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Re-engineering Project Provides Massive Savings for GPU Power UK Supply Chain

GPU Power UK, the company that keeps the Midlands connected to the electricity network, has saved £Millions while enhancing the supply of vital power distribution components and equipment, with an imaginative supply chain re-engineering project. Key to the success has been centralising supply operations under the control of OPUS from Microlise.

Annual operational costs have been slashed by 2/3rds (£1.5Million) and inventory reduced by £2 Million. Staffing levels have been cut by 75% while service to the engineers has improved. Revenues have also been removed from the sale of freed property.

The company keeps the power flowing to 2.2 million customers from Bristol to Leek, and Banbury across to Wales. Urgent fault repairs, such as storm and flood damage could be required any time of the day or night.

To cater for this high speed emergency service and provide for planned maintenance work GPU Power UK, formerly known as Midlands Electricity, has a network of local stores which act as pick up points for the 1,000 plus field engineers.

There were 16 manned stores with paper driven operation, but GPU Power UK needed to improve service while reducing costs. Martin Burford, warehouse manager for GPU Power UK, takes up the story; “A re-engineering project was undertaken and the resulting improvements – 14 unmanned local stores, a central warehousing facility and the operation under the control of the OPUS warehouse management system - are fantastic. The whole idea is to keep men out in the field rather than waiting for or collecting supplies.”

This network is now supplied through a central distribution operation based in Evesham, which handles 2,500 lines ranging from a tiny washer, to a 2 Tonne transformer or 4.5m cross arms. “By having stock delivered centrally we have simplified ordering as well as cut inventory, with improved procurement and pricing. We have also used OPUS to change the way some items are handled, for example by cross docking.”

Orders for planned work are automatically triggered by GPU Power UK’s Engineering Resource Management System. Replenishment of emergency stock is driven automatically by the OPUS system, which also takes orders for items direct. Engineers use a hand held TRACER radio terminal with a barcode scanner, located at each local store, to record items taken. This information is communicated instantly to the store’s radio data base station, which is linked to OPUS via GPU Power UK’s Wide Area Network (WAN).

At the Evesham central warehouse, OPUS controls operations including receipts, put away, plus stock allocation and picking. Service levels are overnight delivery for any order placed up to 4pm, with heavy equipment or large quantities going direct to site rather than through local depots.

Operations from 8am-9pm are planned and co-ordinated using OPUS to achieve maximum speed, accuracy and efficiency from the small staff. All receipts are bar coded, making product identification and picking, using Microlise TRACER hand held radio terminals, very easy.

Smaller items are picked into plastic totes, each with an individual label and barcode. When an order is complete, this bagged, labelled and applied before being loaded into cages for delivery.

Deliveries to local stores take place by 1am, plenty of time for early morning pick ups. Drivers have access to local stores and using the local radio terminal, automatically updating stock records.

Automatic replenishment orders are created in OPUS daily but management are alerted any time stock falls below a minimum level.

The OPUS/U system, runing on an HP UNIX machine at Evesham with warm standby, interfaces with GPU Power UK’s business systems, updating stock records, receipts and deliveries.

The installation project was completed quickly in order to bring quick savings and payback. Martin “we knew centralisation would do it. We were also working to a very tight timescale and Microlise contributed with help and ideas.”

Following the creation of the new central warehouse local stores were closed or modified in a phased implementation. As Martin observes; “The system is a lot better than we had in the past, easier, more efficient and simpler.”

“OPUS covers all the donkey work, plus management and lines of communication instantly, for example someone in a store 100 miles away can provide or receive instant updates. Management information is useful and the audit trail gives a lot of productivity information,” commented Martin. “You can go down to any level of detail and tailor reports to what you want, with interfaces to Excel.”

“We have a wonderful system now and are very pleased with the results,” Martin adds. “We wouldn't operate without it.”

As Duncan Lewis, logistics manager with GPU Power UK states; “We have met all our objectives, including significant savings and improved customer service, in fact exceeded them. This project has been a strategically important step for the business and OPUS has made a big contribution.”

- Photographs available

For more information, please contact:

Press Enquiries

Nigel Lloyd Parry

The Marketing Management Off.

The Business-resource.netWORK

Whateley's Drive



Telephone: 01926 748008

All other enquiries

Caroline Salloway

Microlise Limited

Farrington Way



NG16 3AG

Telephone : 01773 713311

GPU Power – Supplier Checklist

Computerised WMS - OPUS from Microlise

Radio Terminals System at
Evesham - Microlise

Materials handling – FLT - Narrow Aisle Flexi

Racking & shelving - SSI Schaefer

Hand Held RDTs & computers at
Satellite stores - Microlise

Picking trolleys at Evesham - Standard shopping trolleys

Communications to/from stores - GPU Power’s WAN

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