Case Study: Birchall Foodservice achieving warehouse transparency and traceability.

Established in 1939, Birchall Foodservice is a family-run business supplying ambient, fresh and frozen foods, catering sundries, alcohol and bar supplies to independent caterers across the care, education and hospitality sectors.

With service depots in Burnley, Durham, Sheffield and Stoke on Trent, Birchall Foodservice’s 150 staff provide a next-day delivery service to hundreds of businesses in the North of England, Midlands and North Wales.

Manual systems and duplication of effort.

Birchall Foodservice had been using a paper-based warehousing system. Says Operations Director, Nicola Watson, “Our warehousing system suffered from poor housekeeping, with inadequate inventory records and a lack of KPIs. Plus, we had two stock systems that meant we were duplicating work. We needed a warehouse operation that was more efficient and more transparent.”

Birchall Foodservice had spoken with Balloon One previously, after a supplier had let them down. So, as Watson explains, “Balloon One was the natural choice.” She continues, “Not only were they a Korber partner, but they also ‘got us’ and our business. Plus we found them realistic and honest in their appraisal of our needs and the application of the recommended solutions.”

Replacing the paper system with K.Motion WMS.

Balloon One carried out a full implementation of K.Motion WMS (formally called HighJump) and integrated it with Birchall Foodservice’s back office system, Microsoft Dynamics GP, making it paperless through the employment of handheld scanners.

HighJump WMS had been partially implemented eight years prior to this by another supplier. But the implementation had failed and Birchall Foodservice pulled the project, feeling very let down by the supplier. However, the benefits that the HighJump WMS application offered were still relevant to the company’s operations, and so it was still interested in deploying the solution.

Watson recounts how the project went: “Like most projects, there were little hiccups along the way. However, unlike before, there were no show stoppers and Balloon One consummately handled the implementation and quickly resolved any minor issues.”

Efficient stock replenishment and accurate picking.

Once initiated, the new warehouse solution quickly proved its worth. Confirms Watson, “It has been a successful implementation that has given us transparency and traceability within our warehouse operation.”

Birchall Foodservice has benefited from efficiencies with stock replenishment, and picking is more accurate too. The barcode scanning system has improved and simplified processes within the warehouse. Elaborates Watson, “It’s great for new members of staff as the scanner gun instructs them what to do, making it virtually foolproof.”

Around 40 warehouse and operations staff use the new system. As with any overhaul of an operational system such as this, there was an initial hesitation. But Watson attests that staff have now very much embraced the change.

Watson acknowledges that the K.Motion WMS solution can deliver even more, revealing, “There’s still so much more we can do – but it’s still early days.”

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