Lime Supply is a business-to-business cleaning supplies retailer that brings leading industrial cleaning products to their clients at competitive prices.
The Lime Supply project brings together all of the key elements that Exact Abacus have to offer: Web Design, eCommerce Software, Back Office Software, Warehouse Management, Fulfilment Services and Call Centre Services.
The eCommerce Web Design is a by-product of the fully integrated 3ex.net eCommerce and Back Office software. The 3ex.net back office software delivers order processing and up to date information in real time for Lime Supply and its customers, something which Lime Supply prides itself on against the competition.
Using the 3EX.NET back office software, an order placed can be picked by the warehouse team 5 minutes later, at the Exact Abacus warehouse and fulfilment centre in Chorley, and be ready for dispatch for next day delivery within a matter of hours.
Lime Supply customers also have the ability to have access to their own reports online via the 3ex.net eCommerce Software and 3ex.net reporting software. These reports include; Full track and trace and proof of delivery, 'first time full' deliveries, 'deliveries on time', and a full budget control system.
Within the eCommerce web site, and back office software, users are also able to manage part payments, or payments on account via the business-to-business functionality developed for 3EX.NET.
To finalise Lime Supply’s excellent level of customer interaction, the Exact Abacus Call Centre is employed to provide Customer Service services for the company from Monday to Sunday 8am to 8pm. As part of the process, the Call Centre team were all trained up on the key products so that the knowledge of Lime Supply’s product base was of the highest order.
Read the full case study below...
Case Study: Lime Supply Ltd (Runcorn)
Modules: Supply Chain, CRM, Stock Control and eCommerce
Services: Fulfilment, Customer Care, Digital Marketing
3EX.NET System Users: 10 (4x Lime, 6x EAL)
Average Items Shipped per Day: 500
Peak Parcels Shipped per Day (2011): 750
Products (SKUs): 1,000
Sales Channels: Website and Direct Trade Sales
Client Summary: Runcorn-based Lime Supply are a trade distributor of contract cleaning products including chemicals, paper and consumables. Incorporated in 2010, the business was designed around a 100% outsourced model, leaving the founding directors to concentrate on sales, marketing and product sourcing.
Based on previous experience, Managing Director, Matt Birtenshaw recognised that the core of his business would be a fully integrated IT platform: “the whole Lime proposition is based on Just in Time principles and the application of clever software technology to provide an unrivalled level of customer service. Our customers are very demanding and deliveries are time-sensitive, so without automation of purchasing, order processing and stock allocation, we would have no business.”
However, the challenge did not end there as the business required a contact centre and order fulfilment facility. Having trawled the UK for a genuinely integrated solution, Exact Abacus were identified as the only provider able to meet the requirement. Matt continues: “finding suppliers of the constituent parts of the jigsaw was not a problem, but I really wanted a turnkey provider who could enable me to focus on the high-value stuff, rather than operational issues and inter-company communications. Furthermore, I wanted a partner who could absorb a little bit of risk whilst we established the business, reaping the rewards together in the longer term.”
In their original business plan, Lime Supply identified the following key factors in selecting an outsourcing partner:
- Low entry costs
- Proven capability in delivering IT and eCommerce solutions
- Technology to support consolidated billing and web-based reporting for clients
- Low footprint, software-as-a-service deployment
- Easy-to-use software interface
- Stock forecasting and auto-purchasing capability
- Carrier integration
- Scalable contact centre and fulfilment service capability
- Cultural fit and commitment to partnership
Initial Project Objectives: As a startup business, Lime Supply had a blank canvas to work on, but promoted heavily on a next day delivery guarantee, backed with SLAs and online reporting. This level of transparency is revolutionary in the cleaning supplies market to this day as Matt explains: “contract cleaning is incredibly competitive and margins are very tight. Our customers therefore need the best price, but, more importantly, a superior level of service. Distributing often-bulky products across a number of remote sites requires a top-to-bottom approach to IT. As soon as the customer places their order through our website, they need to be assured the goods are on their way.”
Holding the right level of stock to meet their demanding OTIF target (orders delivered On Time, In Full) was critical to bottom-line profitability. Overbuying would put enormous strain on cashflow, whilst not having sufficient coverage would jeopardise the service guarantee. Therefore, the IT solution had to track sales, react to trends and help the business streamline supply chain processes.
Through the website, corporate customers and site buyers needed the ability to self-service 24 hours a day. By displaying real-time stock availability and ‘track and trace’ alongside online budget/spend management, Lime are able to target cost-conscious customers looking to enhance their own supply chain processes and reduce administration costs.
In the warehouse, orders range from complex and bulky deliveries to mixed-item starter packs for new sites. This demanded a flexible approach as traditional pallet logistics and efulfilment processes were not suited to the diversity of operations.
The Immediate Impact: The 3EX.NET platform was commissioned in July 2010 and initial stock deliveries into Exact’s warehouse in Preston started the following month. With the support of launch customers, early trade was brisk and the benefits of an integrated approach were immediately obvious. The OTIF rate during the first 6 months exceeded 85% and this continued to increase as the forecasting module built intelligence and provided more accurate purchase recommendations. With 60% year-on-year sales growth up to 2013, Lime Supply have been able to maintain a full-time staff of just four people. All operations are managed by Exact Abacus and service costs are commensurate with the level of sales each month. This has helped the business trade profitably from day one, free of commitment to long-term leases and fixed costs.
What constraints did software remove: 3EX.NET software has enabled the founders to concentrate on winning new contracts and continually develop the proposition. Without automating processes and seamlessly connecting the two companies, growth would have been much shallower and subject to greater risk as Matt continues: “Whilst we were fortunate to secure strong backing from the bank, we set out with the objective of running the business on the most efficient basis possible. We believe our operating costs are lower than any of our competitors and this gives us a distinct advantage going forwards.”
Over time, 3EX.NET software enabled Lime Supply to devolve more responsibilities and control to Exact’s operations management team, safe in the knowledge that the system was taking the strain and validating processes at every stage. As the business operates a common IT platform across all sales channels and disciplines, it does not have to worry about integrations and the consistency of information within the business. This ‘joined up’ approach is central to the whole working relationship and business model.
In Summary: Lime Supply is a success story and testament to the power of outsourcing. Done right, this model has the potential to lower barriers to entry and enable entrepreneurs to deliver their vision. Matt concludes: “my fellow directors and I had run businesses before but when we started thinking about Lime Supply, we all agreed that it should be able to operate whilst we were all sat on a beach. Perhaps that was a little ambitious, but I see the growth potential of this business to be unbounded by traditional constraints. It is very refreshing to spend almost 100% of my time thinking strategically rather than going through the minutiae of operational issues.”
By optimising its cost model and supply chain, the company is growing profitably at a startling rate. It stands as a great reference to how fleet-of-foot companies can beat the competition through the targeted application of business software and reinvention of the distribution model.