IoB speaks to Gavin Chappell, supply chain and merchandising director at UK home furnishing retailer Dunelm, about the challenge of managing supply chain and stock management operations across both stores and online.
What can you tell us about Dunelm’s supply chain operation in Stoke-on-Trent and the improvements that you’ve made there?
Previously, we had a retail-only supply chain at our Stoke facility, which focused solely on store services. This consisted of five external storage facilities, so we were limited in our ability to manage our wider business offerings, such as e-commerce. Integration was minimal between them, which meant that some stock was unavailable for certain stores, and we weren’t able to have the same availability for customers online as we did in-store. This created a huge issue with customers, who wanted the most up-to-date information, with a shopping experience that was seamless.
How did software help you tackle the problem and why did you choose to work here with SAP?
Since bringing on SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) in January 2017, we’ve consolidated our storage into two facilities, which manage both retail and online operations. By bringing this all under one system, we can ensure our stock levels in-store and online are up-to-date, and monitor these in real-time. This ensures our customers have an accurate view on what’s available to them at all times.
We decided on SAP EWM, as we wanted to manage all of our facilities and inventory under one interface. We also run SAP for our wider corporate processes, so by moving our supply chain management under the same umbrella, we’re easily integrated across the company.
How has this implementation affected the way staff in your supply chain operations work?
One of the reasons we chose SAP EWM was so we could introduce a level of automation into the warehouse that would allow us to streamline some of the mundane tasks such as pallet moving. In March 2017, we implemented robotic devices that help transport the pallets, and SAP EWM helps us manage this easily – even from a remote location. The upgrade was smooth and easy to implement into our new facility, and we worked alongside SAP to integrate some of our existing core resources to support the project as well. The transition wasn’t difficult for our team, as we previously used SAP WM, so it was a small learning curve.
Do you intend to roll out the software beyond Stoke, to other areas of Dunelm’s supply chain network?
We haven’t expanded beyond our Stoke facility yet. We have a lot of work to do in order to integrate our stores and distribution centers, bringing them more closely together.
What plans does Dunelm have to integrate IoT products into its supply chain in future?
I see great potential for IoT products benefiting many elements of our business – however, the transportation side of the supply chain would be an exciting integration. Connected devices for vehicles and our transport operations will allow us to identity the location of our delivery vehicles in real time. This could extend to delivery items, so we’d be able to track the entire process from start to finish.
How significant is IoT to the future of supply chains?
For supply chains, connected devices will become progressively more important over time. As organizations build on their core digital capabilities, the ability to connect and get real-time insights will give businesses a real edge. This could start with a retail business having IoT devices in its warehouses to monitor stock levels, but you can then progress this to cover the transport side of the business, which would allow the business to monitor the location and timing of customer deliveries from that original warehouse.
Read more: The voice of the warehouse worker