Extrashop optimises warehouse and store stocking

Retail Transport & Logistiek

The retail chain Extrashop has a highly varied range and was seeking to speed up the process of assigning items to warehouse locations. They were looking for a WMS that would give them the best possible support, both now and in the future. Michiel Bellemans, Extrashop’s Supply Chain Manager, explains how Centric Locus WMS has adapted to change and ensures orders are picked and stored as efficiently as possible every time. "Centric looks beyond the boundaries of its own WMS, and that’s what we were looking for."

Extrashop sets itself apart with attractive shops full of atmosphere, helpful staff and competitively priced homeware and cosmetics. The company also offers a surprising assortment of seasonal products, ranging from Christmas decorations to garden furniture. Since it was founded in 1992, Extrashop has steadily grown into a retail chain with 45 branches across Belgium. Extrashop’s storage and stocking operations are run from its central distribution centre in Zwevegem, which had to double its capacity earlier this year to accommodate further growth going forward.

ERP fell short

"What makes our logistics so complex is the huge variability in our range and ordering patterns," says Supply Chain Manager Michiel Bellemans. "To keep our prices down, we procure our products in the Far East and buy overstock from high-profile premium suppliers. Where we excel is in our ability to act quickly to seize opportunities that arise. As a result, the stock in our warehouse and what we supply to our shops changes constantly. We don't have the kind of fixed flow that you often see at supermarkets."

To keep our order picking processes efficient and make the most of the warehouse space we have, every item must be assigned to the most logical storage location. Fast-moving goods that are picked a lot should be placed in the front of the warehouse and the size of items must also be considered carefully. At Extrashop, this is an enormously dynamic process. Both the product range and stock rotation speed change rapidly, meaning that the company needs to be able to reallocate in time. This is where the ERP system that we had been using for years to run our warehouse simply fell short.

“We looked for a software partner that looked beyond the four walls of a warehouse”

Michiel Bellemans Supply chain manager

Supply chain-wide perspective on warehousing

At the same time as the warehouse extension was built, Extrashop decided to implement a separate warehouse management system on top of its ERP. The idea was to take warehouse operations to a higher level, while also optimising transport and store restocking. "We looked for a software partner that looked beyond the four walls of a warehouse," says Bellemans. "By that we meant a vendor that, instead of imposing its way of working on us, would have an open mind and consider the supply chain as a whole. How do we cut handling costs while also being smarter in how we load our lorries? And while also enabling our shop staff to work more efficiently? Aside from that, we just wanted a user-friendly WMS with a simple user interface, so our employees wouldn't have to go through lengthy training before they could use it."

Supply reliability

Software vendor Centric turned out to be the best fit for Extrashop’s requirements and preferences. Not to mention the glowing references from other retailers already using Centric Locus WMS. So, the decision was made, and the system has been operational at the Zwevegem distribution centre since early this year.

What has stood out in particular since the company started using Locus WMS is that the number of errors in deliveries to shops has gone down significantly, Bellemans points out. "The new WMS lets us track progress, so that we can instantly see where a certain pallet is in the process. Any delays are detected proactively, allowing us to step in and take measures in time to get a lorry fully loaded and off the dock on time."

Continuously optimising storage locations

Another tangible benefit of Locus WMS that Extrashop has already been able to reap is that it has brought a new sense of calm to the warehouse. Order pickers are no longer criss-crossing the warehouse like they used to, instead neatly taking the most efficient routes along pick locations that are arranged conveniently based on products’ rotation speed and size. Bellemans continues, "Together with Centric, we have created zones in the warehouse based on the layout of our shops. Items that are close together on the shelves in our shops are placed in the same order picking zone. As a result, shop staff won't have to walk as much when replenishing. The stand-out feature of Locus WMS is that it autonomously calculates the most logical warehouse location for an item and proactively issues an alert whenever this changes."

An agile WMS

Centric Locus WMS has been live for a couple of months now and has proven itself to be an adaptive system that can handle the variability in Extrashop’s supply chain very well. It offers advanced functionality that enables Extrashop to run a broad range of retail processes, but can still be configured to do only what needs doing. "We want to be able to grow as a company and not have to reprogramme the whole WMS every time something changes in our operations. During the roll-out, we found Locus WMS very easy to configure – without customisation! – and that changes can be made relatively quickly."

Extrashop has found a partner in Centric that has enabled it to lift the entire supply chain operations to the highest level. "Centric’s people join our thought process and look beyond the boundaries of their own WMS. The software offers flexible configurability and can keep up with the variability in our organisation. And that’s exactly what we need at Extrashop."