How Better Inventory Management Improves Customer Experience for a Top Ice Cream Maker
Published on 4 September 2019
When Chapman’s Ice Cream implemented a new warehouse management system (WMS), executives expected better inventory management. What they didn’t foresee were all the ways the new inventory controls would improve service for their customers.
The founders of Chapman’s Ice Cream started their company in 1973 with a shrewd decision. They chose to make a product that millions of Canadians love. But delighting ice cream lovers is one thing. Serving businesses that sell ice cream is quite another.
Consumers and commercial customers want different things from an ice cream brand. Distributors and retailers want services from an ice cream brand that consumers don’t even think about. Among other things, they want to receive their orders complete, on time, and without errors. They want accurate invoices. And they want shipments that are easy to unload and put away in stock.
Chapman’s delivers flavor, variety, quality… and solid logistics support
Today, Chapman’s prominence in Canada suggests they do a consistently good job of pleasing both types of customers. The award-winning, family-run company is the biggest independent ice cream maker in Canada.
A quick take on Chapman’s Ice Cream, the biggest independent ice cream maker in Canada
- Headquarters: Markdale, Ontario
- Employees: More than 500
- Physical location: More than 500,000 sq. ft. manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution in 4 buildings
- Customers: Retailers (mostly grocery chains but also mom and pop stores). Food wholesalers and foodservice distributors. More than 2,000 store locations.
- Products: More than 350 SKUs, including ice cream, frozen yogurt and water ice products, nut-free, lactose-free, and gluten-free products
- Geographies served: All Canadian provinces and territories
- Delivery fleet: More than 40 company-owned, low-temperature trucks
- Warehouse management system: WMS by Generix Group North America
Even with all their success, Chapman’s continued looking for ways to improve their business.
The company strives for ‘best possible’ across operations
John Fleming, director of information technology, says the Chapman family sets a high bar for the company’s performance. “They operate on the principle that: If better is possible, then good isn’t good enough,” he says. This mindset led company executives to explore better ways to manage inventory several years ago.
Inventory management presents challenges
The company was running a manufacturing-focused enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Chapman’s executives liked their ERP system, but they wanted more inventory management capabilities. Chapman’s inventory processes were mostly manual, a hybrid of paperwork and spreadsheets. The company didn’t use barcodes. Consequently, it was hard to maintain real-time counts for both work in progress and finished goods.
The company also faced other challenges resulting from incomplete control over inventory: Inventory counts were inaccurate. Ingredients and finished goods moved through manufacturing and warehousing processes without updating inventory status. The tracking of inventory waste and shrink was manual and inaccurate. The result was often an unexpected year-end adjustment to inventory values. Their material-handling processes were manual and inefficient. They had inadequate control over the flow and tracking of ingredients and products through production and shipping.
Better inventory management delivers many benefits – some unexpected
Company executives decided to improve inventory management throughout their internal processes. They wanted the new system to address material handling, warehousing, production, and fulfillment. They also wanted a system that would integrate with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
Those requirements led Chapman’s to choose the warehouse management system (WMS) from Generix Group North America.
After installing the WMS, Chapman’s had the inventory management they were looking for. “Every time someone touches the stock,” Fleming says, “they scan the barcode. The system moves inventory from the place where it was and then scans it into a new location.” “Now we know in real time where everything is. We can query that in the WMS, which is now our primary inventory management tool.”
Company gains real-time view of inventory, plus stock history and traceability
“If I want to know where the inventory is now,” Fleming says, “I can look at the chronology in the WMS. It gives me the history. I can see where it came from and the original lot on the original material instance. I can see what's been used. I can also see the history of that material instance for that product in real-time. That's been amazing for us.”
Benefits beyond inventory management
In addition, executives were pleasantly surprised that the new WMS delivered many benefits beyond inventory management. They also achieved these results:
- Improved customer experience through a streamlined order-entry process
- Reduced regulatory and brand risk with detailed traceability of ingredients and products, by lot or batch number
- Reduced financial risk by nearly eliminating year-end adjustments to inventory and by providing increased transparency and real-time inventory reporting
- Increased flexibility and efficiency in building truck shipments and meeting other requirements of individual customers
- Increased flexibility of load planning through the use of automated rules in their WMS.
Inventory is the lifeblood of most manufacturing and distribution businesses. It affects nearly every aspect of its operations. And it’s often one of a company’s biggest investments and most valuable assets.
With accurate controls and effective supply chain execution, smart companies use their inventory to delight their customers.
For insights about the challenges of the food industry and how Generix Group can help, please go here.