Belgium : Bricolux, wholeseller for school utensils, prepares the new school year with Scallog

23 February 2021

Expansion of its range with more than 1,000 new references, growth of BtoC / E-commerce and customer service excellence, Bricolux is counting on these levers to develop its turnover. And the prerequisite is an efficient and agile logistics, from storage to order preparation, with Goods to Man Scallog robotization !

Nanterre, February 23, 2021 – A school and educational materials wholesaler since 1973, Bricolux is a leading household name in the education and childhood sectors in French-speaking Belgium and Luxembourg, among professionals, its historical core target group, and private individuals. In order to benefit from a logistics that meets its challenges and ambitions, the wholesaler Bricolux has chosen in 2019 the Goods to Man Scallog robotization.

As Alain Collard, CEO of Belgian company BRICOLUX, explains : « Our logistics are agile and high-performing, as exemplified by our increase in turnover, from €3m to €7m. Logistics are key to accelerating our growth. As a school and educational materials wholesaler, over 70% of our sales are made over a three-month period, with the September back-to-school window serving as our deadline ». He adds that : « Scallog’s Goods-to-Man solution now allows us to spread our logistics over the summer period to ensure we’re up to the task of delivering to over 2,000 French-speaking schools in Belgium and Luxembourg from 16 August on, and no later than 1 September. »

Bricolux’s challenges : managing peaks of activity and new customer requirements !

From warehouse management to order preparation optimisation, logistical efficiency and agility are key factors in ensuring Bricolux keeps personal and business customers satisfied and coming back for more. From April to June, 80% of all orders are placed online by professionals. They are then delivered before 1 September. Subject to a strong three-month peak in activity, from June to August, and to an extension of its range, Bricolux must smooth out the logistics activity necessary to prepare more than 15,000 orders, which must be delivered before September 1st according to the requirements of schools. Other peak periods are thrown into the mix too, such as Christmas, and Saint Nicholas Day, which accounts for 10% of Bricolux’s turnover as sales of educational games rocket. In order to build lasting customer loyalty, the wholesaler also wanted to guarantee B2B customers next-day delivery throughout the year for their replenishment orders.

Alongside this, Bricolux aims to improve its online store logistics to attract more B2C customers. The latter account for 2% to 3% of all orders and expect delivery timeframes that align with their needs.

In light of labour shortages that restricted their ability to hire temp staff, Bricolux saw its 1,200 m2 warehouse reach saturation (in terms of surface and volume). Already well versed in controlled innovation, in autumn 2019 the company embarked on a search for the best technological compromise that would solve its logistics issues and help to fulfil its ambitions.

As Alain Collard explains, a technological solution was needed, and quickly: « We saw Scallog’s robotic Goods-to-Man solution as being the most effective, efficient, and pragmatic way of upgrading our logistics and continuing to grow. Small and medium-sized businesses often wrongly assume that robots are inaccessible, because they are expensive and complex to roll out. Our work in this area proves the opposite is true ».

From PoC to the logistics (r)evolution at Bricolux

When it came to choosing Scallog’s Goods-to-Man robotic solution, what stood out for Bricolux was the ability to test the solution “in the field” in order to get to grips with the technology, win employees over, and demonstrate the solution’s benefits in a tangible manner. In the context of this PoC (Proof of Concept) process, in November 2019 Bricolux opted for the Scallog Starter Kit, which includes an automated order preparation workstation featuring 20 mobile shelf units, and three Boby robots to transport the units to the operators.

Setting up the Scallog robotic zone within the Bricolux warehouse triggered an overhaul in how the picking and packing processes were structured and organised. Concretely speaking, it meant setting up new practices and a new packing zone in the warehouse to streamline flows, bolster operators’ productivity, and reduce the amount of moving around they are required to do.

As Alain Collard puts it : « As a result of our efforts, this Goods-to-Man robotic solution led to a transformation in how our warehouse is now organised. It has revolutionised 40 years of practices in logistics. »

Instant benefits in increasing logistical agility and efficiency

Thanks to Scallog’s Goods-to-Man robotic solution, merchandise is transported to the operators by robots. This solution has optimised the entire order preparation process at the Bricolux warehouse, rendering it faster and more seamless from start to finish. In the Scallog zone, working out of the stationary area, the operators select products directly from the mobile shelf units moved around by the Boby robots. This allows them to simultaneously prepare 48 order boxes, all with “one day’s advance”. This picking process lends Bricolux greater responsiveness and an efficient order preparation process, notably during peak periods.

Other benefits: the reduction in the drudgery of the work, which resulted in a reduction in operator travel to 5 km per day instead of the 14 or 16 km previously achieved, as well as the drastic reduction in the error rate in order preparation, which fell from 4% to 0.5% in just a few weeks.

Impressed by these initial results, in the coming months Belgian distributor Bricolux has decided to take things further in automating the Goods-to-Man process, by tripling its Scallog warehouse zone in size and potentially hiring extra Boby robots during peak periods. « Incorporating and expanding the Goods-to-Man robotic solution within our SME should allow us to bolster turnover without making staff cuts » according to Alain Collard.

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