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Voice boosts Gordon & MacPhail WMS

By Retail Technology | Thursday February 6 2014

Wine and spirits merchant modernises its warehouse systems to handle complex fulfilment requirements while successfully enhancing productivity by 50%

Whisky specialist and wine and spirits merchant, Gordon & MacPhail, says the implementation of the Accord Voice warehouse management system (WMS) from BCP Software at its warehouse operation in Elgin, Scotland is successfully handling its complex requirements and delivering improvements across the whole operation, including productivity increases of 50%.

The family owned and managed firm of Gordon & MacPhail was established in 1895 and its iconic retail shop still thrives today on the site where the business began on South Street in Elgin. 

Today the company bottles more than 300 expressions of Single Malt Whisky under various ranges – selling them throughout the UK and exporting to more than 50 countries worldwide. And it has grown to also become of the UK's leading independent specialist wholesalers and distributors, stocking over 4,500 products, including an extensive portfolio of wines, spirits and UK specialist beers and ciders.

Improving efficiency and visibility

The company was using a paper-based system in its warehouse and looking to modernise, improve efficiency and visibility as well as ensure it has the capacity to effectively handle future growth of the business. “The main driver for bringing in a voice system for our business was looking at excellence of service within our wholesaling operation,” explained Neil Urquhart, Gordon & MacPhail director of logistics and facilities, who headed up the project.

After an intensely competitive selection process involving a range of diverse voice WMS systems, the flexibility and functionality that came with the BCP system proved decisive. Urquhart said: “Accord WMS was a big plus for us, but we also considered BCP as a company. Was this a company we wanted to deal with? Was the culture right? Did they understand us? Did we understand them? Could we forge a good working relationship? And obviously the answer to all those questions was ‘yes’.”

A rigorous planning and preparation process was undertaken before the implementation of Accord, with comprehensive information given out to staff and the system set up to operate in test mode to encourage user acceptance. There were a few challenges to address when the system was taken fully live, but, said Urquhart, “working closely with the BCP team on site these were quickly ironed out and the system up and operational as planned”.

Meeting complex requirements

The requirements at Gordon & MacPhail are complex, as the wholesale operation supplies a range of different products to a range of different customers across the UK. This could be one bottle of wine to a pub on a high street development, a pallet of one product to a national distribution centre for a multiple or a pallet of 250 different items, cases and bottles, to a specialist wine and spirits wholesaler. 

“We have a complex offering with over 4,000 products, which we sell in either full cases, loose bottles or any combination demanded and we needed a system that had the flexibility and functionality to accommodate that complexity,” Urquhart added. “Accord has proven well up to the job, having the functionality that allows us to do all that and giving us the visibility and the efficiencies we need to deliver exceptional quality of service.”

One of the main benefits realised from the implementation of Accord Voice has been increased productivity – a 50% increase in the number of cases picked per person and a 43% increase in the number of lines per person – which Urquhart said, “has been really significant”.

Picking accuracy was already good at Gordon & MacPhail, but this has improved further, so now there is literally only the occasional inaccuracy. “With the Accord system we now have full visibility of exactly when there’s an order picked and who picked it so if we do have picking errors occurring we can quickly identify exactly why they happened and go back, retrain and minimise that happening in the future,” he said. 

Streamlining warehouse operations

The Accord Voice system has also allowed Gordon & MacPhail to streamline operations across the whole warehouse. The previous paper-based picking system had been in place for quite some time and quite a few exceptions and specific workarounds had been introduced for handling particular orders. 

Urquhart explained: “The new voice system made us actually challenge all of those exceptions, their relevancy and validity, and use instead the structure that comes with the Accord voice system to help us streamline our processes, work more effectively and ultimately deliver a better service.”

The system has also simplified and streamlined administrative and reporting processes for all the orders that have left the business, so that invoicing can be done promptly to improve cashflow. Savings on paper costs alone are running at £2,000 a year.

Delivering service excellence

The efficiency and accuracy obtained with the new systems also means new staff and temporary staff can be trained and picking orders much more quickly than with the old paper-based system, “while the visibility that comes with the system means it is easy to monitor operators to ensure they understand the system, measure their work rate and accuracy – all extremely beneficial,” added Urquhart.

With the system well bedded in the company is now looking at how it can take on more of the functionality within it in order to make full use of its investment. 

“The Accord Voice WMS system was a significant investment for us as a business, but we were wanting to embrace technology and wanting to bring in efficiencies to our operations all contributing to delivering excellence of service and the Accord WMS system is definitely meeting our expectations and delivering that platform for the future,” Urquhart concluded.

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