Wincanton overhauls Unix code to boost warehouse automation

Logistics supplier Wincanton has begun to overhaul the Unix code that underlies 13 critical warehouse management systems it runs for its customers.

Logistics supplier Wincanton has begun to overhaul the Unix code that underlies 13 critical warehouse management systems it runs for its customers. 

Wincanton provides supply chain management systems for the likes of Sainsbury's, Heinz and GlaxoSmithKline. These in-house automated warehouse management systems are vital to its customers, ensuring that their businesses run smoothly and are compliant with legislation.

For example, for a pharmaceutical company, the warehouse management system determines which drugs or versions of drugs are placed on warehouse shelves, and are tested, removed, replaced or dispatched.

Wincanton creates each warehouse management system to suit the specific needs of the customer, and integrates it with their existing warehouse, stock control, dispatch and other IT systems via software from Mercator. 

Last year, the firm started using the Changeman application lifecycle management product from Serena to help it to revise the Unix code base and improve the control of its warehouse systems. 

The existing source control system was "getting long in the tooth", said Nick Walker, IT development services manager at Wincanton.

It needed more automation for things such as registering product faults, or logging workers who test products or make changes to them.

Wincanton has completed the first phase of the Changeman roll-out and updated three of the 13 warehouse management systems.

It expects to complete the update by the end of the year.

"It is not always a straightforward process moving from one system to another. There needs to be a gap so we can move the code without affecting our customers' businesses," Walker said. 

"With clients in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, we have to ensure that the systems we provide for them are absolutely robust. Changeman has reinforced our change management processes and made the roll-out of new code more efficient, saving us time and reassuring our customers."

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