B+L: What was the initial situation like in the central distribution centre of the former Eybl Group?
Ewalds: The distribution centre was equipped with a modern high-tech logistics automation solution. However, this system was not compatible with SportsDirect’s logistics concept. There was a lack of required picking and storage capacities for handling the vast sporting goods range that we first had to create.
B+L: What is the difference between the world of Eybl and SportsDirect?
Ewalds: The volume dimensions are much larger. When Eybl speaks of pieces, SportsDirect speaks of boxes. If you talked about boxes at Eybl, then at SportsDirect that’s whole pallets. We couldn’t have dealt with these dimensions with the existing automation solution. SportsDirect is geared towards the speed, flexibility and efficiency of processes. Today Wels (warehouse location) is supplying all Austrian stores. If we look at the map of SportsDirect in Europe, it is quite conceivable that other areas of the continent could also be supplied from Austria soon. We have created the prerequisites for such an expansion with the new logistics concept and are now systematically increasing capacities.
B+L: Has the order management been adapted for this process?
Ewalds: Yes, because SportsDirect has also introduced its own IT systems and solutions here, i.e. automated ordering and the corresponding order picking. Order Picking is now carried out in trolleys, which are then delivered to the stores.
B+L: What is the challenge in SportsDirect’s sportswear business?
Ewalds: The volumes and the seasons, whereby we now not only assume the usual seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, but also have to be able to represent the respective intermediate seasons. Hence, the product range in the stores is constantly changing. Such a fast-changing system is better managed with a manually managed distribution system. Compared to a machine, humans can react immediately and faster, resulting in a more flexible system. Therefore we focused on the person and underlying processes instead of automation. However, technology is essential when it supports the SportsDirect logistic strategy.
B+L: Sounds like no stone was left unturned.
Ewalds: Right, because we indeed had to restructure the entire Eybl and Sports Experts system. We introduced very standard storage and picking processes: storage takes place on pallets, replenishment then takes place from the pallet into the picking compartment in the box. The goods are taken from the box and picked for the individual stores in trolleys, segmented according to the product range.