Increasing turnover tenfold

How we developed Tradestream, an eCommerce package that manages the key aspects of warehouse management and order fulfilment, and its dramatic effect on PPF Shipping.

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How Tradestream transformed PPF Shipping

As internet-based business booms, increasing numbers of companies need cost-efficient means of storing, packing and delivering items ordered online. Answering this need is PPF Shipping Ltd, an internet order fulfilment company based in Linlithgow, central Scotland. PPF has earned an enviable reputation for fast, efficient pick, pack and dispatch services at some of the most competitive rates in the industry.

The challenges of expansion

The growing success of PPF created a problem. Every week they deal with up to 20,000 orders. The logistics of stock control, processing incoming orders, maximising the efficiency of pick, pack and dispatch processes, enabling clients and their customers to track orders, as well as dealing with invoicing and reporting were simply too much for their existing warehouse management system.

Chris Swainson, Managing Director of PPF, recalls, “We originally used a straightforward, in-house database system, which was good at handling small volumes. As the numbers increased, however, the inflexibility of the system became clear. We needed a much more sophisticated package – something which could adapt to the continuing growth of PPF’s business”.

One size doesn’t fit all

Every company is distinctive, with unique requirements which off-the-shelf software can never fully meet. That’s why Chris Swainson approached Cohesion Digital, the eCommerce specialists. Having dealt with them before, Chris knew he could rely on their professionalism and commitment to creating a tailored solution that worked with PPF’s requirements.

After detailed consultation to map the extensive needs that PPF’s new warehouse management system would have to provide for, the Cohesion Digital team began the design process.

The Managing Director at Cohesion Digital, Alistair Macneil, explains why his clients enjoy the best of both worlds:

“Our starting point was the open source platform, Horde. Using this software as a base means the client saves on the hefty extra costs of building a solution from scratch. This way they have the reassurance of a tried and tested core for their package, which is then adapted and developed for their specific needs. They receive software built to their exact specifications at a fraction of the usual cost of bespoke programming”.

The design process naturally involves more than just close consultation with the client. As Cohesion Digital developed a prototype, it was tested at PPF, allowing the design team to establish in detail how the package coped with real-time needs. This allowed for extensive modification and fine tuning to ensure the software was robust, responsive and tackled the comprehensive requirements of shop-floor business operations.

Tradestream in action

The solution delivered to PPF was Tradestream, a highly innovative eCommerce package designed to manage the key aspects of warehouse management and order fulfilment:

  • Customer invoices
  • Creating telephone / trade orders
  • Picking lists
  • Tracking emails
  • Daily volume reports
  • Dashboard / KPIs
  • Stock management
  • Customer services
  • Returns processing
  • Value added services.

From the outset, it was clear Tradestream was going to revolutionise operations at PPF Shipping, allowing them to fulfil the full potential of their business. The power and flexibility of the programme facilitated a volume of trade which was previously impossible. It makes pick, pack and dispatch operations far more efficient, helping keep costs down for PPF’s clients, and provides those clients and their own customers with clear, up-to-date information about the dispatch and delivery process.

The transparency of operations provided by Tradestream has proven to be fundamental in building PPF’s reputation as an efficient and reliable service provider. Information is the key in this digital age, and Tradestream ensures PPF’s clients are never left in the dark, providing them with new levels of access and control.

Chris Swainson quickly realised why the package worked so well:

“The beauty of Tradestream is that it doesn’t mindlessly automate processes. Instead, through a detailed but intuitive interface, it puts my staff in control and improves the effectiveness and accuracy of what they do. With incredibly complex operations such as ours, mistakes can creep in if you don’t take care. The design of Tradestream actually respects this complexity and works with its operators to ensure precision and accuracy, even at very high volumes of orders.”

By 2011, PPF was shipping 2.5 million products across Europe and the rest of the world, whilst having a pick, pack and dispatch capacity of 15,000 orders per shift.

The difference made to PPF’s business is more than apparent to Chris. “Four years ago our turnover was less than £100,000. This year we project a final figure of £1.7 million. That would not have been possible without Tradestream.”

Evolutionary Design

Tradestream is built so that it serves as a core framework which can be adapted to the specific needs of any company. The added benefit of this is that it can also evolve to match the changing needs of the business using it.

To that end, Cohesion Digital has continued to develop the programme as new requirements emerge at PPF – most recently facilitating seamless integration with DHL.

Chris Swainson is in no doubt about the professionalism of the Cohesion Digital team:

“They have been very satisfactory. They respond quickly and ensure any problems are resolved with a minimum of impact on our operations. In particular, the great strength of the team is that its members operate over numerous time zones. This means someone is always available to help us out.”

Added Benefits

The improvement in warehouse management operations and massive boost in productivity more than met expectations, but Chris soon began to appreciate Tradestream offered even further opportunities.

“The system is so comprehensive and user-friendly that it now serves as our central database. It manages all our core information, removing duplicated data from other areas of the business, such as accounting. It really is a programme designed for better business.”

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