Swiss Precision

A WMS from SSI Schaefer keeps Coop, a Swiss supermarket retailer, running like clockwork.


COOP AT A GLANCE

Headquarters: Basel, Switzerland
Number of employees: 50,000
Number of locations served: More than 1,800 stores throughout Switzerland
Distribution centers: Four national (including two deep-freeze) and 17 regional

While the machinery, speed and complexity of a highly-automated facility is impressive, the technology running these systems is just as noteworthy. Behind the scenes, warehouse management systems guide, control and monitor all of the material handling activities and, at the same time, optimize business processes throughout the supply chain.

For Coop, a Swiss cooperative that operates the second largest supermarket chain in Switzerland, its warehouse management system (WMS), supplied by SSI Schaefer Group, plays a critical role in its supply chain—and ultimately in the company’s overall success. Annual sales topped more than $18 billion last year, due in part to the outstanding customer service and order fulfillment levels that it has been able to achieve using this technology.

Coop services more than 1,800 stores throughout Switzerland from 21 distribution centers, all of which run by the SSI Schaefer WMS. The company operates a wide range of store formats, including food, non-food, drug, building and hobby, furniture, restaurant and service stations, as well as an online grocery home-delivery program that reaches 60 percent of Swiss households.

It also runs a number of manufacturing plants, including meat, chemicals and cosmetics, chocolates, pasta, rice and bread, producing its own brands as well as flagship labels. In addition, Coop publishes a weekly magazine in three languages—French, German and Italian—reflecting the various languages spoken in Switzerland.

Coop employs more than 50,000 people, making it the third largest employer in Switzerland.

“Our goal is to be number one in Switzerland,” says Philippe Huwyler, Coop’s IT operations manager. “We want to be closer to the customer than any other retailer in the country. We offer our customers a variety of shopping venues, the freshest products and the best brands—all at reasonable prices. We cater to a diversity of tastes, so we carry more than 35,000 SKUs ranging from low-price good-quality items to fine food and premium-grade specialties. Forty percent of our business is our own private brands.

“Sustainability is very important for us as well,” adds Huwyler, “and we consider ourselves the leader in environmentally friendly and fair trade products.”

In recent years, Coop has worked on reducing its carbon footprint in both its stores as well as its distribution centers and manufacturing plants. Energy saving measures include reducing water, electricity and diesel use and refurbishing stores and facilities to be more energy efficient. One-third of all its inbound shipments are received via rail and its drivers are trained in “Eco-Driving,” a program which can reduce fuel costs by 10 to 15 percent.

In 2001, Coop merged 14 different cooperatives into one company, which is based in Basel, a city about 50 miles west of Zurich. To gain further efficiencies, it reorganized into five sales regions and consolidated its distribution network into four national distribution centers and 17 regional DCs.

Coop was using SAP 4.7 as its standard order processing, ERP management and financial accounting software. The company, however, did not have a WMS that met its requirements, which included controlling a variety of automated storage and retrieval systems and various picking processes—such as pick-to-light and voice recognition systems—throughout its various distribution centers.

“We were facing many logistical challenges, such as on-time deliveries and keeping our shelves stocked, but we had other issues as well,” says Huwyler. “We wanted a WMS that could integrate with our SAP system that could help us with category management, purchasing, sales and tracking and tracing product throughout our supply chain.”

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