Keeping stock

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With 69 stores nationwide, upholstered furniture retailer DFS is well aware that providing shorter delivery times to customers will help keep it ahead of the competition. Delivery times are normally a week, from the time of order, but increased customer demand can put those under pressure.

A chance meeting with Expert Peripheral Designs (ExPD) at a trade show resulted in DFS finding a solution to realising its aim of shorter deliveries. The retailer wanted an automated booking-in procedure installed and needed a supplier who was willing to work with it to develop a real-time integrated system. Using Cisco radio access points and Datalogic Viper terminals, ExPD offered a solution that reduced the booking-in process to seconds by eliminating time-consuming manual processes.

The retailer has an 11,160sq m distribution centre at Doncaster which, before the new system was installed, would receive goods from one of DFS’ three factories – at Doncaster, Long Eaton and Alfreton. Each item was input into the system manually and, in some cases, the sheer volume of orders could put undue pressure on the distribution process. Only once it was booked in, could an item then be manually matched to a customer order and a telephone call then made to the customer to arrange delivery.

Installation of the new system – the project was completed in June this year – means that sofas now arrive at the stores, pre-barcoded. The operator scans the stock tickets using the Viper terminals, with the system automatically matching the barcode to the customer order. This then triggers a telephone call within minutes to the customer to book a delivery date. The system will also immediately flag if only a part delivery has been received which will activate a search for the missing item.

As a result, DFS has achieved improved control over stock during transit and distribution operations. Also the stores are benefiting from increased speed of data collection, greater stock control, payback based on improved stocktaking and improved customer service.

The system has also been designed to allow further development with the ability to integrate with shop floor processes in the future.

Jon Massey, chief operating officer at DFS, says: “To help maintain our position as the UK market leader, speed and quality of service are absolutely essential. We are delighted with the new wireless system which has provided us with immediate increases in efficiency across our distribution process.” n

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