A co-operative approach

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The Co-operative’s food business has recently overhauled its distribution network with the help of Manhattan Associates’ Warehouse Management Solution for Open Systems.

The company’s distribution network lacked a clearly defined infrastructure and as a result it had three separate networks for ambient, temperature-controlled and frozen goods, so delivery zones overlapped, some distribution routes were illogical and many warehouses lacked sufficient space.

Trevor Ashworth, director of food retail logistics at the convenience retailer, says: “When you are dealing with small stores it’s a disaster if the product isn’t available. You don’t have the luxury of offering the customer a range of brands when you have limited shelf space. The product is either there or it’s not.”

The Co-op began by building a national distribution centre in Coventry, increasing capacity at its regional distribution centres by 25 per cent. It then built a new RDC in Thurrock to serve 700 stores in the south east region – its worst performing area – handling 50 million cases per year. Thurrock was chosen to pilot the system, which was integrated with Vocollect voice technology supplied by Zetes.

As a result, on-shelf availability and productivity have improved considerably, and the region is now the organisation’s best performing. Ashworth says they are also expecting to see a pay back in less than three years.

The company’s Nottingham site is next to go live, followed by its national DC. The north east and north west will then be streamlined according to the south east model and the entire network will eventually be managed by Manhattan.

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