Axell Logistics is based in Etten-Leur in The Netherlands and has been an OrderFlow user for more than five years. In August 2018 the company added a new 17,300 sq m (168,000 sq ft) facility, built alongside their existing warehouse.
With business booming, Axell has gone on to add a further 8,325 sq m (90,000 sq ft) to keep up with the growing demand for its fulfilment services.
Here's a timelapse video of the construction of the new warehouse in Etten-Leur.
Optimising warehouse processes
The expansion wasn’t just about one warehouse overflowing into another – the Axell team was keen to use the additional space in a different way.
“As well as increasing space we wanted to gain advantages from having all our clients together in one warehouse and combining our B2C and B2B operations,” says Peter Bergsma, Axell Logistics’ IT and Engineering Manager. “We’re seeing an increase in customers wanting a combined B2C and B2B operation – we’ve had multiple clients request this recently,” he notes.
Combining B2B and B2C warehouse operations
Supporting a customer’s B2B and B2C operations via one warehouse management system (WMS) can be tricky says Peter, but Realtime Despatch’s OrderFlow WMS has made it possible. Axell started working with Realtime Despatch to support a single client for whom Axell runs a complex cross-docking operation. Axell saw an opportunity to improve the service it offered to its other clients and in early 2019 the decision was taken to move all its fulfilment business onto the OrderFlow platform.
“One of the big advantages of OrderFlow is how it connects with different third party systems like e-commerce platforms such as Magento, ERP systems and couriers. This is something other WMS’ don’t support very well,” says Peter. “Realtime Despatch is an expert in B2C warehouse management and we’re now one of the first to rollout its new B2B WMS functionality.”
“We want to use OrderFlow to distinguish between small B2C orders and large trade orders, so that we can optimise our processes for each. If we get a problem with a small order we take it out of the workflow, address the issue and then start the pick and pack process again from the beginning. For big trade orders it’s different – if we’ve already picked 50 or 60 SKUs we don’t want to undo all that work because of a problem with one SKU, instead we want the picker to skip ahead to the next item to be picked.
“We work in case or carton quantities for our B2B orders and in individual item quantities for B2C orders – OrderFlow supports both approaches. We've been working with the Realtime Despatch team to refine this approach further. The latest OrderFlow release allows us to pick B2B and B2C orders from the same pick location and will keep track of the quantities in individual cases once they've been opened.
“OrderFlow has a great way of keeping track of what is really happening in the picking face. In most WMS’ the outer carton is just a theoretical stock keeping unit; you have, for example, five pieces of stock, which are five boxes of ten, but the system doesn’t really know if there are five complete boxes of ten or lots of open boxes with a couple of items removed. In OrderFlow it is known, and that information can be used as an input to optimise our picking. That’s something I haven’t seen in a WMS before and works very well – it really reflects the truth in the warehouse and that’s essential I think.”
New clients and further expansion plans
Currently Realtime Despatch and Axell Logistics are working closely to move over all clients to OrderFlow and optimise the new combined B2B and B2C processes. The latest moves were for two new Axell clients – a children’s shoe manufacturer and a pet supply business; fulfilling both wholesale and e-commerce orders from the same stockholding.
Business is booming for the Dutch warehouse operation, so much so that the company is looking to expand yet again.
“The new extension is already near full, so we’re now looking at other expansion options,” says Peter. "That’s our plan for 2020!”