RJ Edwards Transport Ltd has recently implemented the Empirica warehouse management system from Chess Logistics Technology to enhance key functions including reporting, inventory management and stock traceability to support its ongoing expansion. Although not far into the post-implementation stage, director Trevor Edwards can already to see the ways in which the system is helping the business.
"After using Empirica for the past 12 months I am confident we made the right choice and the new system has been a good investment," says Trevor Edwards. "It was double the price of the last system we bought ... but it's about five times better."
Based near Warrington, Cheshire, RJ Edwards Transport is owned by brothers Trevor and Geoff Edwards. They took over from their father around 25 years ago with Trevor running the operational side and Geoff looking after the company finances. Trevor describes the original business as a "very small concern with just one Manchester based customer" but over the years they have grown from two employees to around 50 with a lot of hard work and a simple aim – to deliver excellent customer service. From their current site they operate 35 articulated vehicles and 50 trailers with a warehousing facility that has expanded rapidly over recent years from 8,000 to 125,000 sq ft holding up to 10,000 pallets in mixed wide-aisle and drive-in storage.
The Edwards brothers have focused on developing their speciality as a provider of consolidation services to ambient product manufacturers, delivering into multiple retailers who include Aldi, Iceland, Lidl, and Morrison. This involves providing a range of coordinated services including storage, consolidation and distribution to ship goods from multiple suppliers into the supermarkets' DCs. The operation needs careful planning, high levels of organisation and, of course, good systems to support the operation.
RJ Edwards went live with the Empirica WMS system in April 2014. They selected Empirica after looking at the market to replace their previous system which, in Trevor's view, had a number of shortcomings. He is keenly aware of the importance of systems to their business, particularly in terms of reporting and traceability, because as he puts it "today's customers need to know everything." The system proved itself early on in this regard when a major customer who had recently changed their own stock systems alerted Trevor to some discrepancies in the stock figures. With a potential claim looming Trevor was able to work through his Empirica stock records and show the discrepancies to be incorrect. The ability to track stock and movements in Empirica meant he could quickly show his customer that it was their system's figures rather than his own that were at fault.
"Without Empirica we'd have been in big trouble," says Trevor. "The discrepancies were soon resolved to everyone's satisfaction and the customer relationship is healthy but it demonstrated the importance of a good WMS."
Entering the second year with the new system Trevor is very pro-Empirica although there are still elements that have yet to be used. For some of those Chess has provided customised additions to meet the flexibility needed in the transport side of the business. RJ Edwards plans to increase system user numbers gradually to extend its use through the business. One of the things Trevor likes is the simplicity of the system and he is also complimentary too about the support Chess provides for the product.
"I can't fault it," says Trevor Edwards. "Whenever I have an issue I just get on the phone and it gets sorted out."
There have been a few "translation issues"' in relation to customised software. Trevor explains that it is critical that software developers understand how a system needs to be used by people working in a busy logistics environment. Notwithstanding this, he feels the interaction between himself and the support team is very good and has resulted in improvements for the RJ Edwards system which may also potentially benefit other Empirica users.
Trevor is optimistic about the future of the business, citing the growth of the discount supermarkets as a significant opportunity for his own business. With their established reputation for service and efficiency they are well positioned to build on their current customer base with new clients coming on board regularly. He believes the company is going from strength to strength, not least because of the excellent staff he is able to rely upon. Even when he is not in the in the office Trevor says that "things still run like clockwork" but he admits he likes to get back in and "wind things up every so often!". It's expected the Empirica WMS will also become a key member of the team he can rely on.