Majans, the snackfood company behind the best-selling Bhuja Snacks range, is building strong digital foundations for a Factory of the Future, fostering an information ecosystem that collects, analyses and acts on data.

Majans traces its history back to Fiji in the 1960s. Today it’s a thoroughly modern manufacturer, headquartered in Queensland and employing 120 people, with a decent share of Australia’s $1.2bn snack market. The company has grown exponentially in recent years with brands like Bhuja and Infuzions. Today, its gaze is firmly fixed on the future, and the opportunity to create an intelligent, efficient, data-driven factory of the future.

It’s building the foundations right now. Working with Microsoft partner Sable37, Majans has replaced an SAP Business One solution with Microsoft’s Azure-based Dynamics365.

Majans Director Amit Raniga explains that the business is focussed on gaining a competitive advantage by digitally transforming its end-to-end processes. While a significant player in the snackfood market, Majans is dwarfed by giant international competition. Sustained success and the opportunity to expand into international markets will rely on discovering ways to do things smarter, faster.

“We have a weekly forum, we’re calling it Majans’ Labs, and the forum’s clear mandate is to drive process change and process improvement,” says Raniga. “As an organisation our clear purpose is inspiring discovery and a growth mindset.”

Technology plays a critical role, providing a platform for streamlining the supply chain and optimising operations, he explains: “The traditional approach in manufacturing involves collection of data on paper, whiteboards and legacy systems. As a business we’re asking: ‘how do we use emerging toolkits to help us gain an edge?’. We’re a high-velocity, high-quality manufacturer with a diverse range of stakeholders through our supply chain. We needed a comprehensive information solution that could meet the needs of the entire business.”

Majans has deployed a range of Microsoft technologies, with the Azure-based Dynamics 365 at its core and leveraging Microsoft PowerApps, Flow, PowerBI and Teams. The company has for the last three years embraced a Lean approach to operations. The digital transformation now underway creates an information ecosystem that can collect and analyse information, gain insights from that information and act on it.

“In  simple terms, the value driver is the ability for the cycle time around any given process to be compressed,” explains Raniga. “The pain point here is that 80% of our time is spent collecting and analysing information, so by the time you gain insight, to have that lightbulb moment to act, we typically experience action fatigue. What digitisation allows you to do is automate the whole collect-and-analyse part. The goal is to spend more time on insight and actions, which is where the value drivers are. The value drivers aren’t in collecting and analysing – they’re are in insight and actions.“

Factory of the Future

The foundation for Majans’ factory of the future is now deployed with Dynamics 365. In parallel, Majans is using SharePoint, PowerApps and Power BI.

“We’ve got a portfolio of PowerApps live in our environment, handling last-mile requirements around our people, production, quality, engineering and Lean systems,” says Raniga. “We’re developing these apps internally with champions in functional areas driving change management. We’re extraordinarily excited about the extensibility capability between PowerApps and Dynamics 365 as well, which we’ll also be building capability on.”

At the same time Majans has been an early and enthusiastic adopter of Microsoft Teams to spur effective collaboration and communications.

“Now everyone across the Majans family, from frontline teams to the leadership group, has unprecedented visibility which is real-time. It’s very transparent, activities are very transparent.”

Majans is already planning to take that transparency to the next level by launching gamified reporting and scorecards to encourage visibility and continuous improvement.

“We’re going through planning stages of our Power BI-driven visual management system. Rather than the traditional method of measuring performance, which is by the day or shift or machine or product, we’re flipping that on its head. Performance is driven by people, and we are collecting performance information from our business on the frontline and pushing it back, and visualising our results as leader boards.

“The traditional methods of operational reporting are tired and unengaging. Our teams are excited about the idea of gamified reporting. Some are nervous because your performance is up there in lights, but we are sensing an opportunity to lift engagement and accountability in a healthy way.

“By the year 2020, 50% of our workforce will be millennials, who are digitally native. They understand leaderboards. They connect with that whole idea of ranking your performance and promote healthy competitive spirit that should be the basis of all great teams.”

Unleashing IoT

Another critical ingredient to Majans’ ambitions is how it can achieve digital excellence in manufacturing. Traditional food & beverage manufacturers collect data from frontline machines either manually or through legacy systems. Quality control processes also required collecting information from laboratory instruments to monitor key parameters.

A project bringing together Microsoft and factory systems specialists, Omron is currently piloting Azure IoT solutions to ingest operational data from of Majans’ machines and instruments and push this to the Azure cloud for real-time reporting. At the same time Majans is looking to use Microsoft technologies to optimise the supply chain.

“In simple terms we’re talking about every data point we have across our supply chain, whether it’s our demand forecast, warehouse inventory, customer distribution centre inventory, to the purchase point at store level,” says Raniga. “All these data points we currently have access to, but they’re all in disparate systems all over the place.”