Byline: Michael Hickins

NEW YORK — Serengeti Eyewear, a manufacturer of premium eyeglasses based in Sarasota, Fla., has improved its material requirement planning capabilities, reducing both wasted effort and production costs.
Craig Davidson, director of information systems at Serengeti, said the solution “helps us match customer demand with our production cycle, and with what’s already in the pipeline.”
According to Davidson, Serengeti has reduced back orders by 90 percent since implementing software from Macola Software of Marion, Ohio.
Previously, the manufacturer’s enterprise system was based on a legacy accounting system and couldn’t provide the kind of tracking required for a company with growing sales and multiple suppliers.
The problem was compounded when Serengeti, formerly a division of Owens Corning in Toledo, Ohio, was acquired by New York-based non-premium sunglasses manufacturer Solar Mates, which then adopted the Serengeti name and quadrupled total sales from about $8 million to $39 million in 1999.
Eyewear components are sourced from a variety of suppliers around the world and assembled by other vendors. According to Davidson, the materials requirements planning solution “manages each step of the process.”
With the company’s growth have come additional requirements for “more complex materials requirements planning. We needed a system that could handle thousands of customer requirements and manage and plan in the context of an international manufacturing process,” he said.
By adding visibility throughout the supply chain, Serengeti has been able to better manage cycle times and production. While those cycle times can’t be improved, “It takes a given amount of time to make the frames and burn the glass for the lenses.” Davidson said the materials requirement planning has allowed the company to input that information and plan from that. “It’s been a very reliable indicator,” he said.
Serengeti has generated cost savings because it has been able to get discounts based on the volume reliability afforded by the system. “You pay a higher price a la carte,” said Davidson. “Now we get a price break based on planned volumes.”
The system has helped Serengeti and its suppliers plan for an entire year. “We can take a yearly forecast and match it against real orders, and that tells us what needs to be produced by when. And it lets us plan our production as far out as we need to go.”
An additional benefit of the system is that Serengeti’s suppliers have been able to maintain their own margins, while passing part of their savings onto Serengeti. “Both of us can maintain a strong level of profitability,” Davidson noted, “and that makes for good business partnerships.”
Serengeti is also about to launch a password-protected Internet site to improve communication of critical information with its supplier base as well as its retail partners. Operating as a kind of self-service communication channel, retailers will be able to download new product updates and features at their leisure. “We have retail partners in Europe and other time zones, and this way they don’t have to call during our business hours,” said Davidson.
Suppliers will be able to consult new product specifications and keep a close eye on supply-chain issues. “We’ll be able to let them know what the demand is, or where there are shortages.”
Davidson said schedules and deliverables will also be online, as will vendor performance cards, or ratings on deliveries, quality, and price ratios that are currently recorded on paper.