Issue Date: 3 March 2010
Ref: PEN10/03


Home textile supplier Welspun has improved stock control and order picking performance at its distribution centre in Manchester following the introduction of Chess Logistics Technology’s advanced Empirica warehouse management application with RF-based barcode scanning. Stock accuracy has been increased to over 99 per cent and managers have real-time visibility and control over task scheduling to help them allocate resources more effectively and meet delivery commitments.

“We liked the Chess approach and they spent a lot of time with us to understand the operation,” says Graham Naismith, Supply Chain Operations Executive at Welspun. “From my point of view it has been the most successful implementation we have had in this business and it’s delivered the efficiency we wanted.”

With brands including the world-famous Christy range, Welspun is one of the UK’s oldest and biggest suppliers or towels, linen and soft-furnishing products. In addition to its own ranges the company supplies branded items to many well-known retailers. It manufactures products at factories in the UK and overseas and these must be consolidated into the distribution centre before they are delivered to customers.

Welspun relocated to its new 150,000ft2 (14,000m2) distribution centre in Openshaw, Manchester at the start of 2005. The previous warehouse had simple low bay storage but the new facility was more complex with racking up to eight metres high providing 5000 bulk bin locations and 5000 pick face points. Welspun took a conscious decision to run with its old systems until it had settled in to the new facility but recognised that adopting a more advanced WMS would provide a number of business and operational benefits in the longer term.

The company looked at various potential solutions before Empirica emerged as the preferred option based on its ability to provide a total solution. Chess proposed an implementation of Empirica that included full RF facilities with barcode scanners. This aimed to deliver real-time control and visibility of stock management, goods in, order picking and other key warehouse processes with much greater accuracy.

“Chess showed that they understood our business model and had the scope to meet our requirements,” says Graham Naismith.

The system was specified at the start of 2008 and went live later in the year. Chess managed the overall implementation, selected the hardware partner for the RF equipment, transferred data from the old system and integrated the application with Welspun’s specialist Texpro software. The application has delivered a number of benefits to Welspun. Stock accuracy improved from around 94 to over 99 per cent which led to increased overall efficiency in the warehouse because many fewer mistakes are now being made. The business has been able to reduce the number of annual stock takes from two to one. Accurate real-time stock visibility now provides Welspun with a better overall view of its operations which means it can manage incoming supplies more effectively and respond more quickly to customer requirements.

“Since the system went live it has delivered everything Chess promised and we have seen lots of benefits,” says Graham Naismith.

Empirica also provides Welspun with better task visibility. Managers can see tasks and work schedules in detail and in real-time so that resources can be allocated flexibly to meet delivery commitments more easily. An on-screen traffic light system shows which tasks are on or behind schedule. Empirica also provides a wide range of performance information. For example, metrics showing individual operatives’ pick rates allow managers to identify areas where underlying issues may offer opportunities for process improvements such as changing the layout of the pick faces to optimise pick-paths.

“Because of this visibility we can move resources for optimum efficiency and performance,” says Graham Naismith.

The WMS supports all routes to market for the business from its traditional delivery operation through to a small but growing web-based operation. The business currently picks around 2000 orders each month with a total of 500,000 items.

“We didn’t have a lot of training but the system is easy to navigate and use,” says Graham Naismith. “We have found ways of working for ourselves to improve performance in the warehouse. There have been no issues with speed or capacity since the new system went live.”