Martin Garnham - stock.adobe.com
United Biscuits owner Pladis has turned to SAP software as a service to get closer to customers, starting with its North American business.
Anthoula Madden, chief digital officer (CDO) at Pladis Global, describes the company’s ÜIker brand, based in Turkey, as “the Nestlé of the Middle East”. Parent company Yildiz Holdings has its origins, alongside ÜIker, in the world of the Istanbul bakery in the 1940s.
In 2016, Yildiz brought together United Biscuits (maker of McVitie’s biscuits, Jacob’s crackers and Twiglets), ÜIker, Godiva Chocolatier and DeMet’s Candy Company under the Pladis name, as a play on the “Pleiades” star constellation. Pladis is a $5.2bn  turnover business, and is said to “reach” four billion people globally. The Godiva retail chain is a separate legal entity, also owned by Yildiz Holdings.
Madden, who has an academic background as a post-graduate physicist, had Godiva as a client when she was a PwC consultant. She jokes that the CDO role at Pladis is her “first real job”, outside of management consultancy.
The first steps in bringing Pladis closer to its customers, using what SAP describes as its “intelligent enterprise” technology approach, have been taken in North America, says Madden.
“They were running primarily on manual processes, and mainly on Excel and [Microsoft] Navision for finance, digitally. So that was a good place to do a cloud solution that was agile and scalable, and where it was easier to connect with an ecosystem of partners.
“We used the business model in the SAP Hana Cloud to create a new digital core for the business, which we have also restructured around a brand P&L [profit and loss]. We kicked that off in November 2017, and went live on 1 May 2018,” she says.
London is the headquarters for Pladis, as a relatively new global business. “The key philosophy is to be more consumer- and brand-centric, with a more agile business model. We had been product-centric, so being more relevant to consumers is a big cultural change. The advantage we have over, say, Nestlé and Mars is we are smaller, so we can be more agile,” says Madden.
The engagement with SAP S/4Hana Cloud is a pilot for the American business – the US, Canada and the Caribbean. UK-based United Biscuits and Turkey-based ÜIker are long-standing on-premise SAP customers. In China, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and other territories, there is a plethora of enterprise software, and they are “in the process of integrating and harmonising some of that”, says Madden.
Since its two biggest markets – the UK and Turkey – were already on SAP, the choice “made sense”, she says. “But also, for a company with a complex supply chain, what SAP offers in the cloud is still the leading capability, ahead of Microsoft Dynamics and Oracle.”
Anthoula Madden, Pladis Global
Shifting from a product-centric approach to focus instead on consumers and brands is a sectoral trend for packaged consumer goods. And for Pladis, in particular, she says it can focus more on consumer needs than its bigger competitors.
“Consumers in the UK, Saudi and North America are all different. So, how do we appeal to their different lifestyles? For example, how do we market McVitie’s outside of the UK? In North America, you don’t even talk about ‘biscuits’, you talk about ‘cookies’,” says Madden.
S/4 Hana delivered over the cloud will help to effect this shift to the consumer by offering real-time data and integration with respect to both retailers and distributors, on the one hand, and by providing the capacity to listen to consumers on social media, and use data analytics. Up until now, they had been using agencies and basic tools. “But what you don’t get there is real-time data,” she says.
“We are already seeing huge benefits, seeing the brand P&L, sales by customer, by channel, profitable, being able to optimise demand, to look at our stock situation. All of that is much better orchestrated, and with better collaboration with our customers and distributors,” says Madden.
China is the next market Pladis wants to take the cloud-based S/4 Hana system into, as well as ramping up business growth in North America.
It is also looking to use “artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate some of the insight” to be derived from the use of SAP Hana in the cloud, says Madden, “using predictive analytics around demand and occasions, for example”.
“Now we have a platform, we can evolve the business more,” she says.
Read more about enterprise software in the food and beverage sector
- Read how United Biscuits embarked on a large IT integration project after acquiring rival manufacturer Jacobs from Danone in September 2004.
- Journey to SAP S/4 Hana Cloud is driven by the need for agility.
- Fruit and veg distributor Reynolds keeps food fresh with Infor’s M3 ERP.