Working with the IT crowd

STL

Dhamecha Group’s five cash carry depots inside the M25 service more than 10,000 customers, making it the largest member of the Today’s Group. The company has achieved success by adhering to the ‘Customer is King’ philosophy, and providing competitive pricing, excellent product availability and an absolute commitment to first-class service.

However, its ageing legacy IT system was not neatly integrated. This created islands of spreadsheet-based information, which were only available to head office via overnight transfer, and were cumbersome to analyse. This undermined executives’ view of operations and therefore their confidence in making quick decisions.

The lack of central control also meant that information about product sales, demand, availability and orders was not easily shared. This diluted the company’s ability to control stock, which it feared could potentially lead to stock-outs and dissatisfied customers.

Pradip Dhamecha, the company’s CEO, says: “We had developed a world-class customer-centric strategy, and now we needed a comprehensive and modern system that would enable us to execute it effectively. Our ability to maintain our competitive edge depended on it.”

To combat these issues, Dhamecha decided to move its entire IT estate onto the modern STL Merchandise Management System (MMS) platform. The solution encompasses tilling and management solutions for both head office and its five branches.

Dhamecha selected STL because its solutions are based on the latest development platform, and are designed specifically for cash and carry operators. Ivan Durkin, STL managing director, says this means they are not only the most functionally rich systems in the industry, but the easiest to install, customise, use and manage. MMS simply required a PC network, Windows 2003 operated system server, basic back office PCs and higher specification PCs for the tills.

Dhamecha received immediate benefits from the installation.

STL’s new tills have significantly improved check-out efficiency. Employees find them quick to train on and easy to use. More importantly they provide centralised management. This enables Dhamecha to efficiently execute and control innovative deals such as Trade amp; Save that are designed to increase customer loyalty.

The organisation-wide STL MMS solution has also enabled Dhamecha to centralise its core operations for greater control and efficiency. For example, by centralising its buying function it now has better stock control and purchasing scales. Further, STL’s reporting tools enable executives to make drill-down queries on real-time data, which is resulting in better-informed decisions.

Reaction times are sharper, enabling the company to keep key lines up to optimum volume in all branches at all times. The STL solution will also enable staff – via the warehouse PCs – to interrogate all branches simultaneously for real-time stock availability, enabling swift fulfilment of demand spikes and more proactive customer service.

Pradip Dhamecha says: “By shrewdly using STL’s IT solution to deliver our customer-centric strategy, we will exceed our customer’s expectations. This will result in loyalty, trust and credibility, which we believe will secure our long-term commercial success.”

 

BCP

CJ Lang amp; Son has extended its use of BCP’s Accord Voice WMS to its frozen and chilled operations with the opening of its new frozen and chilled warehouse facility. As a result, warehouse operations at the company’s RDC in Dundee are now entirely based on Voice with over 110 warehouse staff using the technology. In the few weeks since implementation, improvements in frozen and chilled are already matching some of those achieved in the ambient warehouse.

CJ Lang, which is Scotland’s largest independent retailing and distribution company and Spar wholesaler for the country, services more than 45% of Scotland’s independent retailers from its dedicated retail distribution centre in Dundee. It was the first Spar RDC to adopt Voice technology in the warehouse, transforming its ambient warehouse at Longtown Road from a predominantly paper-based operation to one entirely based on Voice several years ago. Described by Graham Murdoch, CJ Lang IT director, as “the best thing we’ve ever done”, the Accord Voice implementation “exceeded CJ Lang’s expectations in all areas” and extension of the technology to frozen and chilled operations was planned to coincide with the opening of a new frozen and chilled facility at the Longtown Road RDC.

Having worked closely with solutions partner BCP on the initial Voice implementation, CJ Lang felt confident to handle the roll out to frozen and chilled themselves. The success of the project reflects CJ Lang’s carefully planned approach and the close liaison between IT staff, warehouse operators and warehouse management. As soon as work on the new 30,000 sq ft building started in September 2008 weekly meetings began to plan and progress the project. A training cycle was initiated, with frozen and chilled operators spending time with their counterparts in the ambient warehouse to gain hands-on experience of the Voice system.

On January 17 this year the company closed its old frozen and chilled facility and moved to the new one, continuing its 24-hour, six days a week, three-shift operation without any break other than the usual Sunday off. Voice was used immediately to put away stock transferred from the old warehouse and to check in new deliveries at goods receiving. Operators were then given a couple of weeks to become familiar with the new warehouse before introducing voice picking which was phased in over a five-day period. In less than three weeks the new facility was operating purely on voice, handling about 250 chilled and frozen orders per day.

Benefits are already matching some of those achieved in the ambient warehouse with pick accuracy at 99.99% and stock accuracy, resulting from the real time nature of Voice, at 99%. Administration and stationery savings equating to two to three man-days per week are allowing administrative staff to be redeployed more productively, while productivity improvements are already matching the 10% average achieved in the ambient warehouse. Further improvements are expected as operators benefit from the hands-free nature of Voice, no longer having to cope with labels in the thick gloves they must wear to handle frozen goods.

Graham Murdoch comments: “Voice is again fulfilling our expectations and delivering dramatic improvements. It’s good to finally use Accord Voice technology across our entire operations and achieve the productivity and service goals that we aspire to for our customers.”

 

sANDERSON

Part of Today’s Group, Merseyside-based Regal Wholesale is a distributor of paper products, household goods, cleaning materials and toiletries in the UK. The company’s internal and customer-facing processes were originally operating on an old DOS-based system. However, as the business grew it was unable to adequately support these operations, given the amount of detailed management information required.

According to Bill Hughes, Regal Wholesale’s managing director: “We chose Sanderson’s Swords solution because it was the closest package we could find to a one-stop-shop for totally integrated operations. Swords is now running all our processes, from telesales, order processing and warehouse activity to accounting.

“Swords also provides easy access to the data generated from this integration. This gives us an overview of the company in its entirety, which we can use to improve efficiency through accurate decision-making, better planning and improved collaboration internally, and with customers, suppliers and partners.”

In terms of integrating and automating day-to-day processes, Swords stores full customer purchasing histories and account information which Regal Wholesale’s sales staff can access immediately when responding to incoming customer calls. Alternatively, staff can use this information combined with Sword’s telesales call scheduling facility to manage carefully targeted outbound telesales and marketing campaigns.

Order entry is performed quickly through production of price list order forms (PLOFs) and stock availability can be checked while the customer is on the phone to ensure accurate delivery dates are agreed. The system also prompts staff with alternatives to out-of-stock items to avoid lost sales.

Sales order processing is connected directly to Regal Wholesale’s warehouse operation, where Swords is used to manage stock in real time. This is achieved using radio frequency scanners that scan product barcodes to keep track of everything that comes into the warehouse and its storage location, and everything that goes out of the premises. Swords automatically transmits sales orders to the radio frequency scanners. The pickers use the scanners to scan product barcodes as they go along. As a result, picking time has been reduced considerably as the sales orders are transmitted to the scanners in bin location order.

Swords also produces truck run-sheets for Regal Wholesale’s warehouse manager to schedule deliveries for the day ahead. As the orders are completed and batched for delivery, the system automatically generates an invoice.

From a management perspective, Swords produces recommended buying reports generated by buying trends based on sales history, current stock levels and lead times and will calculate economic order quantities. Managers can also identify which products are under-performing.

Swords maintains complete purchase histories by supplier, including account information, and both sales and purchase statistics by product. This allows Regal Wholesale to monitor revenues from long-term agreements and allowances, varying from simple one-off invoice allowances to complex retrospective allowances such as over-riders.

Bill Hughes continues: “Swords has brought us tighter stock control and improved customer service levels as we now have the data to see exactly what’s going on in the business and respond very quickly, while adequately planning for future growth.”

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