Until 2 years ago Helly Hansen still had five distribution centres (own and outsourced). That number has decreased to two: one DC of 20,000 square metres in Born (South-Limburg, The Netherlands) and one DC of 11,000 square metres in Auburn on the US West Coast, close to Seattle.
"By centralising distribution in two locations we have been able to reduce our stock levels and the overhead cost. Moreover, we are more flexible in allocating stock through our sales channels. We do not only deliver our Outdoor and working gear to our own shops and those of other retailers, but also sell them directly via the Internet to consumers in Europe and North-America and to Licensees and Distributors worldwide," says Bart de Rijke, Vice-President Supply Chain for Helly Hansen.
The next step in optimizing the supply chain is acquiring a new warehouse management system (WMS). Helly Hansen now operates on an outdated platform and runs on old infrastructure. "We have more and more challenges to keep the platform up and running while volumes are increasing due to our current growth. In addition, for the support we depend on a reliable but small partner based only in the European time zone. This implies a very high risk for a mission critical system such as this one," states De Rijke.
Local support on two continents
After an elaborate selection process, Helly Hansen selected Astro WMS, the warehouse management system of Consafe Logistics. "We wanted to avoid a selection based on gut feeling. That’s why we have defined very objective selection criteria together with Jeroen van den Berg Consulting. Consafe Logistics came out on top."
The system met the two most important selection criteria of Helly Hansen: experience in fashion and apparel and an international organization who could offer support both in Europe as well as in North-America. "Consafe Logistics offers support in both continents. Not only the DC in Born, the Netherlands, but also the DC in Auburn (near Seattle) is supported during and after local office hours."
The plan is to implement Astro WMS in January 2014. We will go live with the smallest DC in Auburn in the second weekend of January, and one week later with the DC in Born. "This is the best timing: Operationally we will be in between two seasons when stock levels and order volumes will be low", De Rijke says.
Support of cluster picking and slotting
Helly Hansen is expecting to significantly improve productivity with Astro WMS. Cluster picking, for instance, is a good example. "During peak season we receive many orders containing the same articles. This means that our order pickers visit the same pick locations for every order. Astro WMS allows the Operator to pick several orders at the same time, which we have calculated to increase productivity with 15% to 20%".
Helly Hansen also expects to benefit from the functionality for task interleaving and slotting. Task interleaving allows you to easily combine different tasks, such as order pick and cycle count. Slotting support means that Astro WMS suggests the optimal article location based on e.g. velocity class. This is very relevant for Helly Hansen, as the collection changes several times a year. "Nowadays, establishing an ABC-structure of our product range on the locations is done manually", De Rijke says.
Finally, Astro WMS offers more comprehensive management information. "We will not only be able to monitor the prior days’ performance, but also plan more efficiently. The WMS shows us the workload for the rest of the day at any given moment. This allows us to better monitor the operation and offers us better possibilities to redirect resources if needed." These functionalities are not unique to Astro, but the accessible user-interface will make working with this system a lot easier. Helly Hansen is also considering adding voice picking technology to the new WMS in phase two.
Ready for significant growth
When Astro WMS is implemented in the next 5 months, Helly Hansen will be operating a distribution network that enables significant growth. After last year’s acquisition by OTTP, a large Canadian pension fund, the brand has big plans for expansion. "For instance, this month we are opening the first stores in Russia, and this is only the beginning. Of course, our distribution network needs to be ready for this expansion," De Rijke says.
Consafe Logistics is delighted that a well-known brand such as Helly Hansen trusts the quality of Astro WMS. "After implementations with Shoeby and ICC the choice of Helly Hansen for Astro is another confirmation of the fact that Consafe Logistics is also able to optimize logistic processes adequately and in a visionary way in Fashion and Apparel," says Milou Brüll, Sales Manager.