How the company has used middleware technology to transform its DVD distribution operation
Technicolor Distribution Services UK (‘Technicolor’) primarily distributes physical DVDs and Blu Rays for a number of studios across the UK. Technicolor delivers to over 1,000 wholesale and retail distribution points, plus also offers an eCommerce business solution.
Until last year the company ran a predominantly paper-based picking operation which meant “there was almost no auditable process for picking performance” Technicolor Distribution Services Operations Manager Paul Jarman recalls. Additionally it was a manual solution that would adversely influence the picking operation: for example pick notes were often generated before sufficient stock was available in the pick location to be picked. This resulted in the handling of a parcel on more than one occasion.
Technicolor researched the marketplace before selecting rugged hardware, software and services provider Renovotec, a supply chain specialist to modernise its picking processes. As Technicolor runs its operation on multiple AS400 servers, Renovotec would need to interface with its existing systems.
Renovotec did so using its ‘Warehouse Task Engine’: smart, enabling, quick-to-deploy middleware that has been designed to easily integrate with WMS and ERP systems to drive multiple warehouse workflows and devices. Given Technicolor’s stated objective to automate its processes it was felt that Warehouse Task Engine’s flexibility would be a cost-effective way of deploying multiple applications from one source. “We were interested in the entire package, not simply picking automation” Paul Jarman explains.
Technicolor has chosen hands-free, wrist-mounted finger-trigger scanners for its 30-strong picking team, which rises to 80 in its busy Q4 period.
“We implemented the new radio frequency [RF] scanning regime in June 2016. There was a learning curve from both sides but no more than one might expect from a new system. We have compared our performance in June 2017 to the same time last year and thanks to the new functionality we have put in there has been an appropriate change in productivity” Paul Jarman reports.
“It is not just the new picking process that is having this effect” he adds. “For example there is a live, real-time interface between the AS400 and the Renovotec middleware, which indicates when a line is available to pick. This removes our earlier need for double handling”. No instructions are sent to the picking guns until all the stock is at the required location. At that point the Renovotec system triggers the printing of the carton label which is then applied to the outer box, which the warehouse operative then scans to begin the pick process.
“This is not so much an RF pick application as a fully managed service driven by a picking solution”
Technicolor operates a zonal picking system as before but can now monitor individual performances to identify areas for improvement which has meant “We have been able to coach people to improve their performance” Paul Jarman says. “This is not so much an RF pick application as a fully managed service driven by a picking solution – which is why we have derived so much benefit.”
“Renovotec’s middleware has some very good performance reports but we have also been able to manipulate live data from the system via direct interfaces into the likes of Excel, to give us whatever we want. It is just superb for management reporting”.
Technicolor is now in conversation with Renovotec with a view to expanding the system to incorporate its QA (quality assurance) software within the same environment as the picking solution. The company’s picking accuracy is of a high standard, however there is an ongoing drive to maximise pick efficiency.
“I think it is testament to Renovotec that that we are trying to amalgamate more applications using their system because we recognise the flexibility of the software” Paul Jarman says. Technicolor recently integrated an automated sortation system using the middleware to drive batch picking; Renovotec software is used to keep the sortation system data updated, confirming when a given batch is ready to be picked.
“Because we were behind on our processes this was always going to be a sizeable leap for us but I think it has turned into a bigger leap than even we anticipated” Paul Jarman concludes.
“We are always tweaking our processes and systems – our business demands it – and Renovotec’s ability to understand what we want and to convert that into a solution is outstanding.
“They are one of the best suppliers I’ve worked with – and I’ve worked with quite a few.”