A single SAP system combined with a voice-controlled picking system has streamlined Schweppes’ distribution centre, bringing significant benefits in efficiency and safety.
Iconic brand Schweppes has been delivering premium quality non-alcoholic beverages to Australians for more than 150 years. First pioneered in Geneva in 1783 by Jacob Schweppes, the remarkable process of capturing and bottling bubbles was brought to Australia in 1850. The first Schweppes factory was built in Sydney in 1877.
Today, Schweppes Australia is a beverage powerhouse, boasting 1800 employees, 11 manufacturing sites and 12 distribution centres (DCs) across the country. It manufactures some of Australia’s most popular drinks including Schweppes, SOLO, Cottee’s, Spring Valley, Pepsi and Gatorade.
Schweppes Australia distributes and delivers beverage products to more than 30,000 customers nationally. One of its largest DCs, the Archerfield site in Queensland, services a large majority of the state’s market. More than 40 employees pick up to 16,000 cases daily, which are delivered to more than 5000 customers.
Time to upgrade
Until recently, the Schweppes Archerfield DC operated using multiple SAP systems and basic Microsoft planning software with warehouse tasks executed via paper-based activity. This model saw all tasks completed on paper followed by numerous manual SAP inputs and transactions for different areas of the DC, giving Schweppes no real-time, DC-wide visibility and control over operations.
In order to combat the inaccuracies and inefficiencies caused by this outdated manual system, Schweppes brought in Icon Integration to oversee an upgrade to an entirely new DC management system. Icon worked in partnership with Dexion to roll-out its Real-Time Distribution System (RDS) middleware – a paperless system capable of controlling both the operational and physical processes – while seamlessly interfacing the RDS with a single centralised SAP system holding real-time information from all areas of the DC. The upgrade was also complemented by a new Vocollect voice solution.
Jason Nalewabau, director, Icon Integration, said the new system regulated and incorporated information captured from every aspect of operation across the DC.
“Schweppes now has a single SAP system that simultaneously manages and coordinates technologies such as voice, field devices and sensors, host connectivity, barcode scanners, RF and more,” says Nalewabau. “The new system provides an at-a-glance overview of every physical task. Real-time information can be arranged with a point-and-click interface that displays the key tasks operating within a distribution centre.”
One SAP system benefiting every corner of the DC
The development of the new DC management system was completed in a four-month period and it was rapidly integrated in just one month. Fast implementation allowed Schweppes to achieve a significant return on investment (ROI) with benefits leveraged almost immediately.
According to Schweppes Australia’s Queensland distribution manager, Mike Heide, the operational improvements of the new system were immediately visible.
“We’ve seen a significant improvement in the allocation of resources, productivity and accuracy since introducing the new system. We’ve also had more than 99.9 per cent improvement in accuracy,” says Heide.
One of the biggest benefits for Schweppes was the visibility over each and every work task, in contrast to the lack of coordination and duplicate handlings experienced under the old system. The lack of an overall outlook under the previous system had led to Schweppes introducing inefficient practices such as over-replenishing their pick faces. This led to delays caused by workers having to get a forklift to pick from higher shelving levels which were usually reserved for storage purposes.
The upgraded SAP system drastically improved replenishment and picking processes so that Schweppes was able to introduce more flexible and efficient practices in the case pick area. Schweppes can, at the click of a button, monitor shipments required for the upcoming work day, assess whether there are any gaps in replenishment, prioritise and sequence order drops and check the status of all waves in the process. This put Schweppes Archerfield management in a position to greatly reduce the number of steps in the order shipment process to bulk pick, transfer order to the staging line, drop actual orders and retrieve orders from the staging line.
This new benchmark for shipment processing was made possible by enabling the SAP and route optimisation systems to decide all work tasks and then communicate them through voice direction. The new process exceeded Schweppes’ initial expectations by completely removing all duplication of tasks. The syncing of all tasks via the SAP system also gave Schweppes, for the first time, the confidence to introduce automated daily cycle-counting and standardised reporting that they could eventually use across all DCs.
Schweppes Australia’s national logistics execution manager, Danny Murphy, considers the biggest benefit of the new system to be the seamless integration of all the warehouse systems.
“As a result of implementing a real-time replenishment system, we’re more efficient and accurate. We have better batch control of our pick face and we’re providing a safer work environment for our employees,” says Murphy.
“The implementation of the new system was seamless, particularly due to Icon’s solution design process and expert knowledge of our logistics, SAP and integration needs. Their expert team led and supported our multi-vendor integration at all stages along the way.”
Voice direction also met another key aim by removing the need for workers to use paper and providing clear instructions for workers to follow. This was important for Schweppes which had 400 different product descriptions – many very similar – which frequently led to errors in picking. Under the new system, workers are directed to the right picking location via their headset. The location is confirmed with the check digit upon arrival and the voice solution advises the picker how many cartons they need to pick and asks for confirmation.
The new system can clearly identify productivity reports for all workers, and Schweppes has already seen increased productivity benefits, particularly when it comes to product replenishment, which has already seen a pick rate increase of more than 20 per cent.
Broader benefits of automation
Members of Schweppes Archerfield DC management are not the only ones to benefit following implementation of the new voice system. The benefits of increased efficiency, productivity, visibility and safety have all come together to produce an enhanced supply chain where performance ultimately makes for a happier customer rewarded with more accurate and timely deliveries.
Additionally, Schweppes Archerfield’s warehouse staff values the fact that its managers have invested in the latest technologies that have made their jobs much easier and safer.
Given the success of the system upgrade at Schweppes Archerfield, Ian Gatenby, Australia’s general manager of logistics and customer service operations, says Schweppes Australia is already part way through a project to roll out the new technology nationally.
“We operate on a national basis and we do have plans to leverage the benefits we are seeing at Archerfield right across our network. We would like to use this technology as a means of standardising our way of doing business at Schweppes Australia,” says Gatenby.
A second site is now up and running in Prospect, NSW, and Icon is also working with Schweppes to plan further deployments.
This article was first published in Inside SAP Winter 2014. Icon Integration is a privately owned Australian-based SAP solution partner. For further information on this project, visit www.iconintegration.com.au/ or www.vocollectvoice.com/video/videos-schweppes.