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Targeting the perfect order thanks to supply chain and technology
September 15, 2020

Feedback and customer centricity are deeply rooted in Carrefour’s DNA. Listening to the wants and needs of our customers in permanence to offer a better service and make them happy is the number one priority of “Carrefourians”. One of the main challenges experienced by Carrefour’s customers is linked to our ability to deliver customers’ online orders on time, complete according to check-out and with flawless quality. This is what we call “the perfect order”.

For the past months, Carrefour has been measuring this indicator and using it to make many important decisions. For instance, based on this information, Carrefour has fine-tuned its operational network combining different preparation models. Online orders can be prepared in the store or in a specialized warehouse for click & collect (Drive) or home delivery.

The strategy of preparation models is constantly revised by the Carrefour supply chain team according to the customer catchment areas and the model’s capacity.

A quick look on how Carrefour serves online orders in the Paris region

The Paris region is one of Carrefour’s key markets in France, with the particularity of displaying a high density of population. Currently, Carrefour is preparing online orders in more than 300 stores and several specialized warehouses around Paris.

Some of these warehouses are operated manually and some are automated / robotized. For example, the warehouse of Aulnay-sous-Bois (Parisian region) has been automated with the help of our partner Dematic. Dematic, one of the best worldwide players when it comes to streamlining and automating processes in warehouses, helped Carrefour to be more efficient and enhance the way we operate in our logistic facilities. Every detail counts when it comes to enabling the perfect online order!  

The automated warehouse model

In order to maximize customer satisfaction, Dematic and Carrefour have agreed on developing an automated model based on:

  • Capacity 7 000 Orders, 45 Items per order.
  • Footprint: 24 000 sqm.
  • Storage:
    • Tote : 60 000.
    • Item : 700 000.
    • LIfecycle time : 3 days.
  • Working day : 6 days a week.
  • Manpower : 400 people.
  • 12 aisles of automated shuttles and a preparation workstation.
  • 3 Kms of conveyors.

How does the automated warehouse work?

To operate all of this mechanical equipment, we need to make a smart use and combination of multiple logistic technologies. Some of these are:

  • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).
  • OMS (Order Management System).
  • WMS (Warehouse Management System).
  • WCS (Warehouse Control System).
  • LMS (Labor Management System).
  • TMS (Transportation Management System).
  • Advanced analytics.

Without any of these tech systems, Carrefour would not be able to deliver and respect their commitment with their customers. We couldn’t deliver the perfect order!

All the customers orders from our e-commerce platforms are coming into the OMS -sort of a “chef d’orchestre” that controls the flow of orders-  and then sent to the WMS in the warehouse. The WMS organizes the preparation, according to the customer’s delivery slot requested by the customer and our transport capabilities, which are managed by the TMS. Stock and forecast replenishment are also mixed into the cocktail leveraging ERP data. Then comes the optimization step, determining the best combinaison in terms of labour force (LMS), quality and productivity to create the preparation batch. To achieve operational excellence, Carrefour needs some strong analytics algorithms spread throughout all of these tech tools.

Batches are sent to the WCS, which controls the automated equipment in the warehouse. The WCS will request the mechanical parts of the logistic facility to take the tote from the automated storage, determining where the right products are stored and that need to go to the preparation station.

With this system, Carrefour is able to prepare an order in less than 6 minutes. It is a high performance, especially since given the great variety of products that we offer to our customers.

A bit more on the secret sauce to make it happen

Did you think we were done? Not yet! There is much more intelligence embedded into this system!

First, it must be noted that products come from “B2B” warehouses or directly from our suppliers. Each of them can be lined to  an electronic Purchase Order (PO) from the online store that flows through the ERP. At the reception of the PO, the supplier will create a preparation mission which will result in an ASN (Advanced Shipping Notice). The ASN is an important part of the equation, since it lists the contents of the shipment and, when integrated in the WMS, helps Aulnay to check if the quantity purchased corresponds to the reality of what is being delivered. These logistic back and forths also impact the customer experience, since  items need to be set aside as fast as possible to reflect the right product availability on the website.

Receival is another important aspect controlled by the WMS. When the pallets, full of products, arrive at the e-commerce specialized warehouse, they are automatically carried on the receiving station. The products are then ready to be put in tote with a quality and quantity check at the workstation.

And storage! The full tote goes into the ASRS (which stands for “Automated Storage and Retrieval System”) to be set aside, waiting for preparation.And shipment! When the WCS requests the article to fulfill an order, a message to the ASRS is sent to bring the tote at the picking station. The tote filled with products goes back into the ASRS. When the customer’s bag / tote is completed with all the requested products, it goes to the shipping area. Part of shipping includes carefully managing all the mandatory information to deliver the right address and customer.

And last mile transport! When all orders are completed and stored in the shipping area, Carrefour makes use of the  TMS to deliver on time, tracking the transportation process so everything runs smoothly.

The trick for the perfect order is to make all of these tech solutions and mechanical components “dance” together, executing a choreography that requires both precision and speed. Hence, we do not only need support for our  tech engineers as well as maintenance partners, but we need them to have them collaborating efficiently to deliver the best experience possible to our customers. In Carrefour can we believe that an engaged team is fundamental to maintain this system performing “au top”!

Check our other articles about Operations here.

About the Author

Group e-commerce Strategic Operations Director Dedicated to Operations Supply Chain, since 2019. He has +10 years of experience in e-commerce.

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