Extreme Sports & Skate Equipment

Project Details

Descartes Peoplevox WMS, Shipster multiple courier integrations, custom shipping rules, label colour coding.

SkateHut is a retailer of outdoor sporting equipment such as skateboards, bikes, scooters, skates, as well as clothing and footwear. 

Launched as an online retailer in 2007, it rode the wave of the ecommerce boom and now has three bricks and mortar stores and a 65,000 sq ft warehouse in Halesowen in the West Midlands shipping up to one million items a year.

The Challenge

The arrival of David ‘Doc’ Willmore, Stock Systems Manager, and Jamie ‘Dell’ Blundell, Operations Director, in 2011 and 2012, respectively, triggered the first phase of SkateHut’s digital transformation. Their primary focus was stock control, picking and dispatch, which was manual and paper-based.

Descartes Peoplevox (PVX), the warehouse management system, helped SkateHut achieve total stock visibility, increased efficiency, increased customer satisfaction and created a strong foundation for continuing to scale the business.

However, while PVX transformed the pick to pack process, shipping was a bottleneck.

Dell explained:

“We sell everything from the tiniest bolt for a skateboard to 10 ft long surfboards which are shipped all over the world, so getting the right label on the package depending on the weight and size is vital. But the bolt on label software we used in conjunction with PVX was inefficient. We had an area of the warehouse where shipping problems went to be sorted and needed two or three people to correct labels. And often Doc had to be called down to help.”

 As well as the inefficiencies of human resources and time, there was a bottomline cost. Incorrect labelling was costing up to £6,000 per week in surcharges from couriers.

“The solution we were using for the dispatch benches was inadequate, clunky to manage and couldn't do everything that we needed it to do,” Dell added. “We needed control and better support when something went wrong.”

In 2017, PVX introduced SkateHut to Shipster.

The Solution

The first step was to integrate Shipster’s software with SkateHut’s complex array of 12,000 shipping requirements based on a shipment’s weight, volume, destination, value, or VAT and insurance requirements. This automated the process at the packing benches so when an operator scanned the item’s barcode, the correct labels for the order, customer and delivery are printed instantly.

Shipster was also able to create a custom solution for SkateHut’s dispatch benches which printed on colour-coded labels for specified delivery services. This made it quicker for operators to identify packages and load the waggons accurately.

As an integration platform, Shipster bolts onto PVX seamlessly, creating an end-to-end solution from ecommerce order through to dispatch. It collects data about shipments from PVX, processes the data, feeds it through the Shipster rules engine, contacts the courier and books in the shipment, prints the relevant shipping & promo documents and then passes the tracking data back into PVX and back to SkateHut’s sales platform).

The Results

The integration of PVX and Shipster has fully automated the pick to ship process for SkateHut, increasing efficiency and productivity, saving substantial amounts of money, and enabling operational flexibility for growth.

By moving to Shipster’s pay-per-unit licence model, SkateHut was able to develop a more efficient operation, allocating specific dispatch stations to specific couriers. Combined with the bespoke coloured label solution, operators were able to sort parcels much quicker.

Automation has made the dispatch process tremendously slick. It takes just five seconds from the moment a dispatch bench operator scans and approves the item to printing out a dispatching note and courier label. Increased speed means more packers can be assigned to one station, increasing packing bench productivity by 33%.

Accuracy has improved massively. Surcharges from incorrect labels have fallen from up to £6k a week to next to nothing, a huge saving each year. And while challenges do crop up, they have reduced to a handful.

Fewer problems has reduced the brain drain of senior managers having to be pulled down to the warehouse to solve problems, so they can focus on higher value tasks.

Doc explained:

“If you saw how slick our dispatch benches are now, it would take your breath away. It had just proved to be the perfect solution for us and still is.
“We were impressed by the power and control of the shipping rules, as well as the number of couriers Shipster were integrated into, but the stand-out thing was the willingness to customise the software for us.”

Shipster’s flexible licensing model, which can be controlled by SkateHut via a control panel, means that the business can add or remove licences or couriers during busier or quieter periods.

If there are any issues, Shipster has support engineers on hand to respond to any queries.

Overall, SkateHut is delighted with its relationship with the PVX/ Shipster partnership and has become a demonstrator, hosting visits from other ecommerce retailers to their warehouse.

“Change, while sometimes paramount, can be challenging,” Dell said. “The move to Shipster was quick, fluid and extremely successful from launch.
“Everyone in the organisation has reaped the benefits from shop floor to top floor. The reviews are glowing. It has proved to be the perfect solution, giving us instant benefits, making us more profitable, and laying the foundation to scale the business with confidence.”