For Wyevale Garden Centres, with its large product range, many items only having short survival periods, and significant sales being driven by seasonality the need for efficient management of its inventory is vitally important.

During its implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX with K3 across its 145 stores the company recognised that it was not using the best tools when dealing with stock management. In order for it to achieve the necessary visibility of inventory that would enable it to reduce the stock levels in its distribution centre Wyevale needed an overhaul.

It turned to Relex for the tools that would give it these capabilities as well as maximising availability through automating some processes including the replenishment of certain product lines.

This involved a 12-month project whereby Wyevale implemented four of Relex’s cloud-based modules: Demand forecasting was chosen as it is particularly beneficial for dealing with seasonal products; Auto replenishment frees up the merchandisers to work on more value-added activities; Product allocation can nominate particular stores for specific products based on the confidence of them selling; and finally it too the Assortment management module.

Speaking at RBTE 2018 Kevin Wales, head of client partnership (UK) at Relex, described the many benefits Wyevale has been able to enjoy including the ability to optimise the introduction of new products. The solution is able to highlight comparable products and use them as reference points from which is can forecast sales levels of the new item.

This is particularly useful to Wyevale as it has a high SKU turnover among the 30,000 SKUs that it stocks at any one time: “It is now able to introduce new products knowing the forecasts will be reliable. Once they are in-store it can rely on actual sales figures. The big benefit is the saving of time. We can go through its whole range every night and find suitable reference points.”

The new system’s replenishment capabilities enable it to manage the majority of Wyevale’s products and improve ranging decisions. The process of replenishment has been speeded up – with automation now being applied to enable reductions of out-of-stocks.

Wyevale is now also able to better handle the constraints of certain suppliers in terms of the required order sizes – that can be determined by specific container sizes or the limited availability of particular products. It collects master data from across the business and lets the system raise orders according to the constraints. “It can allocate stock to locations that have the highest sales potential in order to enable the best use of limited supplies of products,” says Wales.

The greater visibility of stock and planning capabilities provides a greater platform for collaboration. This can be both internal, across departments, as well as external with suppliers. Much better security of supply with suppliers improves negotiation as resourcing can be easier to plan as the future plans are much more accurate and less prone to ongoing changes. This certainly helps with the availability of products that have been sourced from further afield such as from the Far East.

This willingness of the Wyevale business to engage with key stakeholders beyond the project team – including the likes of suppliers – when overhauling its inventory management system has been beneficial because the solution touches many parts of the company.

Such is its reach that Wales says it is more about change management than being simply an IT project. One of the key aspects of this has been the introduction of automation that involves people letting go of some of the control they previously had over ordering and replenishment. This is achieved by ensuring that employees know how the system works – and are knowledgeable about the master data it requires – as this gives them the required confidence in the solution.

The results have certainly been very impressive to date for Wyevale with overall availability improving 7.77%, the availability of key products up 8.1% to 98.3%, and write-offs have been reduced by 12.76%.