Over the past 20 years, P. D. Hook has replaced dozens of paper-based processes with IBM Domino applications, but many remote sites still lack access to the network and can only communicate via phone and fax.
P. D. Hook is working with Intec on a pilot to deploy a Domino-powered mobile app for its workers, using tablets with Internet of Things (IoT) SIM cards to empower remote workers at low cost.
8:1 reduction in manual data entrysaving hours of administrative effort
Minimizes impact of labor shortagesby boosting employee productivity
Enables rapid ROIdeveloping new applications quickly
Business challenge story
Chicken and turkey are staples of British cuisine, and providing the UK food industry with the poultry it needs is no small task. P. D. Hook currently supplies around 50 percent of the chicken produced in Britain, which means that its hatcheries need to be able to produce 9.5 - 10 million chicks per week.
Operating on this scale means that the company’s operations needs to run like clockwork. Eggs, chicks and mature birds must be delivered to the right points in the production process at the right time, and everything must be timed to the minute to keep the production lines rolling.
At the same time, the company needs to meet rigorous requirements around animal welfare and biosecurity, as well as maintaining appropriate staffing levels based on supply and demand forecasts. All these factors contribute to a complex set of operational optimization problems that the company must solve on a daily basis.
Nigel Boyle, Administration and Technical Director at P. D. Hook, comments: “As our business grew, we were quick to realize that operating at scale presented problems that couldn’t be solved with paper-based processes and spreadsheets. That’s where our story with IBM Notes and Domino begins.”
Hatching a modern enterprise
P. D. Hook began its modernization journey by creating a Domino application known as its Hatchery Book—a daily journal that records every significant event and transaction that occurs across its nine hatcheries. The Hatchery Book provides a rich source of financial and operational information that helps the company and its suppliers make efficient day-to-day decisions, and has become the company’s most business-critical system.
The success of the Hatchery Book project sparked a proliferation of other Domino applications, which the company uses to handle processes such as just-in-time delivery for the live haulage team, demand forecasting for the breeders and vehicle mileage for the leasing team.
“The thing that really impresses me about the Domino platform is the effort that IBM puts into maintaining backward compatibility,” says Boyle. “If we’d built these applications using a traditional SQL database, we would have needed to rewrite them numerous times over the years as the technology changed. But when we move to a new version of Domino, everything just works—there’s no extra development effort.”
Over the course of its journey with IBM Notes and Domino, P. D. Hook has also introduced other IBM solutions, such as IBM Sametime® software for instant messaging, the IBM Connections platform for secure file sharing, IBM BigFix® software for managing its estate of devices, and the IBM Cognos® Analytics solution for reporting.
“Domino is still at the core of everything we do, but it’s great to have the ability to integrate with other IBM products to add more functionality,” says Boyle. “We’re also delighted to see that with Domino V10, IBM is introducing support for Node.js—helping to keep the platform relevant to a new generation of programmers. Combining Domino’s robust data model and security framework with modern app development tools like Node.js will give us the best of both worlds.”
While the core of the business has been relying on Domino applications for more than two decades, there is still a final frontier to cross. Many of P. D. Hook’s employees work at sites in remote locations, which are not connected to the company’s network. Communicating data to headquarters still involves faxing printed records, which means the organization is not yet completely paperless.
To solve this challenge, the company is working with Intec to pilot a new Domino mobile app that will run on iPads using a special IoT SIM card. Employees at remote sites—starting with the company’s recently acquired turkey-farming business—will be able to key data directly into the app, and rely on the Domino software’s powerful data replication capabilities to sync with the company’s central servers whenever they have a mobile data connection.
Boyle comments: “We’ve built a good relationship with Intec—we trust them to act as an extension of our own in-house Domino development team, and they’ve already made a valuable contribution by helping us build APIs to integrate some of our existing apps with external services. We’re looking forward to the results of this new pilot at the turkey farms, and if it’s successful, we’re keen to roll it out across the whole business.”
Laying a foundation for future growth
P. D. Hook’s Domino applications play a vital role in helping the business scale to meet demand, while keeping operational costs and complexity under control.
Boyle says: “Before we built our Domino applications, almost everything we did was manual. In one case, we were rekeying the same data on egg deliveries up to eight times over the course of a process. Today, that’s down to just two, and when we get our remote sites using iPads, we’ll only need to key it in once.”
Reducing manual processing by a factor of eight equates to a significant gain in productivity—empowering employees to focus on the important aspects of their job, instead of filling in paperwork. As the UK’s political and economic situation shifts, the company expects to see significant labor shortages in the manufacturing sector, so making the best use of employees’ time will become even more critical.
Boyle concludes: “It’s difficult to measure the return on investment for a solution like IBM Domino, but whenever we renew our licenses, we’re impressed by how much value we’re getting from the solution. Our Domino apps have helped us transform the company into a dominant player in the UK poultry industry, and we’re excited to see how we can harness the platform to deliver even greater efficiency in the future.”
About P. D. Hook
Since the 1950s, P. D. Hook has been a leader in the UK’s chicken industry. Today, its hatcheries produce 9.5 - 10 million chicks per week, which comprises around 50 percent of the country’s total chicken production and around one third of all the chicken consumed in the UK. Besides its hatcheries, the company also has interests in breeding and rearing both chickens and turkeys. The company employs 2,000 people at 400 locations across the country.
About Intec Systems Ltd.
Intec is an IBM Business Partner that collaborates with its clients as a trusted advisor, bringing together business insight, significant experience and technology to provide a distinct advantage in today’s rapidly changing business environment. With over 30 years’ experience in a wide range of business and information technology domains, Intec’s mission is to help customers anticipate change and profit from new opportunities.