Image © Philip Halling

St Ives Logistics

Logistics division of marketing services group St-Ives Plc.

Type
Publicly Traded
Industry
Marketing & Logistics
Founded
1964
Note: St-Ives have re-branded as Kin and Carta since this case study was written.

Systems integration & automation project:

Successful integration gives UK distribution center automated labels

St-Ives Logistics handles the distribution of their marketing materials to customers of St-Ives Plc. We were asked to automate the production of courier labels to reduce time and errors.

Background

The St-Ives Logistics warehouse holds stock of marketing materials produced for retailers across the UK. Stores order from this stock in small quantities to replace missing or damaged materials.

These orders are dispatched via a courier (usually UKMail or TNT). The team responsible for store orders were having to manually type the address into the courier's website and print a label - this was a slow and error prone process.

Our brief

  • When a operative marks an order as picked in the WMS print:
    • Courier labels on the correct Zebra printer
    • Delivery notes on the correct laser printer
  • Intelligently select the courier and account based on the client and number, size and weight of parcels.
  • Do so in a configurable way so that new clients and couriers can be added in the future.

“Minimising disruption to your business is a top priority. Un-invasive testing and well organised transition periods are key”

Challenges

  • Avoiding disruption in the warehouse
    The warehouse had tight deadlines to meet and limited slack in their schedule where testing could be completed
  • Integrating with the WMS
    St-Ives' WMS, Red Prairie, had a number of integration points but they were all decidedly old fashioned and cumbersome

“Using the same solution for every problem doesn’t work – the system must be unique to match the needs of the business”

Our solution

  • Working with a Red Prairie expert we built reliable integration with the WMS using data streams
  • To support future enhancements, we designed the system to have pluggable outputs - we built the courier label and delivery note outputs in this fashion
  • Consignments are registered with UKMail via their APIs and labels generated
  • We built a rules based configuration engine which allows St-Ives to easily add new clients and update the logic driving the system
  • Integration with the warehouse printers means that labels and delivery notes automatically printed at the operative’s station
  • Testing on a Sunday when the warehouse wasn't operating prevented any disruption

Outcomes for St-Ives

  • Man-hours saved in St-Ives' warehouse
    Producing a label previously took several minutes - now it takes no time at all
  • Human errors removed via automated addressing
    The address and consignment details are now uploaded automatically from the WMS to the courier with no human intervention (or typos)
  • Flexible and ‘future proof’ solution
    The solution we delivered has a powerful configuration engine and pluggable interfaces to ease adding new functionality - meaning St-Ives can respond quickly to customer demands

The powerful configuration engine means that St-Ives can support most changes and new demands internally - but we're always here when they need us.

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