Established in 1981, SMI Group is a family run business that provides workwear & PPE products to key industries across the UK. To solidify its position as one of the most forward-thinking suppliers in the sector, SMI turned to the inventory experts Slimstock to help boost the efficiency of its supply chain.
Over the last 36 years, SMI Group has evolved to become one of the UK’s leading importers of workwear & PPE. As a business that strives to set the industry standard in customer service, SMI has built a solid reputation for offering a broad range of hardwearing products and superb value for money.
Blake Prisgrove, managing director of SMI Group says: “We are constantly looking for ways in which we can improve and develop our business. Thus, taking proactive steps to modernise our supply chain systems and processes is a top priority.”
In the past, the PPE specialist relied on their ERP system, in combination with spreadsheets, to manage their inventory. However, to support further growth, SMI identified a need for a more advanced demand planning solution. After reviewing several vendors, the business took the strategic decision to implement Slimstock’s inventory optimisation tool, Slim4.
Focused on attaining operational excellence, this supply chain optimisation project will focus on boosting the performance of their inventory processes as well as improving ordering efficiency.
Blake goes on to explain: “We always strive to offer our customer’s a fantastic experience. As we optimise our supply chain, I have no doubt that Slimstock’s inventory management tool will help us achieve inventory success.”
Martin Montgomery, UBT partner manager at Slimstock UK concludes: “As a business that is 100% committed to ensuring customers are receiving a 5-star service, I see great similarities between SMI Group and Slimstock. I am excited to create a long-lasting partnership with SMI Group.”
In these unprecedented times for commerce business, Slimstock is excited to announce that it will be supporting this year's Commerce Excellence conference in Oslo. Focused on helping business leaders to overcome major commerce challenges in logistics, purchasing and IT-infrastructure, this year’s event will bring together thought leaders from across Norway to explore the new tomorrow in global Commerce.
Future-proof your commerce operation
Covid-19 has left no supply chain untouched. Face with major disruption to both supply and demand, business leaders have had to take extreme steps to ensure their businesses survive. However, as countries across Europe starting to reduce lock-down measures, organisations must now prepare for what comes next.
At Commence Excellence 2020, a selection of inspiring leaders will take the stage throughout the day to explore how companies are solving challenges like the ones we are facing in today’s market.
Slimstock will join a line-up of industry experts to reveal what steps business leaders can take to secure product availability, optimise costs and ultimately set the foundation for future growth.
Patrick Egbertzen, Business Support Manager at Slimstock goes on to add: “Here at Slimstock, we are committed to supporting the supply chain community to overcome the supply chain challenges that lie ahead. As an event which will bring together some of Norway’s most innovative business leaders, Commerce Excellence 2020 offers a unique opportunity to share our knowledge and experience.”
Date & Time:
Who should attend?
This conference is designed for a management audience with attendees including CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and Logistics directors.
How can I register?
Helen Mathieson has been an energetic and proactive member of the Vegware team for the last 18 months. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen’s role, as Supply Chain and Customer Service Director, has been put to the test. The marketplace is frequently changing, supplier and customer behaviour is unpredictable all coupled with having to now manage her team remotely.
Vegware’s quick thinking and entrepreneurial spirit saw the team respond to the changes brought about by COVID-19 efficiently. This allowed them to stay ahead of the curve and continue to offer their customers and suppliers the brilliant service Vegware prides themselves on.
This interview with Helen outlines how Vegware has managed to prioritise tasks and maintain customer & supplier relationships whilst also providing charitable support to our valuable NHS by donating packaging for NHS staff meals.
1. Tell me a bit about Vegware. Where did the company originate from?
We make compostable food service disposables. As well as providing a full range of food service products, we also provide a collection service which collects used product and puts it into industrial composting. A "close the loop" solution.
2. And what about you? What's your background?
I cut my teeth in sales, but the last ten years has been in Supply Chain and Operations- previously for a fashion brand.
3. Given 'normal' times, what does a sunny week approaching Easter normally look like for Vegware?
Enjoying the buzz of the increased demand for stock that comes with the first opportunity for the public to enjoy some good weather. A sunny breakfast training meeting with the team with all the windows open.
4. When did you first start noticing demand changes / supply changes as a result of COVID-19?
We have felt the impact as a result of the lockdown – before that it was pretty much business as usual.
5. Can you talk me through some examples of these?
A large section of our customer base simply closed overnight. Cafés, schools, Unis and B&I sites just closed overnight.
6. What were your initial steps to combat / deal with the changes?
We had to reforecast immediately and paused production orders whilst we took stock of the new pattern of demand and tried to understand what our changing product demand was.
7. Have you found relationships with customers and suppliers have changed during this period? (examples)
No, we have strong relationships with both of our suppliers and customers. We believe that understanding each other's business is key and as a consequence we already have regular contact. Sharing information, working together and being flexible is key to success and essential at times like this.
8. If you could go back in time 4 weeks, what would you have done differently?
I'm not sure that four weeks would have given us the time to do anything different. We plan weekly, but the impact upon businesses across the UK has been almost instantaneous. I doubt there is a business who was really in a position to plan any outcomes for this scenario.
9. Given that the initial shock wave is subsiding, what is your priority focus now?
We are finding that many of our customers are focussing on being effective at the risk of losing some efficiencies - but it is at times like this that speed and decisiveness is often a game changer
Our priority is our staff and maintaining our business. We are being as flexible as possible in order to deliver our customer needs. We're working in new ways to deliver goods, we are focussed on tapping into new markets and gathering as much intel as possible on a very changed market. Identifying new demand and being able to react quickly are key.
As well as this we are trying to provide support to our charity partners with the provision of ageing stock that we can donate.
10. Understanding that the Vegware team are now working from home, how are you finding managing a planning team remotely? pros / cons / what have you done to stimulate and motivate?
We've embraced "Teams" as a business. We’ve been sharing favourite objects, views from our windows, mini competitions and a full 80 person team meeting. One to ones with line reports were a regular weekly thing- and this hasn’t changed. Its just done over video. Sharing the funny stuff as well as information is key to keeping the team engaged and buoyant.
11. Once things have returned to "normal", do you think your supply chain would have changed? if so, how?
I'm not sure we will see changes in supply chain but i do think that we will pause and reflect on the period. We will review our approach to stock, to customer orders, to the way we plan and manage. Our approach in normal times is to do this as standard, but as with anything which results in significant impacts to business, we should review and learn in order to improve.
12. When lock down is over, what is the first thing you will do / where will you go?
I'll be at the beach with family and looking forward to a normal Monday at work…
Join the hundreds of other Slim4 customers benefiting from Web Client
On 23rd April at 3pm, our team of expert consultants hosted a webinar which will focus on the latest version of Slim4, the Web Client. The 1-hour session focused on areas including:
- The new user interface which will empower the users to be more efficient
- Overview of the new functionality and what is included in the roadmap
- The bespoke user To-Do list which focuses on daily tasks depending on urgency and priority
- The improved and dynamic KPIs which offers easier monitoring of your companies’ assortment and performance
- How you can slice and dice your assortment into specific groups and articles
As the UK's leading manufacturer and distributor of hydroponic equipment and services, HydroGarden has been supplying a complete range of specialist equipment since 1996. To solidify their position at the forefront of the hydroponic market and improve service to its customers, the specialist supplier has taken the strategic decision to partner with the inventory experts at Slimstock.
With a diverse customer base including major retailers, commercial growers and research organisations, HydroGarden has built a reputation for providing an innovative and high-quality range of products. Committed to providing an unequalled standard of customer service, HydroGarden is constantly looking for ways to optimise its processes.
As part of an extensive review of their business objectives and wider IT landscape, the hydroponics specialist identified the need for a solid planning platform on which they could adapt to ever-evolving trends in the market.
Simon Cook, Procurement and Operations Director at HydroGarden explains: “We are always looking for ways we can future-proof our business. As a key part of our growth vision, optimising our supply chain processes became a real priority.”
To improve visibility and control over their supply chain, HydroGarden will implement Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4. Focusing on forecasting, demand planning and inventory optimisation, the advanced solution will help strengthen the business’ S&OP process.
“After meeting with the team at Slimstock, it was clear that Slim4 had the capability to optimise our entire inventory management process. Offering improved visibility and transparency on inventory, Slim4 will enable quicker and more accurate decision making.” Simon goes on to add: “Furthermore, with the experience and knowledge of Slimstock’s consultancy team, I have no doubt that Slimstock is the right partner to help us realise our growth objectives.”
Richard Evans, Managing Director at Slimstock UK goes onto conclude: “HydroGarden is a very dynamic business that continues to grow rapidly. We look forward to sustaining a solid partnership with HydroGarden and supporting them every step of the way.”
HiFi Klubben has partnered with inventory management experts, Slimstock, to strengthen their supply chain operations. With more than 90 stores across Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, as well as 4 national online stores, HiFi Klubben will implement Slimstocks inventory management solution, Slim4, to help optimise their inventory management processes and improve their supply chain performance.
Exceptional customer service
To help increase efficiency, HiFi Klubben will utilise Slim4 to gain greater control over their inventory and improve on their already exceptional customer service.
Logistics and Purchase Director Tonny Kaspersen states: “After a long process of deliberation between several vendors, we are pleased we have reached an agreement with Slimstock. They have been very proactive and solution-oriented throughout the process. Slim4 can help us achieve our goals and improve our product availability: Something that will ultimately reduce our inventory. ”
Peter Malling, commercial director at Slimstock Denmark goes on to conclude: “We are incredibly proud to have made an agreement with HiFi Klubben as they are one of Denmarks largest retail chains. We are incredibly proud that they have chosen Slimstock to help them achieve operational excellence."
Premier Paper is a leading paper merchant in the UK and also a strong example of a Slim4 customer. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ilona Smith, Supply Chain Manager at Premier Paper. As someone that injects fun and energy into the company, Ilona places a full focus on enhancing the customer experience at Premier Paper.
In this interview, Ilona reveals what it takes to overcome your inventory hurdles!
Tell me about your history in the supply chain industry
I initially started law school in Poland. However, after the first year, I realised it wasn’t for me. It was so static, therefore I decided to change my subject of study. Despite my family not agreeing with this decision, I pursued a degree in international relationships which felt far more dynamic and exciting.
Having changed subjects, I now had to finance everything myself. In addition to studying full time, I applied for a job as an administrative clerk for a German automotive company. Initially, I started in the systems support team with many translations and typical clerk work. However, given that I am multilingual, I was able to get more involved in the business and take an active role in both productions and logistics systems; areas which I absolutely loved.
Given that my Mum was in banking and my Dad was in engineering, the supply chain field was completely new to my family with no traditions or any forms of understanding. However, considering the dynamic nature of supply chain and the fact one deals with real-life problems, I became very passionate about it all: material fluctuations through the process, financial aspects of the production operations, all planning functions, first stock-takes and results reconciliations, etc. I became one of those supply chain people. This is where it all really began!
How has your career evolved?
My new career in the manufacturing industry saw me move to Germany and then to England. This gave me even wider introduction into the supply chain field. It was here I realised that inventory is the beating heart of the supply chain as everything we do is with or about inventory. The reason why: optimising and strategically planning inventory has a huge impact on the business.
From this, I decided to do a Post Grad degree in supply chain management in the UK. This allowed me to explore the theory behind the practice that I already knew. The course also opened the doors to a new role as Inventory Manager.
The supply chain itself is so dynamic. Wherever you go, under the umbrella of the supply chain, there are so many different functions: from material management, through the forecasting, operations planning, production planning, procurement, new product introduction, logistics etc. Each business I have worked for has taught me different aspects of their supply chain mechanisms.
After several years in the aerospace & automotive sectors, it was time for a change. I took up a new role as purchasing & supply chain manager within the electronic components sector.
Here, I felt like I could really make a difference. This role gave me the ability to see how other businesses and supply chains worked. But more than this, it showed me how you can improve the supply chains as well as the positive and rewarding impact you can make to the business. Having the past-experience, I understood and could implement my knowledge around how teams work. This resulted me into managing team changes better. It always starts and finishes with people as they are the biggest asset each business has.
Tell me about your first position in the paper trade?
My first position in the paper trade is at Premier Paper, where I am currently in the role of supply chain manager. This is a group function as we have our Headquarter in Minworth, but we also have 17 branches around UK. I am responsible for the supply chain mechanisms and everything that comes with it across our network.
The culture in the paper trade is amazing! It is natural to be a little bit reserved when joining a new industry. You don’t really know what to expect and naturally have a tonne of questions to ask. But at Premier Paper, I was very warmly welcomed to the company and the industry. It’s a traditional culture and as a female manager, you don’t see many of us! But they certainly make a spot for you!
The collaboration between customers and suppliers is very good as they work together well and have done for many years. There is a brilliant balance where the boarder is almost non-existent. It is a respectful relationship but one which is open to innovation.
The fantastic relationships remain the same, but innovation allows new processes to be adopted and for the utilisation of tools such as Slim4. I can really see myself in this industry for years to come, continually balancing tradition & innovation.
When you started at Premier Paper, what were your initial priorities?
My initial priorities were to understand the industry, products and their ranges which are not as simple, nor easy as one may think. Understanding ranges and the complexity of the sector is key. I was very keen to understand the capabilities of my team as well what tools were available for us. Ultimately, my focus was to clearly identify the grounds and then plan further improvements on the base of that where we could work smarter.
Before you can strive towards KPIs, you need to empower people to take ownership and work with them to solve the problem. Only then can you start making changes on a daily basis that make a difference to the overall goals, ultimately business goals.
One area I have begun exploring further was our lost sales records. Specifically, how do you recover from lost sales and prevent them reoccurring? As a result of this, we will be now adding a new interface to Slim4 where this data will be transmitted from our ERP system in a consolidated and readable format.
I can see you’re extremely busy at Premier Paper! How do you juggle work and family life?
Lots of red wine! It is a challenge but so is being a stay at home, full-time mum. It’s all down to the decent planning. I have three kids and so there are three very different challenges (particularly as they are all miniatures of me!) but with good planning and a good support circle from friends and family, it’s doable. Unfortunately, you cannot use Slim4 to plan your family affairs!
One question many women often tend to ask me (Women in the Engineering community) is “Family or career?” I honestly believe you can have them both and be happy with it. It is by no means easy, but it is achievable and rewarding.
What are your biggest inventory hurdles and how does Slim4 support you?
As for most businesses, forecasting is a big inventory hurdle for us.
On a day to day basis, you cannot use algorithms in the scale Slim4 does. Slim4 takes into consideration all of the available stock in location, stock in transit, overstock based elsewhere, past trends and what may happen in the future. Order recommendations are calculated taking all those and more factors into consideration.
Stock forecasting in the paper industry is much different from what I have seen in other industries. Firstly, it isn’t as formal with a degree of uncertain seasonality. Seasonality is what Slim4 picks up and highlights accordingly. Forecast exceptions & forecast anomalies review became a regular task each planner does. We couldn’t manually manage every single line the way we now do without having Slim4 alerts. It would be an unbearable task, despite having 8 very knowledgeable and competent people placing regular orders.
Slim4 gives the power of information and plans ahead. The user still has to make the final decision but it’s so much easier with the right tool in hand from the start. I have personally worked on quite a few forecasting tools in the past and I have to admit that Slim4 is perfectly tailored for what Premier Paper needs.
What is your favourite thing about Slim4?
I love the graphs. It is all very visual and clear. As the youngsters say, very much 'in your face'.
The month's demand chart and data tab are by far my favourite feature and are used most frequently because if there are large exceptions between the months, you can easily view the information in more details.
The inventory tab is also very important as on one screen you can see all of the key information, for example, all of the parameters for one SKU.
With expanding ranges of not only traditional paper but also packaging, display graphics and digital sectors, we often add in new product groups and many new SKUs. Slim4 helps us right at the beginning of that journey as the system recognises (through the setup) different stages of the product life. That way it helps with the planning process, enabling smarter ordering decisions.
Changes can be made and carried out by individuals or in case of advance modification to the version we use, with immediate help from the Helpdesk. It’s very user-friendly and logical, that is what I like the most about it. I think we all do!
What is your inventory focuses for the next 12-18 months?
It’s all about getting the right quantity of the right product, in the right place at the right time. We have our HQ plus 17 branches; with a mixture of products which go to every branch. So, for us, supply chain people, it’s all about making sure that each branch has got the right selection of ranges in stock to successfully fulfil customer orders for the next day delivery.
Following the success of 2019 academy events, I am excited to announce the launch of our 2020 academy programme!
To support your business goals, we have put together a complete package of inventory management training programs focused on supply chain optimisation.
Focused on helping you to translate your business strategy into operational actions, these sessions have been specifically designed to help you and your team enhance your knowledge.
Our wide range of academy programs consists of various workshops and master classes which will ultimately enable you to find and maintain the optimal balance between working capital and service level.
You can register for any academy course via - www.slimstock.com/en/academy/
Download your copy of our academy 2020 programme below!
The UK's leading trade only supplier of contract furniture has launched a major initiative focused on optimising their supply chain whilst maintaining the high customer service levels they are known for. To deliver this exciting project, Global Chair Components has joined forces with the inventory experts at Slimstock.
As a business recognised by the London Stock Exchange as one of the Top 1000 companies to inspire Britain, Global Chair Components Ltd is dedicated to making it easy for customers to find the perfect furniture solutions. Through sourcing a wide range of chairs, seating, tables and components from well-established manufacturers around the world, the furniture distributor offers customers unsurpassed quality, innovation, and style.
The decision to partner with Slimstock comes as part of a wider initiative to establish a robust S&OP process. Pete Hundleby, supply chain director at Global Chair Components explains: “To solidify our market-leading position and achieve further growth, we need to continuously optimise our operation. For us, this means taking steps to simplify our processes in order to increase availability while simultaneously cutting supply chain costs. The decision to partner with Slimstock marks a crucial step in our optimisation journey.”
Focused on reducing excess stock and refocusing investment to boost the availability of key items, Global Chair Components will implement Slimstock’s advanced inventory management solution, Slim4.
Highlighting how the forecasting, demand planning and inventory optimisation capabilities of Slim4 will enable the furniture distributor to make more strategic decisions around inventory, Andy Hirst, planning manager at Global Chair Components explains: “Implementing Slim4 will revolutionise the way the planning team work. Through providing greater insight into areas such as product seasonality and lifecycle, we will be able to improve our forecasting capabilities and gain greater control over supply planning.”
Pete Hundleby: “After exploring a number of potential partners, it was clear that Slimstock offered the knowledge required to help our business progress. I have no doubt that with Slimstock as our trusted partner for inventory management, we will not only realise our objectives for today but set a solid foundation for future optimisation.”
Richard Evans, managing director at Slimstock concludes: “As a business that takes great pride in their reputation and commitment to offering customers great value, quality, and service, I see great parallels between both Slimstock and Global Chair Components. We look forward to supporting Pete and his team as they pursue their ambitions to become the world’s best suppliers of chairs, components & furniture.”
The discount retailer, Rema 1000, has embarked upon a major end to end supply chain optimisation project. Focused on strengthening its competitive advantage, the discounter will join forces with the inventory experts at Slimstock.
As one of the best-known brands in Danish retail, Rema 1000 is recognised for their passion and focus on customer satisfaction. Amidst intensifying competition and rapidly evolving customer behaviour, the retailer has formed a strategic partnership with the inventory experts Slimstock to help optimise inventory across their expansive operation.
Driving efficiency across the entire chain
With a 344-strong network of franchise stores across Denmark, Rema 1000 provides local communities with a refined selection of top-quality products at a great price. Nick Norman Jensen, Flow of Goods Manager explains: “To offer our store owners and end customers the best possible value, we must take every possible step to maximise the efficiency of our operation.”
As an initiative led by the retailer’s distribution company, Reitan Distribution, the initial focus of the project will be on maximising product availability at the central distribution centre. Through professionalising and automating inventory management processes across the entire supply chain, Reitan Distribution and Rema 1000 will set the foundation on which to establish a fully integrated end to end operation.
In addition to Rema 1000, Reitan Distribution also supports the retail distribution operations for several major chains including 7-eleven, Circle K, OK Plus, Q8 and Arctic Imports; distributing goods to over 900 stores every day.
Intelligent purchasing decisions
Explaining how the decision to work with Slimstock will support Rema 1000 in their growth objectives, Jensen adds: “We are constantly looking to improve our business concept. We can create advantages by making more intelligent purchasing decisions. For this reason, we are taking every step to evolve our current reactive processes to establish far more proactive ways of working.”
To help set a new standard in operational excellence, Rema 1000 will implement Slimstock’s inventory optimisation solution, Slim4. “By implementing an advanced inventory management tool, we will gain greater visibility and control over the entire chain. This will help minimise the risk of supplier errors, missed deliveries and above all, instore availability issues. Ultimately, this will help our franchisee partners to attain a stronger stock position: all while eliminating waste.”
The decision to implement Slim4 followed an extensive review of the market. “Throughout the selection process, Slimstock demonstrated a deep understanding of both the food sector and the requirements of our business. This, combined with their proven technology and retail experience outlined Slimstock as the right partner to help us realise our goals.”
Nick goes on to add: “As a business that is similar to ours in terms of communication and approach to decision making, it was clear there is strong chemistry between Slimstock and our people.”
By offering the planning team the complete solution for forecasting, demand planning and inventory optimisation, Slim4 will complement Rema 1000’s wider IT Infrastructure. “Our ambition was to make it as easy as possible for our people to become ‘good buyers’. With the advanced functionality of Slim4, I have no doubt we will be able to simplify the ordering processes.”
Peter Bocken, Director of retail at Slimstock goes on to conclude: “As a business that has a proven track record for innovation, Rema 1000 is a fantastic example of a business that is constantly striving to improve customer experience. As they set the foundation for a fully integrated supply chain, we are excited to support Rema 1000 on every step of their journey towards operational excellence.”