For three centuries, Martell has produced, exported and marketed cognacs that are recognized worldwide for their quality and finesse, obtained through double distillation of exclusively clear wines and aging in fine-grained oak casks.
Founded in 1715, Martell has over 300 years of passion and precision passed down through the Martell family and is the oldest of the great cognac houses. Martell symbolizes French style, treasuring the beauty and pleasure of every moment and possessing a know-how passed down from generation to generation to create cognacs savored across the globe, whether aboard the Orient Express or the Concorde, and even during the royal wedding.
From the vineyard to the glass, cognac is produced in three stages: distillation of the white wine to obtain an eau de vie (EDV), or distilled brandy; aging in oak barrels stored in wine storehouses for at least two years; and finally, an assembly of EDVs to reveal specific aromas. This is the stage that gives the cognac its inimitable and eternal bouquet. The cellar master, supported by four master blenders, has a complex pallet of aromas to draw from to build the personality of every product. Between rigor, experience and intuition, the cellar master realizes the subtle assemblies of EDVs of various ages and different vineyards which will give the cognac its personality.
All of these stages require a rigorous planning of activities to organize year-round the work of all the teams and associated transportation.
The timetable for barrel filling follows a seasonal rhythm. The grape harvests are made in September, followed by the distillation stage from November to the end of March. EDV is then transported to storage sites and the filling of the barrels is done from December to the end of May. Every year they are stored in French oak barrels of 240 to 400 liters in 50 wine storehouses on three Martell-owned storage sites. The barrels can stay on these sites for several decades, and as long as over a century. Every barrel is identified and listed by a bar code, which replaces the former inscriptions marked with chalk that can still be seen on certain older barrels.
Upon request from the cellar master, operations to withdraw the EDV from barrels are done throughout the year. The directions (or recipe) supplied by the cellar master establishes the list of EDVs and the volumes to be taken according to their age and vineyard. Once taken, EDVs are transported via truck tank to assembly shops.
From June to September, barrel maintenance and repairs are performed. During this period, the company must organize the arrivals and exits of barrels, and clean and maintain the park.
“We needed a tool to plan and schedule the work of our teams by minimizing the travel between the wine storehouses by optimizing the filling and the route of the truck tanks between various sites,” says Lydie Bardeau, planning manager EDV, Martell. “Most importantly, we wanted to guarantee that the eau de vie were delivered by the required deadlines.”
Historically, the EDV department used Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software to manage its scheduling. When Bardeau joined the company in 2012, she led the search for a planning and scheduling tool. She favored a simple tool, and following the building of a demonstration model, Martell chose Opcenter APS production and planning software, now part of the Siemens manufacturing operations management (MOM) portfolio.
With Opcenter APS software, Martell implemented a four-step process to streamline scheduling and make the process from barrel to shelf as efficient as possible.
Information concerning the stocks of EDV is managed by the Martell IT system’s software (drumming, identification of barrel, reference of the wine storehouse). The information is automatically passed on to Opcenter APS, via an import, which avoids any risk of error or loss.
Master planning supplies every two-to-three person team the list of activities to be completed. The schedule is issued weekly for all the teams distributed on three sites. This schedule allows the publishing of worksheets that are then passed on to the site managers. It is accessible in viewing mode and allows follow-up of the progress of activities with three statuses – to do, started and ended. This follow-up information is used to guide the master planning.
Transportation planning is intended to simultaneously optimize the filling of the tanks (which contain up to six compartments), the routes from the sites of aging to the site of assembly, and the driver’s availability. This optimization is determined by the volumes of transport and the delivery deadlines. The automation of this stage, which today is manual, is under consideration.
Schedules are built based on the data configured in Opcenter APS and include the list of activities (stripping, scalding, labeling, inventory, stocking, cleaning, drumming, transfer and maintenance), the resources organized in three groups (working teams, tanks and trailers), the list of sites and supersites (wine storehouses and sites) and quantified data (paces of drumming, volumes of storage).
“There was no resistance to changing from Excel to Opcenter APS because we wanted to set up a simple approach, step-by-step, without trying to automate everything from the beginning,” says Bardeau. “The site managers appreciate the automatic reports Opcenter APS generates. It is a distinct advantage over Excel.”
Today, Opcenter APS is widely adopted and, aside from the satisfaction of its users, has yielded obvious advantages compared to the former spreadsheet-based method.
Planners estimate that there was a 20 percent time savings in activities planning. In addition, using Opcenter APS allowed Martell to realize a 30 percent time savings in optimizing the tank-filling process.
The late deliveries of the EDV on the assembly site were reduced from five percent to zero, provided there were no technical problems. The possibility for oversight or mistakes in dates has also been lessened.
Finally, Martell realized a 12 percent increase in the productivity of their teams, attributable to improved visibility of the activities assigned to each team member. A better sequence of activities led to less travel between wine storehouses, increasing the productivity of the teams.
“With Opcenter APS, we managed to set up a simple and effective method of work that was widely adopted by our users,” says Bardeau. “We gained coherence and reduced the time spent on the planning of activities and transport. The working teams are better organized and more productive. And we fully respect the delivery deadlines, one of our key objectives. We intend to study new possibilities for automation and spread the use of Opcenter APS to other departments such as assembly, bottling and packaging.”