Robert Welch

James Lindner

Materials Manager | Robert Welch

"Thanks to the powerful forecasting capabilities of Slim4, we now have ready access to the insights we need to make strategic purchasing decisions. Put simply, Slim4 is critical to our success. It is like having an extra team member!"

Major retailers, 5 star hotels and restaurants, first class airline passengers and even those dining at Number 10 Downing Street have one thing in common: products from Robert Welch. Founded over 50 years ago, and now run by the next generation of the Welch family, the Chipping Camden based company has excelled since starting off with a drawing board in a single room.

However, as with any growing business, success brings challenges. “An increasing product range and expanding customer base, combined with varying demand profiles was giving us growing pains. In short we were working hard to maintain our service levels but at the expense of too much stock.”

As an iconic British brand, Robert Welch has pioneered the design and manufacture of high-end cutlery, dining, kitchen & living merchandise since 1955. Following the business’ continued growth under the leadership of the second generation of Welch’s, the silverware specialists joined forces with inventory experts, Slimstock, to modernise their approach to inventory management. After making huge strides towards reducing inventory levels, Robert Welch has continued to refine and optimise their operation in order to better service the needs of their diverse customer base.

From their headquarters in the same 18th century Silk Mill where the business was first established, Robert Welch has grown to become a key supply partner for thousands of hotels, kitchens and retailers across the globe. Offering a broad range of elegant, highly functional and affordable products, the business’ ethos of “designed the Robert Welch way” remains as strong as ever. For this very reason, the tableware distributor has recently received two successive Queen’s Awards for both Enterprise in International Trade and Enterprise in Innovation.

Small but efficient team

As highlighted by James Lindner, materials manager at Robert Welch, the business’ values extend across the entire organisation: “From a supply chain perspective, this translates to a meticulous focus on what matters most to our customers: ensuring consistently high levels of product availability.”

Following the successful implementation of Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4, in 2012, the kitchenware specialist has continued to strengthen its market position. As a result, turnover has more than doubled in 7 years since the business first partnered with Slimstock. To keep up with the business’ growth, James and his team have utilised Slim4 to achieve further efficiency improvements across their planning process.

“While there is no question that the continued growth of our business has placed additional pressure on our team, thanks to the additional control provided by Slim4, we have still managed to increase availability. More importantly, we have achieved this while reducing inventory levels.” The materials manager goes on to add: “In a small team like ours, Slim4 is critical to our success. Put simply, it is like having an extra team member!”

Maintaining exceptional service

With customers ranging from major high street retail chains to top hotels and premium airlines, the planning team at Robert Welch must be able to satisfy the diverse needs of their extensive customer base. “From satisfying the demand from John Lewis’ customers to supplying a bespoke range of products to be used across Emirates’ first-class suites: for us, service is of paramount importance,” explains James.

To maintain the standards the silverware specialist’s customer have come to expect, James and his team rely on the management by exception principles of Slim4 to proactively mitigate the risk of service issues. James explains: “Slim4 automatically alerts us to any potential inventory issue. For example, in the face of a supply issue, we now have much greater insight into the delivery of goods. This, in turn, means we can take appropriate action to resolve the issue before it impacts our operations.”

Long range forecasting

One of the most important advantages of Slim4 for our business is the solution’s powerful forecasting capabilities. James explains: “Given that our supplier network expands across the globe, many of our products are subjected to lead times of up to 19 weeks. As a result, we depend on accurate forecasts in order to ensure the right inventory is ordered in a timely manner.”

Based on the demand profile of each product, Slim4 applies the most appropriate forecasting algorithm. Given that the forecasting process is now fully automated across the vast majority of the assortment, James and his team have more time to focus on new products and items with highly erratic demand patterns. “Thanks to the powerful forecasting capabilities of Slim4, we rarely have to manually adjust the forecast. As a result, we now have ready access to the insights we need to make strategic purchasing decisions.”

Lasting partnership

Satisfied with the progress he and his team have made since first going live with Slim4 over 5 years ago, the materials manager goes on to conclude: “Slim4 has played an important role in helping us to achieve periods of availability for A items in excess of 99%. Put simply, I couldn’t do my job without it!”