New owner, old systems
When Duracell was acquired in 2016 by Berkshire Hathaway – Warren Buffet’s holding company – Duracell became an independent organisation. With its destiny in its own hands from that point on, the company was also able to start modernizing the systems for its logistics operations. Duracell inherited a 30-year-old solution from its previous owner, Procter & Gamble. This solution, called RTCIS, had been developed in-house and no longer met the high requirements in terms of logistics and warehouse management.
Alban Fleury: “There was no way around it: RTCIS was a very old tool and we urgently needed a new and more efficient system. Modernizing the old system was not an option. It was too expensive and there was virtually no support left for the solution.”
‘Start local, go global’
Duracell asked several major global players for their solutions. However, they turned out not to offer enough functionality to properly support all sites. Driven by the specific challenges that the new Warehouse Management System (WMS) in the Belgian packaging and distribution centre needed to address, Duracell decided to look at European suppliers.
“That’s when we ended up with the Reflex WMS package from Reflex Logistics Solutions,” says Alban Fleury. “This standard solution already included the much-needed functionality, so we could limit customisation. The package also already offered the necessary flexibility to be able to handle and dispatch not only pallets but also parcels. That was a big advantage for us.”
In addition, Reflex WMS worked on the basis of a ‘core model’ approach. This meant that all sites could work with the same version. That would make supporting Duracell and scaling up a lot easier. Furthermore, Reflex Logistics Solution offered the possibility to switch to a cloud-based version at a later stage.
An issue that had to be resolved was the fact that Reflex WMS did not yet support the Chinese language. This was necessary in order to be able to expand to the Chinese sites at a later stage. But even more importantly: in view of the implementation of the sites outside Europe, a global scope was necessary. And, of course, Reflex Logistics Solutions would also have to be able to offer local support everywhere.
Duracell ultimately decided to implement the system first at the two sites in Belgium. In the meantime, the necessary functional adaptations would be carried out. While the foundations for the global roll-out were being laid, Duracell employees in the United States and China were invited to study the functionality within the core model and formulate the desired adjustments. In this way, Duracell wanted to gain the confidence of the other regions and demonstrate that Reflex WMS also offered a suitable solution for the American and Chinese sites.
Plan versus reality
Following the positive feedback from this exercise, the plan was to deliver Reflex WMS to the Belgian sites in July 2018. The following year, the American plants would follow.
However, due to the very complex processes at the Belgian sites, this plan turned out to be too ambitious. As a result, the implementation in Belgium was delayed. “Because Duracell’s peak season starts after the summer and we don’t want to take any risks then, we decided to postpone the project and pick it up again in 2019,” explains Alban Fleury.
But in the meantime, the situation behind the scenes had also changed. A large packaging centre had been set up in North America. Efficient control by the new WMS was a must for this strategic operation. This accelerated the implementation in the US. Fortunately, a suitable partner was quickly found to support the implementation in that region, namely ITOrizon. This American player is specialised in the implementation of complex WMS systems. Together with the Duracell team and the support of Reflex Logistics Solutions, ITOrizon managed to successfully implement Reflex WMS at the three American sites.
Today, the logistics activities in both regions are smoothly managed by Reflex WMS. For example, the solution controls the receipt of raw materials on pallets, as well as the flow of finished and packaged goods, from storage to dispatch. In addition, Reflex Logistics Solutions has now also implemented a Labour Management System (LMS) at Duracell. This is intended to put the teams and work processes on an even better footing. This expansion in functionality has ensured that the original core version from the pilot stage has evolved considerably in the meantime.
Next stops: China and the cloud
But when Duracell was finally ready to roll out Reflex WMS in China, reality hit hard again. The corona crisis meant that all plans had to be put on hold.
“Since it is impossible to carry out an implementation of this magnitude remotely, we decided to postpone it until March next year. Hopefully we will then be able to travel back to China smoothly. Until then, the logistics activities there will continue to run on the old RTCIS system,” explains Alban Fleury. “But since the support of that old package is becoming very expensive and we don’t want to experience any critical incidents on that system, we hope to replace the old tool there soon. Fortunately, the Chinese language has now been integrated into the new release of Reflex WMS. That should allow Reflex Logistics Solutions to implement the new version in China immediately. Once all regions are working successfully with Reflex WMS, Duracell wants to move on to the next phase, namely the transition to a cloud-based solution.”
It is safe to say that the collaboration between Duracell and Reflex Logistics Solutions has grown into a partnership. What started as a package that was primarily locally relevant grew into a global tool with rich functionality that meets Duracell’s specific needs. The Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) within Duracell’s Belgian operations were integrated into the system. The fully automated warehouse in Belgium was also successfully linked to Reflex.
A. Fleury: “Reflex WMS has now proven its flexibility and offers us a complete overview of our stock. And also very important for Duracell: the great user-friendliness of the package. This is particularly important in the packaging and distribution warehouses, where Duracell has many temporary employees during peak periods.
“With a very large player we could never have established such a close partnership. We are important to Reflex Logistics Solutions and vice versa. concludes Alban Fleury. “We are also sure that, thanks to this partnership, we are prepared for the future of supply chain management.