Info-tech

A sweet solution

L. N. Revathy | Updated on November 25, 2017

M.Krishnan, Managing Director of Sri Krishna Sweets. Photo:K_Ananthan   -  THE HINDU

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Have you ever had a chance to peep into the kitchen of, say, a restaurant or community hall, where food is prepared on a large scale?

Most of us would be loathe to do that, but given a chance, one should see how Sri Krishna Sweets has adopted technology to put the entire process - from production to distribution - in order in its kitchens.

'You have to see to understand how we do it'? says Krishnan, Chief Executive of Sri Krishna Sweets, taking us around the stock room before moving to the kitchen. A few steps into the store room were enough to make us feel that our feet carried more dust into the spacious bright, well-lit room.

But for the heady smell of cardamom and possibly ghee, the room appeared clean. Even the fine dust of the gram flour, which the women were transferring into smaller packets, was carefully collected on a paper laid just under.

Men were stacking packed bags sporting bar-coded tags on the racks, while the women were silently measuring the supplies, sorting and putting the required quantity of the ingredients in smaller packets and affixing bar-coded labels on bags.

'We place them in sets. Say, you have an indent for a tray of a particular sweet ? the pre-defined input quantities are packed in 'sets' and tags affixed immediately. The bar-coded label will have the date and time of packing. Such sets are then moved to the kitchen. The clerk at the entrance makes an entry in his system. After the dish is prepared and ready, it is loaded on the tray, labelled (barcoded) and sent to the dispatch section.

`We have, over a period of time, managed to ascertain the input-output ratio. This has helped plug pilferage and control wastage. The bar-coded label on the tray specifies the time and date of despatch,' explains Krishnan.

Sweet preparation is centralised. While the kitchen in Coimbatore caters to the company's retail outlets across Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka and Kerala, the sweet-making major operates two more kitchens ? one each in Hyderabad and Mumbai to cater to the upcountry markets.

As many as 85 varieties of sweets and savouries are prepared every day and transported to the various outlets. By systematising the entire process, from production to distribution, Krishna Sweets has put technology advancements to good use. ?This is a wonderful weapon? says the company's Managing Director, M Krishnan, referring to the bar-coding technique.

Ask Krishnan what prompted him to do this and he recalls his meeting with Dr Kalam.

`When I met him about two years ago, he made a casual enquiry about the checks and balances adopted by us to control the shelf life of the sweets we sold. This made me work backwards, track the product from the time it is prepared, and ready for sale, to the time the sale is actually effected.

`The bar-coding helps us track each tray. As and when a sale is effected in any of the 50 outlets, the data is captured online. We want to ensure that the customer buys only fresh stuff; that means the stuff on any tray that moves out of the kitchen should be sold within 48 hours of preparation. The bar-coded tag helps us track finer details,' explains M Krishnan.

Beyond billing

Generally, retail outlets of businesses, from the well-known chain to the small independent one, use the barcode system mainly for the purpose of billing. Sri Krishna Sweets has gone a step further.

"Ultimately, we are looking at data management; plugging leakage and loss, besides ensuring that the customer gets quality sweets. We have, I should say, come a long way. We initiated the process in stages. Looking back, I should say, it has been a challenging exercise," says Krishnan. The firm has spent Rs 1.5-2 crore on getting the systems and processes in place.

While inventory management is not new, considering that most pharmacy and other retail outlets use it to keep tabs on the stock on hand, the process adopted by Sri Krishna Sweets is interesting.

Without saying in so many words, the company spokesperson says: "For instance, let's us say a customer buys `x' kilogram of a particular sweet from any of our outlets and later comes back with a complaint that the sweet was stale. We will be able to track the tray and the outlet that sold the sweet to the customer, provided the bar-coded label on the cover is not tampered with or torn. Normally, we ensure that the sweets laid on a tray are sold within 48 hours of production."

What better way to check the `date of manufacture' and `expiry date', we wonder. Krishnan sums it all up saying, 'technological advances do wonders'.

>lnr@thehindu.co.in

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Published on January 16, 2011
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