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Duracell overhauls its global logistics with WMS Reflex

Faced with numerous takeovers of which it and its suppliers have been the subject, the number one in batteries called on Hardis for its WMS Reflex in order to modernize its global logistics. A bold choice knowing that it is not present worldwide and that it does not appear in Gartner’s magic quadrant.

Duracell, the world’s leading battery manufacturer, founded in 1940 by Samuel Ruben and Philip Rogers Mallory, began as a supplier of electronic components and batteries for military applications. In 1960, the company invented alkaline batteries, for cameras and camcorders in particular, which constituted a real revolution at the time. The name Duracell was chosen in 1964, thus replacing the Mallory brand. In 1971, Duracell adopted its color code (2/3 black, 1/3 copper) recognizable by all, and in 1974, its mascot, the little pink rabbit beating on its drum, appeared on television.

In 1996, Duracell was bought by Gillette, itself acquired by Procter & Gamble in 2005. Ten years later, Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s holding company, acquired Duracell. An important change, since by integrating this holding, the company is withdrawn from the stock market and finds itself completely independent.

Today, Duracell markets alkaline batteries, button batteries, power banks (small external batteries) and, in the field of home energy storage, batteries for homes (to store solar energy). Duracell employs 3,000 people in all regions of the Globe, has regional hubs in the United States, Europe and Asia, and owned production and logistics facilities in the United States (manufacturing, packaging), two centers in Belgium (manufacturing, packaging, distribution), and two sites in China.

Alban Fleury
IT Director Europe, Asia and Global BtoB of Duracell
The holding by Warren Buffett has practically sold none of his businesses. She has a vision on the long term, what is a advantage »

In the 1980s, we developed internally at Procter & Gamble, with local developers, a WMS (Warehouse Management System) called RTCIS, based on a market WMS, that of JDA. In the 90s, Procter & Gamble realized that it made no sense to continue to keep these solutions, but given its critical size and the number of its production sites, they managed to switch to the solution developed at RedPrairie, which was one of the major players in the WMS “, explains Alban Fleury, IT director Europe, Asia and Global BtoB of Duracell.

In 2012 RedPrairie merged with JDA, and in 2018 decided to stop supporting JDA’s WMS. Duracell having adopted RTCIS, the WMS of Procter & Gamble, the battery manufacturer suddenly finds itself with an independent company for two years, and this sword of Damocles represented by the end of the support.

Duracell then tackles the change of WMS. ” We still managed to keep RTCIS, which was certainly extremely stable, but it was impossible to scale it to improve the agility of the company and its transformation, since we had no one in-house “, explains Alban Fleury. In addition, Duracell makes massive use of outsourcing. For the rest of its information system, it mainly relies on an instance of SAP. The manufacturer still keeps some old systems in its factories, the oldest being the WMS.

As an American company, Duracell first looked in Gartner’s famous magic quadrant for publishers in the top right square (that of the leaders), as companies across the Atlantic often do. Manhattan, SAP and the latest version of JDA are in this category. ” We proceeded to call for tenders and examined the different functionalities… And I, at the level of Belgium, I put my veto because the basic functions were not able to support the logistical transformation that we were operating “says Alban Fleury.

The person in charge then exerts a bit of pressure to have at least one other challenger in the comparison, which may be a non-global WMS, not necessarily referenced by Gartner, but which has the potential to be present worldwide.

Hardis Reflex thus presents itself as a good challenger, with the main advantage being the possibility of creating a real core model, with a set of functionalities that can be applied almost everywhere. In fact, Reflex has been established for many years, is stable and is widely used by logistics providers.

Still, the chosen WMS creates some challenges: Hardis is present only in Europe, and for a collaboration with an American company whose largest production sites are in the United States, a presence on the American continent is necessary. In many countries outside Europe there is no agreement with local partners for implementations. Reflex is therefore not necessarily implemented directly. Logisticians then had to develop in-house skills to deploy this solution themselves in other regions of the world. Another problem: the language. No Chinese version, essential for settling in China. Last challenge: the support operates mainly in France and in French.

To meet these various challenges, Duracell worked with the Hardis management team to put in place a plan that made it possible to move forward. ” First, we asked Hardis to find a logistics partner in the United States. The choice fell on ITOrizon, a very effective integrator in terms of business understanding and process redesign “, says Alban Fleury. Luckily, this company is based in the Atlanta area, where the battery manufacturer’s three sites are also located.

Duracell starts by implementing the two European sites, the one in Belgium being the most complex ‒ Duracell wanted to start shipping parcels, not just pallets. This work was finalized in February 2019. Around 90% of the processes were then running in the other factories. The partnership with ITOrizon made it possible to secure the solution and to add the 10% of missing functionalities. Duracell took the opportunity to reorganize its business in North America, with the creation of a single, huge packaging and distribution warehouse, the other two sites now being devoted to production only.

The WMS has since been translated into Chinese, although China, which represents a very large market for the manufacturer, still operates the old WMS due to Covid.

Duracell still has to work on the architecture of the servers needed to run Reflex: it takes between eight and ten servers on site. The idea would be to have a development instance and a test unit in the cloud, the production version of the WMS remaining on-premise.

AN INTERFACE ACCESSIBLE BY ALL

Users appreciate Reflex for its ease of use. They find the user interface obviously much better than the old WMS, but also than the SAP solution. This is essential because battery sales are cyclical, with the pre-Christmas period representing a strong peak in activity which involves the temporary recruitment of many employees. They must quickly get to grips with the WMS. Some seasonal workers only come for two or three days. Duracell saw a clear difference for their training. The company has also set up AGVs (Automated guided vehicles) in Belgium, to move the pallets automatically, which would not have been possible without Reflex.


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