DIY retail group Focus Wickes expects to save £10m a year across its business, after rolling out a collaborative system to improve the exchange of information with more than 300 suppliers.
The company, number two in the UK DIY market behind B&Q, expects the browser based system to achieve these financial savings by improving stock availability by 20% and boosting margins by 0.5% across the group.
The retailer, formed as a result of three buyouts, runs two distinct businesses - 270 Focus stores for home improvement customers and 161 Wickes outlets for tradesmen and “serious” DIY experts.
The Fusion system, developed by software firm Eqos, takes data every day from the core IBM iSeries system at Focus and the IBM pSeries at Wickes and hosts it in a central portal run by Eqos.
This allows suppliers to access store and depot level information about their products to check sell-through rates, delivery performance and forecasts. Lines selling better than forecast are highlighted automatically with alerts e-mailed to relevant buyers and suppliers.
Wickes IT director Keith Riley said, “We are not embarking on a programme to unite the IT systems across the group as they are two distinct businesses, but the issue we have is that we want to share certain information. Fusion is at the forefront of those types of project.”
Fusion, which started rolling out to suppliers in August last year, now has 145 of Wickes’ 150 suppliers on board and 200 of the 220 Focus suppliers, all using the first module of the system – product performance management.
According to Scott Holland, supply chain development controller at Wickes, suppliers have become far more proactive, which is likely to herald major improvements in stock availability.
“Suppliers have been able to use the information from Fusion to improve their own production schedules which they weren’t able to do before,” he said.
“In future we might see a move to vendor managed inventory and greater use of collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment techniques.”
The three-year deal Focus Wickes agreed with Eqos took longer to negotiate than the system did to roll out because of the complexity of the contract.
“The two sides to the business needed separate contracts and the fact purchasing and hosting was involved added to the complexity,” said Riley. “We are also rolling out different modules through the period of the contract, which will be paid for as they go live.”