Whisky specialist and wine and spirits merchant, Gordon & MacPhail, claims that implementation of BCP's Accord Voice WMS 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 per cent.
The family owned and managed firm of Gordon & MacPhail is located in Elgin, Scotland. The iconic retail shop on South Street still thrives today on the site where the business began in 1895. Since those early days the company has grown significantly and has business interests as a bottler, exporter, distiller, and wholesaler.
Since its foundation, Gordon & MacPhail's policy has been to send casks to distilleries throughout Scotland, fill them with 'new make' spirit and mature them either at the distillery of origin or in the firm's own bonded warehouses in Elgin. A world-leading malt whisky specialist, Gordon & MacPhail 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.
Gordon & MacPhail owns Benromach Distillery on the outskirts of Forres. Established in 1898 the distillery went through many changes of ownership and closures before being 'rescued' by Gordon & MacPhail, who purchased it in 1993. The distillery was extensively re-equipped over a five year period before it was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998. Finally, the company is one of the UK's leading independent specialist wholesalers and distributors, stocking over 4500 products, including an extensive portfolio of wines, spirits and UK specialist beers and ciders.
"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's director of logistics & facilities, who headed up the project. The company was using a paper-based system in the warehouse and looking to modernise, improve efficiency and visibility and to have the capacity to effectively handle future growth of the business.
Gordon & MacPhail undertook an intensive selection process which turned out to be very competitive as it looked at a range of diverse Voice systems, with site visits to a mixture of different businesses around the UK to learn and clearly understand both the advantages and potential pitfalls of investing in Voice. The flexibility and functionality that came with the BCP system proved decisive, Gordon & MacPhail being won over by its ability to provide a flexible, integrated warehouse management solution able to deliver proven Voice functionality across the whole warehouse.
"Accord WMS was a big plus for us, but we also considered BCP as a company," continued Urquhart. "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 lot of planning and preparation 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 and bring staff on board. At actual go live there were a few challenges to address, but, says Urquhart: "working closely with the BCP team on site these were quickly ironed out and the system up and operational as planned."
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 & spirit wholesaler.
Neil Urquhart: "We have a complex offering with over 4000 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. 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 per cent increase in the number of cases picked per person and a 43 per cent increase in the number of lines per person – which Urquhart says, "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 and, says Urquhart, "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."
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 work arounds 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 allowed simplification and streamlining of administration behind the scenes and reporting on all the orders that have left the business so that Invoicing can be done promptly to improve cash flow. Savings on paper costs alone are running at £2000 a year. Staff have really bought in to the system and user acceptance is very high, illustrated recently when the company asked the acid test question 'if the Voice system was switched off would you like to go back to paper?' The answer was a categoric 'No'.
Not only does the system help operators work more efficiently and more accurately, but it 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," said 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.
Urquhart concluded: "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."