Today’s shopping revolution has fuelled unprecedented challenges for businesses looking to meet the ever-evolving demands of a digital world. Customer expectations have never been higher. They want faster delivery, more choices, and better service, so the pressure is on distributors to constantly boost performance. This means supplying a larger number of channels through a single inventory, with fewer staff, at a faster pace, while still offering an excellent customer experience.
This is a far cry from how things worked a few years ago. In August of 2016 we implemented a warehouse management system aimed at solving complex supply chain execution challenges called Manhattan SCALE. It had won warehouse management system of the year for more than a dozen years, and it now controls the majority of our activities in our warehouse.
Our vision at that stage was to bolster our supply chain and we saw the need for a really good supply chain solution that was going to be able to compete on the local market and give us a competitive edge. Once we had implemented that system, we went on to complete a host of projects that started to optimise the efficiency of the Tarsus Woodmead facility and align its initiatives with internationally benchmarked metrics.
At Tarsus, we had a vision of competing nationally, as well as internationally, and we began to create a vision and align ourselves with internationally published supply chain benchmark metrics. By early 2017, we heard rumblings from one of our big retail customers who had just had a disastrous Black Friday in 2016, which was the first time Black Friday had hit SA.
They had attempted to perform e-commerce activities out of the back end of one of their stores and it was an absolute disaster for them. In total, it took about six months to deliver the last parcel to their Black Friday clients. In the aftermath, looking for a fully integrated solution, they approached Tarsus.
Building an integration capability
We were then tasked with building this integration capability, something we had never done before. It took us spending eight hours a day together over three and a half months to do so, but we ended up building what has become a nationally and internationally critically acclaimed integration platform - one that was fully integrated with the SAP system that the customer operated on.
What this meant, was that any transaction that happened in their systems, for example, the client logging on and going online to purchase something, would go into the SAP systems that would automatically digitally come through into our warehouse management system and we would execute on those digital instructions. The integration platform managed the full supply chain process, from accounting, tracking, and inventory, to receiving and shipping. The information was then fed back into the ERP or SAP system.
In this way, they had full visibility of this supply chain, and their clients had automatic visibility of products on the e-commerce platform too. This was the start of it all, and when Black Friday came up again in 2017, we passed with flying colours by delivering double the volume of the previous year, and achieving completion within one week as opposed to six months. The rest, as they say, is history.
In early 2018 we onboarded another big retail client and began working on their e-commerce platforms. They were suffering huge losses and were in danger of their insurability. They were being plagued by regular armed robberies, so we helped them move all of their excess stockholding out of their stores nationally and set up a central distribution model that meant they could hold less stock in their stores and rather draw stock from a central location as and when they needed it. This was also aligned with best practice internationally where distribution happens on a just-in-time solution basis, as opposed to attempting to forecast what sales would happen in what store and at what time. The success of this meant we took on a number of other huge projects, and in the past few years, have continued to optimise the supply chain and make it even more digitally integrated.