Puzzling Planners

Every workday, the planners in our meat processing companies get up early to work on a challenging task: planning the deliveries to customers.


Every single day, people in more than 60 countries all over the world enjoy veal from one of the various meat processing companies of the VanDrie Group. Our planners work hard to correctly deliver each order, ensuring that the right piece of veal is available in the supermarket or food service every day. Dennis Oudbier, planner at Ekro, will show us his daily planning puzzle.

Early start
Dennis starts his working day at four in the morning. He is often among the first person to come in; usually the last cleaners are just leaving the building when he arrives. His department ‘front meat’ is still unstaffed at that hour. Front meat is the front part of the carcass and can be divided into many cuts, such as shoulder and neck. He has to make sure that the production employees can start work right away when they get in at six.

Most of the orders for the day are already known and with that, the logistics required. In addition, new orders can come in until about noon, which makes his work even more dynamic. Dennis has been working at Ekro for over twelve years. He knows the various departments well and has a great insight into processes, which means he is fully aware of potential problems colleagues can run into.

Dennis has to make sure that every part of meat is given the most appropriate destination. This means he has to test every order to the criteria of customers and, at the same time, has to make sure that the supply of products stays optimal.

There are a few variables that planners like Dennis have to deal with. Customers have certain wishes when it comes to fat cover, for instance, or colour, conformation, the feed the animal received and the origin of the animal. Safety Guard is the VanDrie Group's integrated quality system, and it ensures that this kind of data is available to Dennis. At the same time, he is dependent on the supply of meat parts in stock.

Assigning quality criteria such as fat cover or colour is done by an independent institute, the Centraal Bureau Slachtveediensten (CBS). Furthermore, the meat has to be cooled down sufficiently, to below seven degrees, before it is allowed to be transported. 

Dennis starts his day by making a preplanning, bearing in mind the availability of meat parts and other selection criteria. “It’s a puzzle and sometimes not an easy one to solve.”  At half past six in the morning he has his first meeting of the day with the sales department. “I discuss the progress and when I anticipate problems in the availability of carcasses, or in a surplus of certain parts, I make them aware of this. Sometimes a solution can be found that involves asking customers whether the weight of an order can be slightly increased or decreased.” 

“It’s a puzzle and sometimes not an easy one to solve.” - Dennis Oudbier

An hour later, he has a meeting with the managers of the other production departments. According to Dennis, short lines and good communication with all involved is essential to the process. The puzzling and the pressure to find solutions in a short space of time motivates Dennis: “Urgent tasks that pop up in between, changes to orders: it’s a great challenge to quickly find appropriate solutions to these matters. I love the responsibility I have regarding internal processes. When I end my day and I know that I have fulfilled the demands of customers while at the same time achieving optimal value of our stock, I am a happy person.”

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