With over 130 years of industry experience, the construction wholesaler, Lecot, has evolved from a small hardware retail operation in Belgium to the largest national player in building hardware, tools and personal protective equipment.
A lot has changed over the years, and Lecot’s large product range is well known. With more than 110,000 products on offer, of which 40,000 are immediately available, you are sure to find what you are looking for.
Thanks to its webshop and electronic data interchange portal (EDI) Lecot offers flexible deliveries either on site, or via collection from one of its network of branches.
“Without Slim4 we would have been completely stuck.”
Bart Derammelaere | Group Manager Purchase and Product Management
Lecot is constantly opening new branches and is fully committed to omnichannel. To optimise stock in its distribution centres, the company has counted on Slimstock’s Slim4 platform since 2009. Slim4 was rolled out across the company to make the replenishment process more efficient and to better distribute stock across its branches.
“This has led to a reduction in the workload within our DCs,” says Bart Derammelaere. “Without Slim4 we would have been completely stuck.”
Customer focus and operational excellence are the two pillars that empower wholesaler, Lecot, to outshine its competitors.
“We want to be so close to our customers that they only have to drive half an hour at most to the nearest branch,” says Derammelaere, who is responsible for purchasing, product management and data at Lecot. “In addition, we want to give construction professionals complete freedom to order whenever and wherever they want. They can come into the branch, they can order via the webshop or a representative, or they can send an e-mail. The customer can also decide how they want the product to be delivered: home delivery, direct delivery to the construction site, collection at a branch, it’s all possible. We are always there … everywhere”
The market leader in construction supplies has more than 75 sales branches in Belgium alone, which are supplied from its DCs in Heule and Maaseik. Since implementing the Slim4 platform, the business has reduced stock levels by 20% while still achieving a substantially high service level at its branches.
“In 2020, we took a very important step for us, and started using Slim4 to replenish our shops as well. Before then, this was still done using min-max systems that could be adjusted by the branch managers themselves. However, that became far too static as demand started to fluctuate.”
Pressure on the DCs
The old way of shop replenishment also did not take into account the capacity of the DCs. This put a lot of pressure on the operation, especially in Heule, from where the majority of products are delivered.
“We had a couple of peak years during the Coronavirus era. In addition, an average of five branches are added every year and there are also regular takeovers. These additional retail outlets all have to be restocked from the existing DCs. You can scale up by adding extra people, but at some stage you reach saturation point. Then people are more likely to get in each other’s way. We knew that Slim4 is able to take this into account. Slim4 calculates optimal order quantities, and balances availability and costs.”
“Stock is better balanced”
The system was rolled out across the whole organisation, and since then the replenishment of all Lecot branches has been controlled by Slim4. Following the implementation, Derammelaere has noted a big difference in the workload.
“The number of order lines has decreased by more than 20%, while 14 branches were added during that time. We were already running up against our limits in our DCs, so I dare say that without Slim4 we would have really been stuck. I also see that the service level at the branches has gone up. It now sits at 95%, which has enabled us to achieve a considerable increase in turnover. On the other hand, there is also more stock in the branches, but that was all part of the calculation. The point is that the shelf stock is better balanced. It can now be a conscious choice whether or not to stock a low-value product that you sell little of for a whole year. After all, that saves a lot of handling time in the DC.”
Cross-pollination of knowledge
Derammelaere looks back on the project with satisfaction. Benefitting greatly from the knowledge of the Slimstock consultants, he says, “Their experience at other companies was very valuable to me. You run into all kinds of specific questions to which you don’t know the answer straight away, like how to deal with presentation stock. Maybe one piece of stock of a certain type of roller gauge is enough to meet demand, but it can sometimes look totally out of place, because you have a rack that normally holds four roll meters. I found it very interesting to hear from Slimstock how other customers deal with this. In addition to the software they provide, this is a form of cross-pollination that is of great value to us.”
The journey to S&OP
Lecot is a company with growth ambitions and will continue to professionalise its supply chain organisation in the future. Slimstock has been a strategic partner of the company since 2009 and will remain so as far as Derammelaere is concerned.
“Slimstock continues to develop continuously and keeps coming up with new supply chain management solutions that are also of interest to us. For example, we will definitely be working on the supplier assessment functionality, and S&OP is also high on our wish list. In a company like ours, it’s all about having the right data. Our Slim4 system now stores so much data that we want to get everything we can out of it. I don’t want to go with a new supplier for every application, so I really welcome the fact that Slimstock’s offering is growing wider and wider.”