Mogul / Amazon - Stock Management System

Background

Mogul Jewellery Co. is one of the UK’s largest manufacturers, importers and distributors of jewellery products and supply all the leading retail groups. Founded in 1947, the company has been in business for over 60 years and has a turnover in excess of £55M. They supply thousands of jewellery items to major retailers such as Argos, John Lewis, and H. Samuel. Point100 has worked with Mogul for over 30 years.

Challenge

Mogul became the leading UK supplier of jewellery to Amazon, which presented a number of challenges. Unlike conventional jewellers where there is a single stock code to cover various sizes (particularly for ring sizes), Amazon could only work with a separate stock code and registered barcode for every individual size. This was not compatible with Mogul's Far East factories and independent suppliers.

Throughout our long working history with Mogul, Point100 has previously built platforms to allow Mogul to integrate their ordering system with various retailer outlets. Most of these were using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) platforms. EDI is the process of two computers exchanging business documents over a secure, standardised connection, designed for partners to increase the efficiency of transactions, reduce the potential for errors in communication, and to reduce costs. EDI is an old technology that existed before the PC industry existed, pioneered in the car industry where manufacturers didn't want a vast quantity of invoices for small parts from hundreds of suppliers being sent to them regularly. Car manufacturers therefore began to send out orders from an EDI and bill themselves from the supplier of the order, which is why this was known as 'self billing'.

Amazon are currently one of the biggest suppliers of EDI platforms. Point100 integrated Amazon's EDI platform with the back end of Mogul's stock management system, corresponding with the specific pricing for each product. The particular challenge for this project was that Mogul were supplying Amazon right across the world. Whether it was chains, necklaces or rings, Mogul were one of the largest manufacturers of jewellery on their system. So each size of ring, for example, would have to have a separate represented barcode, meaning that Mogul were supplying Amazon with around 20,000 unique products. Amazon would send orders through on the EDI platform and they would order specific quantities of each item of jewellery, which were in essence the same ring, but different 'products'.

Point100 had an extraordinary ability to understand our needs and then transfer that knowledge into computer systems that were easy to use and quick to implement. They really made the effort to look at the requirement as if they were part of our business themselves.
Managing Director - Mogul

Additionally Amazon wanted to take advantage of the conventional arrangement in the jewellery industry of 'buying on approval', otherwise known as sale or return. Retailers are given an option to either return or pay for goods over very extended periods. It was important to track the movement of thousands of lines of stock to assess forecasting of how much advance stock to manufacture and order. The tracking required an awareness of:

  • What had been sold.
  • What was being held by the various Amazon warehouses.
  • What was in being held in stock at Mogul.

Due to the fluctuation of precious metal pricing across the many thousands of lines, pricing had to be updated on a regular basis. Orders from Amazon often contained many hundreds of lines. Similarly, orders to the factories were very long. Systems needed to be put into place to reduce operator input to a minimum.

In addition, Amazon specified that their suppliers must use international Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes. This meant that Mogul's label would go on with a barcode on it, which could be scanned by Amazon so that they would know what was in that parcel. This system avoided the need for Amazon to check or do a stock take of their parcels for maximum efficiency. There is an international standard for this across Amazon's systems. Amazon suggested their solution was that when the customer is ready to ship, they would upload the order to Amazon ready for shipping. Amazon would send them back an Excel spreadsheet that made an estimate of the approximate boxes that order would go in. Mogul would be asked to adjust the spreadsheet to align with what they actually packed, and send that back to Amazon when they wanted to send their invoice and pre shipment. The problem was that when these sheets came through, was working out what was on the sheet and changing it was impossible.

Solution

Working closely with the client to understand their specific frustrations and pain points with the Amazon process, Point100 created a system that was far more advanced than the existing EDI system. Following conversations with Mogul, we learned that a lot of other customers were also finding the existing Amazon process incredibly difficult to try and work around. We built a system whereby Mogul could first of all select all the orders that were going out that day with their corresponding quantities. The system would move them across to another screen, where they could then pick from there what specific products were going, and allocate it to a box. This process was highly intuitive, as they could adjust it and make changes to maximise the space efficiency of the packages. When they flagged that the box was ready, they could generate the precise shipping labels that would be sent to Amazon, along with the packing list and spreadsheet in format that Amazon wanted. 

A customised solution was built using a SQL engine and Winforms user interface. An ability to import and update new lines and pricing was also included. A master code was used for each product line with all the various sizes being a subset of the master code. The master code would relate to each factory's or supplier's code and translate to the various subset codes. To place an order with a supplier, all that is required is to enter the master code, at which point a grid would appear, allowing all the various sizes to be inputted. Thereafter the 'complete order' button would email the order and grid to the various factories and suppliers.

"The order system was massively improved," said Michael, who is in charge of the Ordering Department. "The amount of errors was reduced so much that all the stress and problems associated with the ordering complexity have almost disappeared. In addition, whilst the system was being implemented and it was new to all of us, Point100 was always available to assist us. After about 3 months we have never had to call them about this section of the system again."

The stock input process was also speeded up. Goods received as per the original order are about 90% accurate. Instead of having to input each item received, a goods inwards facility was built to call back a supplier order which defaulted to the quantities ordered, with an option to adjust any quantities and a single button to update stock.

To fulfil the requirement to update pricing and add new product lines (hundreds of new lines are being added each month which had to be transferred from GS1, the registered issuer of EAN barcodes) relating to products from different factories and suppliers, a sophisticated Excel spreadsheet was built with an automatic import update facility. At the point of invoice, options were created to determine if it was a standard invoice on account, appro invoice, or invoice from existing appro stock held by Amazon.

Key Benefits

  • Efficiency - Streamlining the process of packing thousands of products using an intuitive system.
  • Compliance - Accommodating the systems used by Amazon, but improving them to work for the client.

Ready to get started?

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