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Monday, 22 December 2008

Why SAP and why now??

Why SAP? Why Now?

I realise that there is a lot of confusion in the Christian trade as to why STL has implemented a new computer system and why we have done it now. Here I have tried to answer both these questions and a few others that you might be thinking…

Why SAP?

SAP is the system STL has chosen to replace its old computer system. The decision to change systems was not taken lightly but our old system, which was 20 years old, was beginning to show distinct signs of age and we feared that it would become unstable. Indeed we had a system failure with Informix last December for an entire day. We had already found immense problems in trying to upgrade the system to provide functions required by today’s market. It was pre-EPOS, pre-internet and pre-ONIX feeds. We therefore had to take the decision to switch to a new modern system that was capable of doing all the things our customers needed it to do.

Why Now?

We originally planned to implement the new system in August. However as the date approached, it became apparent that further testing of the new system was necessary before we could commence training people in how to use the system. We were faced with a choice of going live in late October or waiting until January 2009. Unfortunately, we would have faced immense difficulties in standing down our external project team of consultants for three months while we prepared to go live and then to re-assemble that team in January. After extensive testing of the system we were confident we could start with, at most, minor disruption. So we took the decision to go live in October.

What happened at Go-Live?

During the go-live period we were closed for four days as data was migrated from the old system into the new one. The system went live as planned and worked reasonably well for the first few days. The problems that we encountered in the second week of go-live were principally around automatic shelf replenishment and the way we bring different parts of an order together before despatch. Although we carried out extensive pre go-live testing, the specific nature of these problems, which are not common, would not have manifested themselves in anything other than a live situation with significant volumes.

Having pinpointed these issues we implemented semi-manual work arounds which began to take effect from the latter part of the second week. In addition we were faced with intermittent system speed problems, making the effective processing of orders at times very difficult. These have now largely been eliminated, but were by nature complex and difficult to pinpoint. The combined effect of these two factors on our ability to reduce the backlog was significant and we estimate impacted our backlog by 7-10 days.

What did we do address the Backlog?

We did a number of things to address the backlog, principally the following:

- Increased our day shift from 8 hours to 9 and subsequently 10 hours per day over the 12.5 hour period that we are normally open.
- Put a full shift on Saturdays.
- Brought in more than 20 additional temporary staff to supplement our normal workforce at this time of year.
- Brought on an additional picking shift overnight in addition to our normal replenishment team.

Where are we up to?

SAP is now running all of our Customer Service and warehouse operations. The majority of the system is now running correctly but there are still some bedding down issues.

As of today Monday 22nd Dec, we are picking and expect to despatch a number of trade orders placed today. We do still have bedding down issues with the system which cause a number of orders to be delayed. We are working hard to resolve these problems in order to return to our normal same day despatch service.

Are we giving priority to Wesley Owen?

Wesley Owen is by no means given priority in terms of getting their orders first. Mark Hurley approached Wesley Owen post go live to ask that no stock orders were placed by their stores for approximately 7-10 days post go-live to allow STL Distribution to focus on independent orders.

Going Forward…

All the management team at STL Distribution want to apologise for the problems that have occurred during the implementation of this system and their focus is to ensure a same day despatch with minimal picking errors and good availability is achieved as soon as possible.

Reduced FREE Carriage offer extended

Our reduced FREE carriage limit of only £50 (nett invoice value) has been extended into the New Year.

Shipping for Tuesday delivery!

UK Trade Orders – Shipping for Tuesday Delivery

We shipped a substantial number of trade orders received on Friday for delivery today (Monday) and we are currently working on trade orders received over the weekend.

This means that if you place a UK trade order today there is a good chance we will despatch it tonight for delivery on Tuesday.

We do still have some bedding in issues that cause delays on some orders or split consignments. We are working hard to resolve the problems, but please recognise that some orders will not arrive before Christmas.