Sports retailer streamlines supply chain with WMS

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Sports footwear retailer ASICS increased the control and visibility of its European supply chain, and boosted inventory management when it brought in a warehouse management system from Infor.

The retailer, whose name is an acronym for Anima Sana in Corpore Sano – a sound mind in a sound body, has five distribution centres across Europe.

It installed the system at its main centre in Neuss, near Düsseldorf, which distributes shoes, apparel and accessories via ASICS’ retail channels across Benelux, Germany, Austria and Switzerland and Eastern Europe, and handles some 5,000 order lines per day from a range of 300,000 SKUs.

Previously, the company was struggling to cope with increasing volumes at the Neuss site.

Rodney Haarsma, project manager at ASICS Europe says: “Rapid growth levels – ten to 20 per cent year on year, a substantial increase in our product range, and more sites and sales offices to manage each year, placed increased pressure on our distribution centres.

“This growth highlighted that we didn’t have real-time visibility and control of our stock.  Inventory accuracy was lower than we wanted, which led to higher stock positions and in turn, increased the risk of obsolescence at the end of a season.

“Space utilisation was also an issue and as well as expanding our warehouse a year earlier than planned, we had to use external warehousing capacity in peak periods, which is very expensive.”

The European apparel market is complex at the best of times. For ASICS, demand revolves around two major buying seasons of the year, causing significant peaks and troughs in workload, inbound and outbound transaction volumes and space.  It needed a robust and flexible warehouse management system to support its European distribution business.     
Haarsma says: “Our overall goal was to achieve greater transparency into our stock position across Europe and make this information more available to sales. Our sales team needs to be able to see what inventory is available for customer shipments in any distribution centre across all of Europe.

“The system’s ability to accommodate changes is very important to us, as we are in a business where we have to respond quickly to customers’ changing needs.  

“Infor has a highly scalable, proven solution and was the only one which offered sufficient flexibility to be able to make crucial modifications.  It was perfectly tailored to the apparel sector and included all of the key elements we required to form a great business fit.”

Any IT project carried out at ASICS has to be completed within strict timescales so as to accommodate product launches in preparation for new seasons which occur in October and April. Therefore a speedy implementation was a requirement. The total implementation time could not be longer than a single ASICS sales season.

“The implementation went very smoothly with only a minor dip in delivery output. On day one we operated at 80 per cent of normal levels, and by the end of the week this was over 90 per cent, against expectations of lower levels and a longer ramp-up time,” says Haarsma.

“With Infor Warehouse Management we have improved the management of our inventory as well as order handling. While transparency of our warehousing activities is critical, this in itself is not enough. We need to be able to link that information to production, distribution, and sales data so that we can offer an optimum service. With Infor Warehouse Management we have achieved that goal.”

The system has helped ASICS to increase visibility and control over all warehouse activities including put-away, storage, picking, packing and shipping, and measurement of the impact of each process throughout the supply chain.

ASICS now knows its precise stock position at any time – both inbound and outbound – which is essential to measure inventory accurately.  This in turn, has resulted in significantly reduced stock levels.

Previously it had to close operations each year to manually count inventory. Now it is done in real-time, resulting in a productivity increase of some six days a year.

Picking productivity has improved ten per cent. And with better visibility and control of its supply chain, ASICS can plan workload more accurately and know exactly what levels of labour are required – avoiding unnecessary costs. 

Its next step is to roll-out Infor Warehouse Management to other regional distribution centres in Europe. 

Haarsma says, “While not part of our brief for this project, it was very important that Infor could also offer demand planning, replenishment and order management as part of its SCM solution.  There is currently a lack of functionality in these areas at ASICS yet we recognise that these are vital for business agility.  These are therefore likely to feature in our future plans.” 


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