Whitbread Food Supply Chain, the operation responsible for warehousing and distribution for the Whitbread Group’s hotels and restaurants, distributes some 300,000 cases of supplies a week to over 1,700 outlets. Powering the company’s supply chain management system is InterSystems data platform technology. InterSystems technology ensures that the complex data needed to handle the task efficiently is easily managed and speedily accessed.
InterSystems’ Application Partner, Chess Logistics Technology, upgraded Whitbread’s supply chain management system, reconfiguring Whitbread’s previous application to incorporate InterSystems technology and migrating the software and data to a more powerful hardware platform. The new system is designed to support new management processes that will streamline and simplify operations in Whitbread’s warehouses.
InterSystems technology combines a high-performance database with rapid development technology and is particularly suited to complex applications. It seamlessly integrates relational and object technologies to give developers such as Chess the power to build fast, scalable applications, and the productivity to build them quickly.
“The new system has helped us to change the way we use the warehouses,” says Andy Pickett, business systems manager for Whitbread Food Supply Chain. “We have simplified the way stock is stored and managed.”
Whitbread Food Supply Chain distributes products to several subsidiaries within the Whitbread Group including Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, and Whitbread Hotels, and continues to distribute to the previously owned public house chain. Warehouses in Reading and Salford stock most of the food lines required, plus some drinks and sundry items. Throughput is more than a third of a million cases a week split approximately 60/40 between the two warehouses. The company works with over 250 suppliers.
Chess Logistics Technology has worked with Whitbread for a number of years and developed a supply chain management system known as Socretes based around the need to handle large numbers of suppliers and multiple subsidiaries. The application incorporates warehouse management, as well as functions that support the purchase, supply, and distribution of goods to the customers.
InterSystems full compatibility with industry standards such as OBDC, Java, and HTML ensured that Chess could easily integrate Whitbread’s business applications such as accounting and order download systems. For historic reasons associated with the scale of the application, the system was originally configured to run on two computers. Stock control in the warehouse had evolved so that each subsidiary had its own storage areas and picking locations. The result was that items required by more than one subsidiary were stored in five or more locations. A review of operations highlighted the inefficiencies in the system.
“It made sense to reorganise each warehouse so that individual products are all stored in the same location and can be picked for delivery to any subsidiary,” said Pickett. “But in addition to the physical changes required in the warehouse, this meant some changes to the warehouse management system.”
The simplest option was to upgrade the application and continue running it on the two existing computers. After careful consideration and consultation with the managed service provider that operates its computer systems, Whitbread decided to take the opportunity to migrate the entire application to a single, more powerful platform. This would lead to significant commercial and operational benefits and would ensure the application was easier to operate and maintain.
Pickett and his Whitbread colleagues worked with the managed service provider and Chess Logistics Technology’s own development team to plan the migration. The main problem was that the existing hardware had dual processor capability but the new platform had four processors to support more powerful applications. The underlying technology of the predecessor database was unable to make full use of this power and it was decided to upgrade it to the more advanced InterSystems technology in order to obtain the full benefit of the additional processors.
Chess was already aware of the high performance InterSystems technology provides having based Empirica, its latest warehouse management system, around it. Whitbread also already knew InterSystems technology well. Its Travel Inn division’s Web booking and central reservations had run on it for some time and the same solution using InterSystems technology had recently been rolled out to all 250 Travel Inns to high acclaim.
A unique multidimensional database, InterSystems technology has proven to be significantly more efficient than conventional relational database systems at supporting high volume on-line transaction processing applications, especially where complex business logic is involved. Its ability to handle the multiple sets of data required to manage large numbers of suppliers and customers made it a suitable choice for the Whitbread application and its need to support a growing number of retail organizations.
Chess developers enhanced the warehouse management software to manage common stock across all the Whitbread subsidiaries and converted the existing database to InterSystems technology by recoding the underlying syntax. Once this was completed, the data was migrated from the old application to the new. The new version of Socretes has to manage a complex supply chain. As well as processing orders from the 1,700 outlets, the system also manages purchase ordering and warehouse management.
One of the features of InterSystems technology is its multidimensional data server. Multidimensional means that data can be indexed by as many parameters as needed. This allows for much richer data models than can be achieved using relational technology and means that complex data can be stored and accessed in a much faster way – a vital benefit for applications such as this that need to manage such sophisticated and time-critical processes.
Orders for products are placed with suppliers using a combination of EDI, email, and fax. Much of the stock passing through the two warehouses is cross-docked, but the remainder is stored in frozen, chill, or ambient locations. Each outlet places its orders at a predetermined time of the day to help with work scheduling. Callers can be advised of stock availability using information held on Socretes. Picking lists generated by the system are used to compile deliveries. Most outlets receive three deliveries a week although the busiest might require a daily service.
Information generated by Socretes is used to compile electronic invoices that are issued to the relevant concept via corporate computer systems. Operations at the warehouses are continuous so reliability is critical. By supporting these operations, Socretes is close to being an enterprise solution.
Frontline support is handled by Whitbread’s managed service provider, which passes any relevant queries to Chess’s own support staff. For specific development and support issues, Chess staff work directly with the Whitbread IT department.
“We’ve had a good relationship with Chess and their support has been very good,” said Pickett.
Chess Logistics Technology Limited has provided software for logistics and distribution applications for more than fifteen years and is recognised as a specialist in its field. The company has an extensive client list of national and international companies.