Flexibility and scalability thanks to automating the supply chain

26 June 2018, Retail, Wholesale, Manufacturing, 3 min leestijd

Controlling scalability in volume in order to grow faster, to have more possibilities in order to offer value-added services, and solid tracking and tracing. These were the wishes of a large retailer which approached Ctac. Ctac has been able to help this client by optimizing the warehouse processes and by using SAP’s Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) solution. Johan Looijmans, Business Development Manager at Ctac, explains what this innovative solution has given the retailer.

Looijmans says that the distribution process in the market is becoming increasingly more complex. “Clients want to purchase both online and in real-life.” At the same time, the nature of service provision is changing. Looijmans: “The product is no longer simply wrapped and sent, there is now also a demand for a personal message on a card or some festive decoration.” He has also observed an increase in demand for personalized products. “I’m mainly thinking of manufacturers who offer personalized bikes or shoes.”

Looijmans has noticed that all these new developments have had the effect that the production process and the processes in distribution centers, such as storage, picking, packing, and shipping, are getting much more complex. “For example, any such personalized order must be combined with a thousand standardized shoes that have to be made and shipped.”

But because with all these different channels it’s getting increasingly more difficult to correctly predict the number of orders, organisations want to be able to quickly scale up or down when necessary. In previous times, this used to be difficult for retailers. “The process was too dependent on the employees’ knowledge. They knew exactly what had to happen and were aware of all of the exceptions, but it cost too much time to transfer this knowledge to new employees.” So hiring temporary employees was not an option. “The induction process would take too long.”

Thanks to EWM, this problem has been solved. “Because large parts of the process had been automated, employees started to get real time guidance about the priorities. As a result, they knew exactly what had to be done and therefore could work much more efficiently. In addition, the induction process has been so shortened that the use of temporary workers can be scaled up quickly as required in busy times.”

Another advantage is that the margin of error in the warehouse has reduced significantly. “The warehouse manager no longer needs to worry so much about the process. Also, he has real time data that informs him about the entire process so that he can now proactively signal and address an exception. And as a result he can more effectively manage the activities in the warehouse.” The new solution also makes it much easier for retailers to release data to or absorb data from the outside world.

Looijmans sees that the need for scalability is also growing in other companies. “Companies want to work more efficiently, make better use of their space, and have more ease in scaling up or down their employees.” And, according to Looijmans, this is because of the changing demands of the client. “If a client orders something in an online store, it has to be accessible and easy. They will want to follow their order and preferably receive it the same day.“With EWM, you have an IT solution that can be deployed quickly so that business processes can be used more flexibly and in a future-proof manner within the warehouse and organization, thus achieving quick results. It is a reproducible solution that also allows you to set up other warehouses in no time and put them into production.”