Chiltern Cold storage Group successfully managed a company re-structure at the end of 2018 and reaffirmed its commitment to work with their WMS software provider, MACS software, and extend the utilisation of voice technology. In the last 25 years Chiltern, based in Peterborough, has seen extraordinary growth in its ambient, chilled and frozen storage services for global food, drink and pharmaceutical companies and now boasts an annual turnover of £29 million, handling around 1200 pallets a day.
The company’s success had been orchestrated by Managing Director, Paul Jackson, and Operations Director, John Davidson. However, as part of an operational review in 2018, John and Paul took a close look at their individual roles. It soon became clear that Paul had a keen interest in transport whereas John was far more comfortable managing warehouse operations. “We took a close look at what we do and decided that it made perfect sense to split the business into separate warehousing and transport operations with Paul taking care of transport and me looking after the warehousing,” said John. “It was the perfect opportunity for us both to focus on what we like to do best.”
Creating efficiency through voice operation
Chiltern Cold Storage has used MACSwms software to manage its warehouse operations since 2009. To improve efficiency and accuracy the company chose to extend its warehouse management system to voice operation.
“I had seen voice operated WMS elsewhere,” said John. “It’s easy to read all the literature but it’s only when you see it in operation that you realise that it really does work.” Chiltern then worked with MACS Software to introduce voice operation in its Peterborough warehouse. Chilled working environments, where operators are necessarily dressed in heavy, bulky clothes, are perfect for voice operation. They increase accuracy and improve productivity while, according to John, create a much better working environment. “The operators like to use it, it’s been great,” he said.
One key area of business for Chiltern is the supply of food to the UK’s airlines. John said that the voice operation allows data to be extracted easily for pallet manifests and Advance Shipping Notices (ASN), which helps his company to provide accurate information about individual pallet contents so that airlines know where to find the items they want for each flight. “It allows them to react much more quickly,” he said.
So, the business went through a demerger with warehousing operations being acquired by John, while Paul retained control of transport. The new transport business, Chiltern Distribution Ltd., is based in Whittlesey and operates the company’s contract for Meadow Foods from there. The remaining warehouse operations are based at the company’s Peterborough, Bourne and Livingston sites. As related businesses, they retain complementary branding.
Throughout the change to voice operation and the demerger, MACS Software provided Chiltern with continual support for the introduction of new contract wins. This included the setting up of a production line and customer e-commerce portal for the packing and distribution of temperature-controlled food products – a diversification for Chiltern. “We had excellent support from MACS throughout all the changes over the last year or so,” said John. “It’s not been just helpdesk support, we have had access directly to the company directors when we needed it so that any difficulties have been resolved quickly.”
Every company experiences change but it’s not often that such fundamental restructuring comes along. For Chiltern it was essential to have a reliable partner that knew their business, knew their systems and was able to work closely with them to manage the change process smoothly and efficiently. MACS Software fitted the bill.