Minster Logistics provide highly configurable, comprehensive software solutions to market-leading distribution, supply chain and logistics businesses. Their proven solution has been extensively enhanced over many years, and they have experience of implementations in many types and size of distribution organisations.
Central to the product is the fully voice controlled Warehouse Management System, incorporating the Voice Management Console. This powerful end to end use of voice technology allows all warehousing activity to be monitored, controlled and efficiently progressed.
The application is designed for high volume/mission critical situations and has a proven track record of delivering robust and reliable solutions. Working in partnership with their customers, Minster always ensure that they are generating the maximum benefit from the system, but where necessary, they enhance the solution to meet any new requirements that customers may have.
The software includes modules for goods receipts, put-away, replenishment, picking, cross-docking, marshalling, loading, full stock-takes, perpetual inventory, procurement and purchasing reviews, requirements forecasting, sales order processing, sales invoice production and debt management, purchase order processing, purchase invoice matching, e-fulfilment and internet order entry, in-cab integration and route planning/optimisation integration.
The Minster customer base includes wholesale distribution companies, contract warehousing organisations and local authorities handling products as diverse as foodstuffs, cleaning materials, stationery, health & beauty and medical equipment. Recent projects include an assignment for Semichem, a recognised market leader in health and beauty discounting and part of the Scottish Midland Co-operative Society Limited. The Minster solution will support their retail growth plans going forward.
Minster Logistics are now looking to expand their capability and strategically invest in product development and people. Paul Boyd, recently appointed Managing Director of Minster Logistics, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – First of all, Paul, when did you join Minster Logistics?
I joined last November. Before that, I spent seven years with an aviation software company, Rusada.
WLN – What specific inspirations have you brought from the aviation software industry?
Rusada sell aviation-specific ERP systems: aviation is highly regulated, so the software needs to be robust and reliable. My experience will be enormously beneficial at Minster, as we produce mission-critical solutions too. The aviation industry has been through a couple of recessions of its own: Rusada’s systems were implemented as a way of driving efficiencies through a business and the Minster solutions can be used to generate the same results.
WLN – What is your brief as MD?
My brief is to build on the growth we have enjoyed over the last two or three years. We will continue to expand our customer portfolio, maintain our levels of customer support and retention, and achieve this growth without leaving our current customers behind. We work closely with our customers and understand how they are likely to develop, and pre-empt it with our solutions.
WLN – Do you get involved with solutions for individual customers?
I have already seen that I have inherited an excellent team here at Minster, but at the same time I like to be hands on as the MD. We do get quite involved with customers requirements and needs and part of Minster’s success has been based around being able to provide to our customers a solution that exactly fits their needs. This is part of the reason for the longevity of many of our customer relationships – over 20 years, in some cases.
WLN – How have your first few months been? What do you see as the most exciting challenge?
The overall job has been a challenge, but in a very positive sense. My biggest single challenge is probably to refer to depots and warehouses, not hangars! Seriously, I joined at a busy time and had to get up to speed quickly on current projects, but as I say I have a strong team of colleagues to work with. Our most exciting challenge going forward will be to further develop and expand our direct product offerings. Minster have been working on WMS systems for a long time and been very successful, but there is always scope for improvement and change and being complacent will not win us new business or new customers.
WLN – What do you see as the areas for improvement?
Our product offering is already very extensive and functionally rich – indeed on occasion customers ask for changes to be made, not realising that the functionality already exists within the product. There are a number of initiatives that we will be looking to kick off this year, one of which will be working more closely with some of our strategic partners that can offer value added solutions linked to our core offerings. One of these is Voiteq, with whom we have a strong relationship as our hardware provider for the voice solutions. Others will include route planning and optimisation organisations. I’m looking for us to be more proactive, with a joined up policy where we present together with our partners to customers and share our efforts in developing prospects.
WLN – Have you set yourself a timetable?
By the end of this year I expect Minster to be somewhat different, both as a company and how we go about our business.
WLN – How much capacity do you have to increase your level of business?
We are actually working very close to current capacity, which is good news: I’m looking to take on further recruits over the coming months, to maintain our current service level and handle the new business.
We have some excellent people in place, but as we expand we need to deploy them more effectively within the business. As MD I’m currently rearranging the team into more logical functions to enable us to develop more strategically and support customers more effectively. It’s similar to changing the formation of a winning football team, while making sure we go on winning!
WLN – Going back a step, when was Minster Logistics founded, and who by?
Minster Logistics started in 1978. Their first implementation was for the Forte Group, and as a result we have had a very strong presence in the foodservices sector ever since. The original founders still own the business and are still actively involved at a strategic level.
WLN – What sets Minster Logistics apart from other vendors? Why buy a solution from you?
The first aspect in our USP is our longevity in the sector. Software companies come and go, but we’ve stayed the course. Our staff are experienced in both software development and supply chain management, and as a result we have a wide understanding of our customers’ business. We’ve developed the product ourselves and have the flexibility to develop and enhance it as required, customised to clients’ specific needs. We see ourselves less as an IT company, more as a business consultancy providing practical solutions to customers, that are a direct fit to their business. The software is merely the tool we use to deliver the requirement!!
WLN – How big is Minster Logistics? How fast are you growing?
We’ve trebled our turnover in the last four years and doubled our staff. We’re now a medium-sized player in our industry, competing on the same level as our peers.
WLN – Where is your UK headquarters? Where do you develop your technologies?
We’re based in Tamworth, Staffordshire, a central point for the UK and a major logistics hub in its own right. Our customer base is within the UK at present although there is an intention to look toward Europe in 2011 and beyond. The development team are also based at our headquarters and are all employees of the company. We tend not to use contract developers, if this can be avoided.
WLN – What proportion of your voice solutions business comes from the 3PL industry, and how much from other sectors? Which are the fastest growing sectors?
Half comes from the 3PLs: the balance is retail and wholesale. Our fastest growing sectors are on line shopping fulfilment and the fully voice controlled warehouse management solution. Our stronghold in food distribution and foodservices, going back to the The Forte Group days also provides us with significant opportunities. We’re also talking to health service and pharmaceutical organisations: we have batch control and full traceability in our systems, which are key features for them.
WLN – What kinds of supply operations, and what level of throughput, numbers of operatives and so on, are your solutions geared up to handle?
Our system is ideal for everyone from small to large companies, operating from either a single depot or multiple depots. 3663 First for Foodservice, our biggest foodservice customer operates three depots utilising our solution. They supply over 4,000 outlets making 11,000 drops every week. The whole process of purchase reviews, PO placement through to final fulfilment to the outlet is voice managed by our solution. Semichem, one of our retail organisations, orders and distributes stock to its 140 stores based in Scotland and the North of England.
WLN – How different are your solutions from other voice systems on the market?
We develop and write the voice software programs ourselves, which enables our solution to be implemented underneath any hardware platform. This gives us a distinct edge in terms of giving the customer flexibility of choice around hardware selection. It also allows us full flexibility to create modifications and enhancements to the software, depending on how individual customers wish to use voice within their business.
WLN – Do all your customers use your voice application in its entirety?
Over 50% of our customers use our full voice application, the rest use manual processes. What prohibits them all moving to fully automated working is the capital cost of the hardware.
WLN – In these hard times, what different finance options do you offer customers to help them benefit from their new solutions and spread the cost over time?
Because we wholly own and develop the software solution ourselves we are able to offer very flexible terms around pricing and pricing structure, in order to suit a customer’s budget. I have access to third-party finance providers that I have worked with in the past who specialise in financing software solutions, and can introduce customers to them if required.
WLN – As Managing Director, what are you planning to do to spread the word about what Minster Logistics can do?
In the next 12-18 months, my focus will be on developing and managing our profile. Minster has been a well-kept secret up to now: I want to get the name more widely known, and am looking to increase awareness of our achievements to the market. As an example we were the first and only “end-to-end” voice enabled warehouse management system on the market – many other systems focus on picking, but we go wider.
WLN – Are you exhibiting at any shows this year?
We attended Logistics Link South in February and The Food & Drink Logistics Show in March. We will be at Logistics Live in June and IMHX in November. We see the exhibitions as one element to our marketing strategy going forward. Equally in 2010/11 we will also be investing in adding to the functionality of our website (www.minsterlogistics.com) and generally updating all of our marketing literature.
WLN – Can you tell us about some of the major contracts you have carried out recently?
We have delivered a number of major systems in the last year or so. Our work for Semichem began with an e-fulfilment solution that we completed in six to eight weeks, which led into a voice-enabled warehouse management solution for their Livingston DC. Last year we also delivered a full warehouse management solution to a major international supply chain organisation: this was a multiple depot WMS to support their expansion into the food service sector. One reason they chose us was our pedigree in that area.
WLN – How do you go about devising a solution for a client?
All our customers take our standard product, but they each have differing business drivers that will require different things, so we make the solution as configurable as possible in order to be a close a fit to their business as possible. The process starts by reviewing and understanding the customer’s business requirements at a detailed level, which is paramount to delivering the correct final end solution.
WLN – How long does it take to produce a fully costed solution?
Our role is to ensure the customer gets the right solution for their business – thus costing an implementation requires an element of detailed discussion, but with our experience this can be completed within a couple of weeks.
WLN – Do you provide full training?
Minster can provide full training support for its customers, both at the time of implementation and refresher training going forward. With larger organisations, the approach tends to be to train the trainer, and then work with them to train operating staff on the system they will be using.
WLN – How long does it take to see a return on investment?
‘ROI’ is a tricky question: it depends where the customer is on their journey to automation. Going from paper-based systems to a Minster voice solution, payback is typically in 12-18 months. Customers see significantly improved efficiencies in their end-to-end processes and gains in picking efficiency.
WLN – How scalable are your solutions as companies grow or evolve?
The system is totally scalable, from a single depot handling small volumes of orders per week to multiple depots processing thousands.
WLN – Are you part of any industry bodies?
We’re members of UKWA and GS1 UK. Part of my strategy is looking at how we can work with our fellow members of these organisations and other organisations going forward, to ensure that Minster leads the way in our areas of direct expertise.
WLN – How badly affected have Minster been by the recession – or has it been good for you?
The recession clearly hasn’t hit Minster, given our significant growth recently. Interestingly the recession has encouraged smaller, more agile companies to come to the fore, and we aim to address their demands with the functionality we can offer.
WLN – Finally, where do you see Minster Logistics going from here?
We have a strong product, good people, an excellent customer base and we are financially sound – the ideal foundations for growth. The future is very promising and I’m looking forward to realising the new vision for Minster.
Minster Logistics Tel: 01827 55334 www.minsterlogistics.com