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Consumer and Food Products

Consumer products encompass a wide range such as cleaners and detergents, creams and lotions, and all types of food production.  Some commonalities for all consumer products include

  • Storage constraints such as limited wait storage, maximum allowable storage, or minimum/maximum hold time for product quality
  • Stringent cleaning requirements so that product traits are not contaminated
  • Sequence dependent setup 
  • Product packaging constraints deriving from many packaged SKUs
  • Raw material limitations or variability that drive mixing constraints or when production can be released

APCI has experience across a diverse set of consumer products.  Repeated experience with certain process types in consumer products, such as Make-Store-Pack, has given rise to specialized versions of VirtECS designed for the specific considerations that users encounter in these recurring process types. Food production is a very important subcategory of Consumer Products.  The production of processed foods has important commonalities with pharmaceutical/biologics production.  In particular food processing involves sterility and cleaning commensurate with human consumption.

Coffee Beans

VirtECS Addresses Scheduling with Significant Recipe Changes Due to Natural Variability Such as Moisture Content


VirtECS Addresses Complex Storage Requirements for Consumer Product and Food Quality


VirtECS Excels at Optimizing with a Large Number of SKUs

Consumer and food processing encompass an enormous range of production scales.  Some processes for large markets require schedules that encompass hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds of product.  Other processes address low volume and high-end markets that require many differentiated end products by color, flavor or packaging and occasionally an anchor process will support many products  with some end finish processing for high end products. Consumer product and food processing implies a wide range of specialized physical constraints. For example, there is often a freshness time window after the first production step in which the product must complete the final packaging step.  Often high temperature steps must be followed by a cooling step for a mandatory time window that controls product quality. These types of time window constraints require schedules that coordinate processed ingredients coming together. For example, independently baked or roasted components must be available at approximately the same time to be mixed for the subsequent step.  The blending of separately processed natural components is a hallmark of modern food products that allow product quality to be controlled even with natural variations in inputs from season to season. As such product recipes can be tweaked from time to time or even after every batch based upon raw material measurements.

The Value of VirtECS

Within the context of these important constraints VirtECS manages sequencing and timing to maximize throughput and address inventory constraints that support quality such as minimum/maximum hold times.  As mass-customization of manufacturing continues to advance and markets differentiate into smaller and more profitable niches, consumer product and food manufacturers face a proliferation of SKUs. In these demanding environments, VirtECS quickly provides schedules that minimize changeover, organizes production according to families, and that are designed to support new rollouts and marketing campaigns.

VirtECS in Action

VirtECS allows users to have a high-fidelity model of their consumer product and food production processes.  VirtECS can handle important constraints such as storage capacity and timing, equipment connectivity, changing product blend recipes, weight loss during processing, shift schedules, preventive maintenance, and sequence-dependent changeover times.  VirtECS is more than a tool to generate a production schedule. VirtECS is designed to help continuously improve the plant. This is important in an era of rapidly proliferating SKUs. For example, VirtECS can help a plant engineer determine the most cost-effective way to add capacity or new SKUs.  The supply chain organization can use VirtECS to study how different demand forecast scenarios will affect the plant’s ability to deliver product and maintain end inventory. The planning and execution of consumer product and food processing presents many unique challenges. VirtECS provides a powerful set of tools for overcoming these challenges and to constantly improve production processes.

APCI will be happy to arrange for a demonstration and brainstorm how VirtECS can add value to your consumer product or food processing or any process where a realistic, physics-based model can add value for analysis, demand management, and scheduling.  Please send an email to