Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland’s largest independent pharmacy chain, with over 60 pharmacies located across Northern Ireland and Scotland. The firm was founded by brothers Neil and Robert Gordon in 1980 in Donaghadee, County Down, and now employs over 800 people.
The company sells thousands of products, both instore and online, including fragrances, skincare and make-up, healthcare products, hair styling products, electrical goods and prescription medicines. All items are receipted, stored, picked and despatched from a single warehouse in Banbridge, County Down, Northern Ireland.
Each of the 62 Gordons Chemists stores has a dedicated EPOS system. Orders are relayed in real-time back to In-DEX WMS at the Banbridge HQ and held in a pre-order processing phase.
Given the volumes and varied nature of the products being picked we strongly recommended voice technology where pickers are voice-enabled keeping an operator’s hands free, allowing them to focus more on the task at hand.
“There were a number of challenges the site presented to us that we needed to engineer, as they were critical to the operation. Firstly, thousands of orders trickle back throughout the days from each of the 62 stores, and we needed to collate these and perform a significant amount of pre-processing algorithms prior to releasing these as voice picking instructions. Certain products, and, or quantities, could be released for immediate picking. Other orders or products needed to be held and grouped by route etc. based on a set of optimised rules.”
“Promotional stock held in the warehouse needed to be issued to stores by certain dates. We needed to run processes to automatically release this stock for picking so it would be merged with the regular store orders on the correct dates.”
“Logic also needed to be applied to certain products classes (e.g. perfumes at Christmas) as individual shop managers had a tendency to over-order and there would only be a limited amount of available stock, so In-DEX WMS rules were established to ensure the best spread of stock across all stores while ensuring that Flagship stores were prioritised before order processing”.
Peter Flanagan, Managing Director, Principal Logistics Technologies
At goods-in, we receive purchase orders via MS Dynamics NAV and we deployed handheld terminals (HHT’s) for this function. As product is being received it is common within the industry that pack sizes can change (special offers e.g. 2 for 1, larger pack size etc.) can occur without the buyers knowledge.
We implemented a process that would capture these changes, quarantine the product and alert the purchasing teams – all with a couple of key stokes on the HHT’s. We also made it mandatory that operators capture the dimensions and weight to optimise the picking and capacity of totes and cages.
On the picking side, orders are broken into a number of zones e.g. Drugs, Perfumes, Retail. Orders can be picked directly into totes or into cages. (All totes will eventually end up in a cage). In-DEX WMS Warehouse Management Software instructs the operator in real-time, as to the pick location, and then about the items to be picked.
The real-time nature of this processing enables us to implement perpetual stock counts on balances remaining in the pick face. As stock is only allocated when the picker presents themselves, this means we have full traceability of batch numbers, best before dates, etc. through pick faces.
Capacity management of totes and cages was another key requirement for Gordons Chemists. In-DEX WMS Warehouse Management Software, prior to releasing orders, had to calculate and optimise the volumetric and weight constraints of each tote and cage.
Online ordering is a high growth area for Gordons Chemists and In-DEX WMS Warehouse Management Software is interfaced to online web orders and also manages picking of these.
The situation presented a myriad of challenges due to the size of the facility, the high volumes and level of stock within the facility, and the complexity of the products requiring management. However, Principal Logistics Technologies relished the challenge to provide comprehensive retail management. It was quite satisfying to see a high-level solution successfully meeting the client’s expectations.