Toolstation tackles omnichannel challenges with Kӧrber


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: Toolstation tackles omnichannel challenges with Kӧrber.

Körber is working with Toolstation, one of Britain’s fastest growing suppliers of tools, accessories and building supplies to the trade, home improvers and self-builders, to evolve its multichannel capabilities to meet consumer demands. This includes enhancing processes in its Redditch distribution center while supporting Toolstation’s expanding network of stores.

Toolstation is experiencing significant growth in online and retail orders. As a result, the company outgrew its paper-based processes - leading to a lack of visibility and productivity constraints for the workforce. With its vast range of products, even though broken into warehouse ‘logic zones’, Toolstation was challenged to simultaneously manage smaller, sometimes single, e-commerce orders along with bulk distributions for its stores. The company needed a solution to increase workforce productivity, simplify picking, increase capacity within its current warehouse and integrate with its existing, proprietary order management system that linked all of its stores. Kӧrber made this possible.

“At Toolstation, our customers and colleagues are at the heart of everything we do. As our business continues to rapidly grow and expand, the needs and expectations of our customers continue to develop and change, be it product range, speed of delivery or convenience. It was really important for us to streamline our processes to make picking easier for our colleagues, improve visibility of workload across our distribution center and to improve the quality of delivery to our customers. When we turned to Körber, we were looking to reduce our in-house complexities to develop a superior solution that would work in our current operation and with our existing IT infrastructure”, said Jim Gowland, Head of Distribution at Toolstation.

Working with Toolstation, Körber designed a solution that uses a warehouse execution system (WES) combined with voice technology to facilitate process change, driving efficiency and accuracy.

The WES builds the basis of operational improvements: It links orders geographically in the warehouse to limit the walk time of each operator. Innovative multi-order picking logic enables picking for multiple customers. Furthermore, product information is used to maximize the fill of each delivery unit, reducing transportation costs as well as amplifying operators’ picking tours. 

The voice system improves the pickers’ experience in a different way. Workers hear and verbally confirm instructions step by step via headset. This ensures process conformity, improves productivity and reduces errors. The complexity of Toolstation’s product range also makes onboarding new pickers challenging. Voice technology has a proven record of significantly reducing training time. Due to the accuracy of voice picking, goods-in and put-away of orders delivered to stores will also be significantly improved, freeing up employees’ time for more valuable customer tasks.

A further benefit of the two linked systems is the WES’ ability to log and track each voice-directed action and provide near real-time visibility via a suite of standard dashboards. This gives the warehouse management team true insight into the operation. 

“At Körber, we review operations to not only understand the ’what you do’ but more importantly ’the why’. We work with our customers to identify how we can improve a process, and then consider the best technology fit. Along with decades of successful deployments worldwide, we have a wide range of solutions covering the entire supply chain at our disposal, as the complexities in today’s supply chain mean there is no ’one-size-fits-all‘ solution. The solution we will be implementing at Toolstation goes to show how much potential an existing warehouse has if the right type of technology is applied,” said Anton du Preez, Chief Sales Officer Software EME, Körber Business Area Supply Chain.

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