrective action can be taken, the better it is.

“The microbiology testing we’re required to do tends to be lengthy,” says Steve Allard, senior group leader, Quality Services and Microbiology at Amway. “We needed to incubate samples for three to five days so we were holding up products while waiting.”

To bring that time down, the company contracted with Chicago- and Brussels-based Celsis Rapid Detection to employ its Rapid Microbial Method (RMM). “We approached Celsis about three years ago,” Allard says. “We bought the system two years ago and we’ve been phasing it in over that time. They provided a way to bring that three to five days down to about a day. We did a lot of work up front with feasibility and it has gone quite smoothly.”

That time saving means more than just effective product testing, says Celsis’ Xochitl Javier, director, Home and Beauty.

“We are actually creating a responsive manufacturing supply chain, shorter times and a streamlined operation,” she says. “Traditional quality testing contributes three to seven days of non-value-add delay to the production cycle at every point of microbiological testing, requiring huge amounts of working capital to be invested in maintaining inventory. This system delivers results in 18-24 hours, providing actionable information that enables them to confirm product quality and ship to market.”

The technology uses a luminometer; a bench-top instrument for measuring luminescence, the light emitted by a variety of sources, including some chemical and biochemical reactions. If microorganisms are present in combination with specialized Celsis reagents then an enzyme reaction is activated that produces light. If contamination is present, the system will detect it quickly. The system tests for microbial contamination, including bacteria, yeasts and molds.

Dedicated software is designed for industrial microbiology laboratories, allows simultaneous testing of multiple sample batches and offers programming for security features and preferred protocols.

Celsis, which was named a Supply & Demand Chain Executive Top 100 in 2010 and a Top 100 Supply Chain Solution this year, has installations in more than 50 countries and their customers have run more than 100 million assays worldwide. The company points to four key criteria for selecting an RMM.

  • Actionable information: How effectively does the method provide the information needed to make critical product release decisions and does it deliver ROI?
  • Breadth of application: Can the system be used on the majority of your products or does the technology have limitations, necessitating acquiring a second testing method?
  • The resource efficiency of the RMM: The ROI may be negated if the system throughput is compromised by capacity limitations, labor intensity or physical space limitations.
  • Provider support: Can the system be implemented in all of your facilities? Does it require an unrealistic level of user training, can it be validated, and does the vendor provide the support necessary to implement smoothly?

Celsis, along with management consulting firm Arthur D. Little, created a Financial Impact Assessment to help quantify the financial value of implementing its technology at a single plant. The assessment shows the amount of time it would take to realize a payback on the investment, as well as a five-year net present value. On average, according to the model, customers can expect to see an ROI within six to nine months, and a $500,000 five-year net present value.

Sustainability

One of Amway’s goals is waste reduction, including how to cut waste out of the laboratory. After the testing, there is a heavy amount of material to decontaminate. The Celsis system also helped with the need to reduce the volume of waste.

“Traditionally, we’ve focused on the operational benefits of our system, but now there is increased visibility and awareness of sustainability in general,” explains Celsis’ Javier. “As a result, we’re now delivering customized Environmental Impact Assessment Reports demonstrating the reduction in solid and liquid waste, as well as reduced water and energy consumption.”

Adds Rick VanDellen, Amway’s Sustainability Program Manager: “It reduces costs on the janitorial side. They don’t have to manage as much waste. We use less electricity, less steam. Our water needs are reduced. There’s a lot of heating involved in manufacturing and disposal.”

The Environmental assessment enables companies to quantify the value of reduced water preparation, less media preparation and autoclave use, fewer plates to discard, reduced energy consumption, and less human resources for plate preparation.

Takeaways:

  • Good business practices, not to mention strict government requirements, demand that products be uncontaminated
  • The system should be implemented in all of your facilities

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