Soleil Foodservice Limited is a family-owned and operated food service re-distribution company which provides innovative supply chain solutions in the European, Russian and North American markets.
The company's operations in Canada, the UK and Belgium provide cost saving efficiencies to the franchisors and purchasing co-ops of quick service restaurant franchises looking to increase their presence globally.
In the UK, Soleil is the sole re-distributor for an American sandwich chain which currently has more than 2,000 outlets nationwide. Soleil sources, stores and supplies a diverse range of SKUs including foodstuffs/ingredients, packaging/consumables and uniforms from a broad base of international suppliers.
Stock is received in containers and is classed as 'handball' stock, resulting in a labour intensive warehousing operation.
Soleil originally implemented the Snapfulfil SaaS WMS in its warehouse in Wrexham in 2010, replacing a manual, paper-based system. Due to continued growth in the business, the company re-located to a larger facility in Deeside in early 2015. In tandem with the move, Soleil and Snapfulfil took the opportunity to review both the operation and the WMS to identify areas for improvement.
In the original warehouse, Soleil had specified that each individual SKU should have its own rules within the WMS, which dictated where it should be located. However, as the operation grew and evolved, in many cases, these rules no longer corresponded to that product's attributes which, in turn, meant that the location associated with that product was no longer optimal. For example, a fast-moving product might be put away in the furthest locations from the marshalling area or in a location which was blocked in by a slower moving SKU, leading to significant inefficiencies in the picking operation.
As part of the warehouse move, Soleil were looking for a solution that planned picking and put-away in such a way that they could continually optimise throughput within the available space, with the ability to fine-tune this themselves in line with changing operational requirements, providing maximum control and flexibility.
Working closely with Soleil's management team to understand their specific challenges, Snapfulfil was effectively re-configured for them according to these requirements, incorporating workflow rules based on product attributes rather than specific SKUs. Crucially, the operation has the ability to modify these product attributes on the system in real-time, allowing them to dynamically assign and direct different products to different locations (and different stock to different shipments) in real-time, without the need to call on Snapfulfil support.
Features include the ability to flag particular products as slow/medium/fast movers, ensuring that picking is concentrated at the ends of the aisles nearest the loading bays, significantly reducing travel times for pickers. Similarly, slow-moving stock is assigned to locations that are more difficult to access.
Soleil can also quickly flag the fastest moving product for storage in prime-access block stack locations when it is known to be required quickly. Again, this can be changed by the operation in real-time by a supervisor, without the need to request assistance from Snapfulfil.
In the same way, tasks generated automatically by the WMS can also be closed and alternatives generated by a trained supervisor where the operation identifies changing storage requirements.
Specific stock can also be assigned to a shipment, allowing circumvention of the standard FIFO functionality when required and appropriate. As well as controlling what needs to be accessed, this permits the operation to tailor the shelf-life remaining on a perishable product according to the requirements of specific customers. This is particularly important when there may be a lag between despatch and delivery, such as when shipping foodstuffs to clients abroad.
In addition, Snapfulfil provides a task-by-task history of all activities, ensuring full accountability, while the task standards within the system allow operators' productivity and performance to be monitored and compared, even though their work may be different.
Soleil now has the autonomy to change the attributes associated with a particular SKU in real-time, in line with changes in demand, e.g., seasonal products, as well as adding new SKUs to the system as they continue to win new clients.
As a result, the company enjoys all of the benefits of having a Tier 1 WMS, such as 100% inventory accuracy and full traceability from receipt to despatch, along with the ability to flex the operation in line with both forecast and actual demand.
As a result, orders are fulfilled both accurately and, above all, efficiently. This means that the warehouse can complete its daily activities within the working day, something which was rarely achieved at the old facility.
By streamlining and future-proofing the operation, Snapfulfil has delivered major time and cost saving benefits, far exceeding the cost of the system.
For example, the time taken to receive, de-stuff and put away a load has been reduced from three hours to a little over an hour, while the time taken to pick a typical order has been reduced from two hour to just 30 minutes.
Dave Hale, Soleil Foodservice's Warehouse Manager said: "The new version of Snapfulfil has been, quite simply, a revelation – we are 'masters of our own destiny' and can now boast a truly efficient and completely flexible operation.
"On a day-to-day basis, the Snapfulfil support team are extremely helpful and responsive to our needs, addressing and quickly resolving any problems which might occasionally arise."