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Enabling Digital Warehouse Transformation at a Leading UK Supermarket: Inspiration at a Fraction of the Price
A leading supermarket’s installation of new transport management software stalled when it emerged that the new tech would create additional work due to existing inefficient processes, eating into project gains.
When other vendors failed to come up with a cost effective solution to the problem, REPL were asked to find a pragmatic way forward. An innovative solution and agile project delivery created solid technical foundations that allowed the wider project to continue. All for a fraction of the cost of the original quote.
The supermarket, one of the UK’s premier food retailers. Renowned for extremely high levels of customer experience, shoppers are served at one of 350 stores across the country. Each shop is fed with a steady stream of products from one of the supermarket’s three regional distribution centres. Thousands of food-filled cages are loaded onto hundreds of lorries each day generating a complex fulfilment process that requires careful organisation and strict record keeping
As transporters of fresh food, the supermarket’s staff must adhere to the business’ own processes and carry out the due diligence required to meet the specifications of insurers and The Food Standards Agency.
Warehouse operatives use handheld devices to:
▶ Find and scan cages and load them into the right lorries in the right order
▶ Assign the right food to the right compartment: frozen, chilled or ambient
▶ Check the temperature of the vehicle and the food at both ends of its journey
▶ Seal and code lorries and share this information with the person unlocking the lorry
This information was being captured manually on paper, in spreadsheets and via manual data entry into the transport management system (TMS). Although this approach wasn’t causing the business any major difficulties, the introduction of the new TMS raised questions about the process.
And it became apparent that once the new technology was installed, warehouse staff would have to spend more time updating the TMS, making their processes even less efficient. Integrating the new TMS with the retailer’s existing warehouse management system (WMS) was the ideal solution.
However, the system had been implemented using contractors, leaving the supermarket without the in-house knowledge to change the system. The supermarket asked their WMS provider to quote on the project. However, the business case didn’t stack up as the costs outweighed the benefits. So they turned to REPL for a better solution.
Using an agile methodology, the project began by spinning up a small team to conduct the discovery phase. REPL spent time with the retailer to understand their challenges, the technology available and the must and like-to-haves for the project. Taking a customer-first perspective, REPL came up with an innovative response. Instead of integrating the two systems, REPL’s solution architect realised it was possible to create a highly bespoke app that would overlay the software on the warehouse operatives’ handheld devices. This app was injected into the existing software where it intercepted traffic and provided additional screens and menu items for the warehouse staff to input data. The supermarket and REPL worked closely together to ensure the app integrated seamlessly with wider systems and provided data to the WMS that could then be read by the TMS systems. This avoided the need for full integration but still delivered the same outcome.
The agile methodology enabled REPL to move the project left with a testable prototype delivered to the supermarket within a few weeks. User stories were broken down, run and tested to harden the solution off before moving into a regression phase to test the entire app in multiple test systems. Cost-benefit was a major driver for this project and REPL succeeded in delivering an original workaround for around half the price originally quoted by other vendors.
Instead of automatically considering integration as the only solution, REPL’s expert team took a fresh perspective that’s typical of the firm’s pioneering approach and came up with a highly innovative alternative that:
▶ Was rolled out without a single bug
▶ Automated data capture making it easier for warehouse operatives to carry out their work quickly and accurately
▶ Created an audit trail ensuring the supermarket’s compliance with food and insurance standards
▶ Removed the need for multiple points of manual data capture and systems updates by moving the entire process onto existing handheld devices
▶ Delivered on the ‘nice-to-have’ parts of the project making warehouse employees’ lives far easier and more productive
▶ Saved the supermarket around £350,000 in development and integration fees
▶ Deliver cost savings of £5.9m each year and delivered ROI much more quickly than original proposals
Supported by a period of hypercare, technical documentation and third tier technical support, REPL have swiftly rolled out the solution to three of the supermarket’s four distribution centres with the fourth due to be completed soon.
THE REPL DIFFERENCE
“The REPL difference with this project was taking a customer first perspective and having the right people, with the right expertise working on the project”, says James Gammon, REPL’s Supply Chain Alliance Director. “One individual’s moment of inspiration was brought to life and delivered successfully with the support of a wider team of experts. All for a fraction of the price and much faster than alternative propositions.”
REPL provided innovative solutions. By asking the right questions, combined with the team’s in-depth knowledge, REPL were able to deliver a truly bespoke solution. Which put the client’s best interests at heart in terms of speed, cost and quality.