Thorntons reported a cost saving of £100,000 in the first year of installing a warehouse management system from Manhattan Associates at its 140,000 sq ft warehouse in Alfreton, Derbyshire.
From here the chocolate maker and retailer distributes to 379 shops and cafes and 250 franchises.
The company decided to upgrade to a new WMS after deeming its previous one “obsolete” and incapable of supporting future growth. Rather than re-writing the existing software, it chose to upgrade to the Manhattan system, and set a tight deadline for full rollout. The plan was to have the system up and running in time for the ten weeks leading up to Christmas, during which 40 per cent of Thorntons’ annual business takes place.
The system has enabled Thorntons to grow some 11 per cent in volume without upping its manpower. Greg Garside, head of distribution strategy and quality, says: “We have managed to cope
with an increase in turnover from £180 million a year to £200 million, without any investment in additional staff.
“At Christmas and Easter we now handle up to 250,000 boxes a week with an additional 30 to 40 temporary workers.” This was the same number of extra staff that was brought in to handle peak times when the volume was much lower.
The system has also brought an unexpected benefit – that of training temps. “[This] has become much faster,” says Garside. Under the old system it would take a day to bring a temporary worker up to speed, whereas now menu-driven screens give operational instructions, so they can pick it up straight away.