Plumblink turned to Cquential Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) for a modern, integrated warehouse management system that would provide a robust platform for its growth strategy, build its brand by providing improved customer service, and boost governance.
Plumblink is a specialist plumbing, bathroom and kitchenware merchant currently operating from over 95 branches strategically located throughout Southern Africa and Namibia. More than 10,000 quality products are sourced from over 600 of the best local and international suppliers, as well as its ‘home brand’ Plumline, added in 2011 and continually expanding. Plumblink has a customer base of over 5,000 loyal customers, ranging from government to commercial, industrial and housing contractors, as well as DIY enthusiasts. The company was acquired by the Bidvest Group in 2015.
Plumblink traces its origins back to 1911 and over the years has absorbed many leading plumbing merchants.
In the wake of its acquisition by Bidvest, the company developed a coordinated growth strategy. Key elements of this strategy included expanding its retail business, which meant increasing the number of retail outlets while strengthening its existing strong presence as a supplier to the plumbing and construction industries.
In addition, a dedicated insurance division was building a niche client base, helping insurance companies and their service providers to service claims.
Plumblink’s large range of third-party products was also being supplemented by a growing number of products under its own brand, Plumline.
To support this growth, Plumblink needed a highly effective warehousing solution that would ensure that customers and stores receive the correct product timeously. It also required complete visibility of the large and growing number of line items from the warehouse across the supply chain.
Plumblink also took the decision to move to a centralised distribution solution based on regional hubs in order to improve stock turnaround times and reduce costs. The improved warehousing solution would also have to support, and integrate with, the centralised logistics operation.
“Plumblink had a largely manual approach to warehousing, with no systems in place to provide the level of stock control and throughput they needed, particularly as the business was expanding strongly,” said Shaun O’Brien, Account Manager at Cquential.
“Cquential’s WMS – complemented by our team’s combined knowledge of business processes, warehousing operations and technical expertise – made it a compelling choice as it is amply capable of fulfilling all of the client’s strategic business goals.”
A major part of the endeavour was helping the Plumblink team make the transition from manual to digital processes
Over the course of several months in 2015, the Cquential and Plumblink teams invested considerable time in scoping the business requirements and tailoring the Cquential Warehouse Management System (WMS) accordingly.
A key success factor was the executive sponsorship of the project from Plumblink’s Operations Director, Luvuyo Mgidlana, as well as the IT executive, Oswald Abrahams. Over the years, numerous case studies have shown that executive sponsorship of IT projects, from both the business and the IT department, is essential for success.
A major part of the endeavour was helping the Plumblink team make the transition from manual to digital processes, and also to adopt warehousing best practices as embedded in the system. In-depth change management was crucial in ensuring the Cquential WMS was embraced by all staff which in turn led to the realisation of anticipated outcomes.
The go-live took place at the end of 2015, with Cquential WMS being hosted in a data centre, which means that warehouse staff and management need only a browser to access it. This allows for support to be provided remotely, resulting in significant cost savings. Given the mission critical nature of the business, downtime is not an option in light of the impact it would have on the business.
The partnership between Plumblink and Cquential has continued to develop into a collaborative model whereby Cquential works with Plumblink on an ongoing basis to drive a process of continuous improvement.
Overall, the improvement in warehousing has provided the solid platform for growth as envisaged. Specific benefits to the business include:
- Easier, improved management of workforce performance
- Increased productivity of warehouse workforce. The business has been able to achieve growth in volumes, without having to increase resources
- Improved stock accuracy, enabling better inventory management in both warehouses and stores, and more efficient replenishment. For example, time taken for stock-taking has been halved and the results are more accurate
- Improved customer service through accurate fulfilment of orders and quicker turnaround times. This is vital in ensuring customer satisfaction and also reducing the costs associated with returns
- The system provides a reliable audit trail to enhance governance – essential for a listed company
“Cquential’s WMS has transformed our warehouse operations, greatly increasing our ability to manage inventories closely while providing faster, more accurate service to all our customers,” said Luvuyo Mgidlana, Operations Director at Plumblink.
“Our growth strategy is ambitious, and it will only succeed if vital back-office systems and processes like this are running smoothly and can scale as the business grows. Our relationship with Cquential is key to helping us to remain at the top of our game going forward.”