UK apparel brand owner reveals greater stock accuracy, more efficiencies and better customer Service with new warehouse management system
Courtaulds is one of the largest suppliers of apparel in the UK. Specialising in men's essentials, womenswear, lingerie and hosiery, it owns brands including Gossard
, Pretty Polly
and supplies private label apparel to many UK High Street retailers.
The company distributes its brands and some of its private label stock to UK retailers and internet customers from a warehouse at Loscoe in Derbyshire. The warehouse holds about 4,500 different stok-keeping units (SKUs), with a stockholding of approximately 3.5 million stock items at any given time. In 2012 almost 16 million stock items moved through the Loscoe distribution centre (DC).
Legacy system limits flexibility
Courtaulds’ Loscoe site was running an old legacy warehousing system offering very limited support. Its ability to respond to increasing business pressures such as adapt to new customer requirements, deliver higher volumes, manage costs and reduce turnaround times continued to be seriously hampered by system’s inflexibility. The management team therefore made a decision to implement a new warehousing application.
The new system had to facilitate greater flexibility in picking processes, improve space utilisation and reduce the reliance on individual expertise at the warehouse. In turn, it was expected that these improvements would lead to more efficiency, greater stock visibility leading to improved customer service, a better understanding of working practices and enhanced stock accuracy.
To support these objectives, the new system had to be able to bulk pick large orders of private label products for retailers in the most efficient way possible, while supporting picking of a wide range of order sizes for branded products delivered to stores, online retail outlets and individuals purchasing on its websites.
Courtaulds had used a Business Planning and Control System (BPCS) for many years, which supply chain provider Infor
acquired when it bought SSA Global Technologies, to support warehousing processes at a previous site, in addition to Infor’s warehouse management system (WMS). As a result, when it came to selecting a new WMS for the Loscoe DC, the team was confident that Infor Supply Chain Execution (SCE) was the right application to meet its needs.
Getting the processes right
Having made its decision, Courtaulds applied lessons learned from a project at its previous site, focusing on getting processes right from the outset. The implementation was undertaken by a team comprised of both Infor consultants and Courtaulds staff, all of whom had been involved in the previous implementation.
A phased approach to deploying the software was taken in order to ensure any issues could be identified and rectified as the project went along, while training was highlighted as being central to the project.
“This level of planning and attention to detail meant that we would realise benefits more quickly, and risk would be reduced,” commented Bill Jarman, chief information officer at Courtaulds.
“Having taken a more aggressive approach in our previous implementation, we knew that this time around we wanted to take a phased approach,” he commented. “We decided to deploy Infor SCE for one of our brands first, which is the smaller part of the business, in order to test the software and iron out any glitches, before going live with the other brands and the larger private label business eight months later.”
Courtaulds went fully live with Infor SCE in 2011 to support revised processes and a new warehouse layout, and was fully integrated with its existing instance of Infor BPCS. Key benefits have included improved delivery performance and reduced costs as a result of reduced headcount. The company also has greater visibility of stock and its annual stock take has been replaced with cycle counting through the year, removing the requirement to stop the business for a week.
Increased efficiency and accuracy
“Crucially, bulk picking is now much more efficient and accurate to 99.7%,” Jarman added. “For other orders, the application allocates them in a morning, then runs a simple report to tell us what stock quantities require transferring to a pick face. Next, we move the stock to a much smaller pick area and allocate the picking tasks to make picking processes as efficient as possible.
"Infor SCE also means that we can track orders from order to despatch, generating superior visibility,” he continued.
“As a whole the entire process for receiving moving and putting away stock has vastly improved and the application has given greater flexibility in the how operatives are deployed in the warehouse. The process is faster, and we can monitor and manage it much more closely than before."
Jarman also said: "Finally, customer service has improved through improved stock accuracy and fulfilment. As soon as we receive an order confirmation, stock is picked and shipped efficiently and a confirmation sent to customer to inform them.”
He concluded: “Through our deployment of Infor SCE, we have achieved our objectives of greater visibility, accuracy and efficiency, which means ultimately, we are able to do more with less. We’re shipping more with less than we were two or three years ago, so we’ve also reduced distribution costs.
“The success of the Infor SCE implementation has led to us deploying the solution to operate as a 3PL [third-party logistics] provider for the Myla brand, which previously used a third-party warehouse. Through using Infor SCE, we are able to hold stock in our Loscoe site and help them save costs.
“Not only has Infor SCE achieved all of our objectives, but it helps to ensure that our business is in the strongest position to thrive in a continuously challenging and changing retailing environment.”