Appleby Westward.

Appleby Westward Group Ltd – SPAR wholesaler for SW England invests in Wholesale Distribution Software

Appleby Westward has realized increased productivity and profitability year on year since the introduction of Accord in the mid 1990’s.

As part of its programme of ongoing investment Appleby Westward has continuously developed and enhanced the system since its original implementation. Recent enhancements include the introduction of EDI and Radio Frequency features to allow employees to work with ‘real time’ information and improve accuracy and productivity.

The latest £400K development involves the introduction of a ‘high availability’ system to provide the high resilience and fault tolerance vital for continuous 24 hour working in the warehouse. The system is a specialized facility for protecting mission-critical applications from a wide variety of hardware and software failures.

Appleby Westward is using a ‘cluster’ of two HP9000 Rp5430 servers running HPUX11 and HP Multi-Computer/Service Guard. Accord runs on both machines, ‘controlling’ operations from one, whilst updating the second machine in parallel. Thus, if one machine goes down the work load automatically transfers to the other, allowing uninterrupted 24/7 working.

Appleby Westward Benefits From Accord
(Original implementation case study)

The importance of Information Technology is now widely recognised in the Wholesale Trade. However, investment in a Distribution System is a major expense and anticipated benefits can seem remote, uncertain or difficult to quantify. As a result, wholesalers who are already computerised may be tempted to shelve further investment plans, “making do” with a system which, though adequate, may be outdated, limited and not conducive to optimum performance.

However, Spar wholesaler, Appleby Westward, is proving that investment in an advanced system, tailored to requirements, properly implemented and operated by skilled and motivated employees and management, can swiftly produce significant benefits far outweighing the costs of the system.

Having purchased BCP’s Accord Wholesale Distribution Software in 1995, AW reports that improvements in buying, sales, stock, service levels and many other areas are well on, or exceeding, target, indicating that their initial investment of £500,000 should be recovered in approximately two years.

Background to the Investment

With an annual turnover exceeding £104m and a workforce of over 170, AW is one of six SPAR wholesale distributors in the UK. Solely a delivered wholesaler, AW distribute food and associated products to 319 independent SPAR convenience store operators in SW England, providing them with a full range of support services to enable them to trade profitably.

Aware of the advantages of computerisation AW had installed their first system in the early ’80’s. This was still providing a competent service, but, by the mid ’90’s, was outdated and using obsolete hardware. With growth, expansion, and the changing demands of their new business, AW realised the need for a modern, comprehensive system “to help develop a more dynamic business approach, more effective managerial control and an overall improvement in customer service”.

After a thorough evaluation of available systems AW selected BCP’s Accord software – a fully integrated, modular 4GL system written in Progress RDBMS and covering all aspects of wholesale distribution. AW purchased the complete BCP system, including some bespoke work to meet their particular needs, and HP 9000 series Unix hardware. Accord was chosen for its comprehensive, flexible nature and Hewlett Packard for its low cost maintenance and outstanding reliability record.

Accord was implemented in two phases during 1995. Now nearing the end of their first full financial year with their new system AW are in a position to assess its effect on company performance.

Service Levels, Stock Control and Maintenance Costs

Significant financial gains have resulted from improvements in each of these areas.

Service Levels have increased by 2% to over 98%, corresponding to a £1.6m increase in annual turnover. Improved stock control has reduced stock by 6% in terms of number of days and by 7% in value, releasing over £260,000 of working capital. These improvements reflect better buying and elimination of slow moving and low margin lines, identified by management information from the stock control software in the new system.

Annual maintenance and support costs have fallen by £26,000 demonstrating the improved reliability of the complete system.

Non-quantifiable benefits

Many other improvements are either unquantifiable or have yet to be analysed. These include substantial labour savings associated with improvements in finishing times and faster stock takes. Philip Brewer, AW’s IT Director, comments: “Staff are now completing at 5pm instead of 9pm most evenings. The jobstream takes about 1½ hours instead of running all night on the old system. It is always guaranteed to finish successfully rather than falling over for some reason or other. Bulk Stock control helps us to locate products more quickly. Stocktaking is much easier and the amount of time taken is reduced each time one takes place. The overall flexibility of the system is also proving a considerable asset”.

Better Information

One of the greatest improvements, impacting on all aspects of the business, is the management information from the new system.

A comprehensive range of reporting options provides meaningful information, tailored to AW’s particular needs. Philip Brewer says: “Not only is the quality and amount of information greatly improved, but people have confidence in it. Intelligent use of this information is the key to many of the improvements we are making, e.g. product managers, armed with better information, are able to negotiate more preferential terms which are reflected in improved service levels, lower stock values and higher margins.”

Quicker access to this management information was one of the key factors in AW’s decision to implement the new system in two phases.

Further Development

Progress at AW has not ceased with their investment in BCP’s Accord since, as Philip Brewer points out, “One of the major benefits of the new system is that it has put us in a much better position to undertake further developments and implement other related new technologies.” Various additions have been made to the system since the initial investment. The latest development, expected to be operational early in 1997, is in the use of radio terminals on fork lift trucks, using Symbol Technologies hardware and BCP software specially developed for AW.

Forecast year end increases in sales and profits, with a projected payback of two years, justify AW’s confidence in Accord. As more data is accumulated and analysed by the system, and other reporting options are fully utilised, additional improvements are expected.

AW are confident that, in the long term, the benefits derived from Accord will far exceed the cost of the system, enabling AW to further improve managerial control, the service provided to retail customers and overall company performance.

Project Description