With 150 stores and one warehouse, there is a long way between the units in the Imerco chain. Therefore, the hardware frame giant needed an efficient WMS system to ensure the logistics function, that is so crucial for delivering the product to the end user in the store.
“One of the things that has been extremely positive in the partnership with Apport is that they have delivered a truly dedicated effort to make things work optimally. We have always had the impression of being a valued customer, and this has both provided a better solution and a better process than if we had a feeling of being just another number in the row.”
– Mikkel Falck Andersen, Logistics & Administration Manager in Imerco
Sometimes it makes sense to change something that already works. This has been deeply felt by Imerco after they during a period of eight hectic months in 2013 and 2014 went from buying storage and management at an external supplier to establishing their own large central warehouse.
“Our previous warehouse solution was in fact good, but we missed having the warehouse closer at hand. We could not just change an order like that, and we could not see samples whenever we wanted, and so we started working on a principle of subsidiarity. We wanted to be closer to our customers, who are our own stores, and we wanted to be closer to our own processes. Both parts have been largely successful,” says Mikkel Falck Andersen, Logistics & Administration Manager at Imerco.
As Denmark’s largest hardware chain with 150 stores distributed throughout Denmark, efficient logistics is a crucial parameter. The idea of establishing their own warehouse became a plan, and the Executive Board set aside an eight-month timeframe to implement it.
“Suddenly we had to hurry. We had some consideration to finding the right location, but at the same time, the process could not be done too fast, so that we would end up with a WMS system that could not speak with our financial system. Therefore it was absolutely crucial to find a supplier that could deliver the product,” says Mikkel Falck Andersen.
When Imerco was busy getting the logistics solution in place, the hunt on finding a supplier started – a supplier who had the right product, the right references and the right price. And last but not least, the right customer approach.
“One of the things that has been extremely positive in the partnership with Apport is that they have delivered a truly dedicated effort to make things work optimally. We have always had the feeling of being a valued customer, and it has both provided a better solution and a better process than if we had the feeling of just being another number in the row, “says Mikkel Falck Andersen.
The close contact between Imerco and Apport meant, among other things, that it did not take long from a decision was made, until it was implemented.
“It really went fast, but well since we needed the warehouse and all the underlying processes up and running in a short amount of time.”
“Looking back, it was a bold move by Apport to take the assignment within the set timeframe, because they also had to run faster than usual in terms of having to deliver under difficult conditions. That really goes to show something about their commitment,” says Mikkel Falck Andersen.
With shops across the country there are a lot of things that can go wrong, and mistakes and downtime can be costly. Therefore, it was crucial for Imerco that both the structuring of the warehouse and the employee training and implementation of the system went smoothly.
“We chose from the start to look at the fact that we started from scratch as an advantage. We decided to look for a relatively standardized solution since this would minimize the number of errors and the choice landed on Apport’s Pick-by-Voice system.
It’s intuitive and easy for starters and this meant that even though the training of the employees ended up being somewhat hurried, we have not really experienced the crashes that are so dangerous in an industry like ours – dangerous because customers expect that the product, they need is in the store, when they need it.
Downtime is extremely critical and a day of being down in high season is catastrophic, “says Mikkel Falck Andersen.
“We created a common platform where various problematic cases and challenges were uploaded, and then data was continuously gathered, on how far each case was in relation to being solved, a so-called “issue log”. It gave us a good overview and a good stomach feeling in terms of control, and we have not experienced any critical issues since the date, we went live,” says Mikkel Falck Andersen.
Imerco’s new central warehouse was put into operation in March 2014, and today, logistics processes are even more well-off than before. Especially the possibility of more flexible workflows and continuous adaptation of the processes, is a great advantage over the past, according to Mikkel Falck Andersen:
“Now, for example, we can keep the drafts longer open to the stores, thus controlling when we read data. We can now also adjust deliveries and service levels with more ease, and it provides flexibility to our stores.”
“The logistics procedures in the warehouse are the first part of a chain reaction, so the more efficient the logistics are, the better performance we can deliver to our stores, and this provides the best opportunities for the end customer to experience the optimal customer service.”
At the same time as the central warehouse was being built, Imerco also implemented Apport’s WMS in the company’s existing web storage facility. Even though the actual handling of the orders is not run the same way, according to Mikkel Falck Andersen, there are many advantages of having the same supplier for the two different warehouses.
“We have ‘one line of entry’, so we only have to deal with one supplier and thus one customer service and one contact person. This saves us a lot of time and effort and was a significant advantage in the implementation phase, where the two warehouses were started up at the same time,” he says.
Especially at the web-based warehouse, the difference between the time before and after the WMS implementaion is easy to spot.
“Before we started working with Apport, we did not have a stand-alone WMS system. The picking and packing process was considerably more manual, so there is no doubt that efficiency has risen significantly, and it takes us far less time to produce an order today. I would estimate that at the time when we could produce one order, we can now produce three,” says Mikkel Falck Andersen.
Imerco A/S is Denmark’s largest hardware chain with 151 stores throughout the country.
The stores turn around approximately 1,3 billion kroner annualy.
Imercos central warehouse is located in Skovlunde.
The warehouse is 5.300 m2.