As subsidiary of Sonepar, Technische Unie is the largest wholesaler of technical parts in the Netherlands. Delivering more than 28,000 products of over 700 suppliers Technische Unie is a specialist in parts for electronics, lighting, climate control, plumbing and heating, and all related tools. By use of one central stock and22 local warehouses, any contractor can get its materials on time.
The central stock is managed by the inventory planners. They work in a highly automated environment, in which forecasting plays an important role. Sometimes it felt like a game of chance to make a new replenishment order based on the forecast.
The objective of Technische Unie is to continuously improve their inventory management in order to offer the best service against the lowest possible costs. Inventory management should be based on rational decisions, not be executed as a game of chance.
A classroom training on inventory management is organised to teach the participants a better understanding of how the planning system works, how the forecast is made and how to judge suggested replenishment orders. On request of Technische Unie this training was tailored into multiple short evening sessions.
Each classroom session took place at the end of the working day and concluded with a number of tasks being issued as homework in preparation for the next session. These tasks produced interesting discussions within the departments about the right solutions. Different notions about inventory costs and order costs became clearly apparent, and the challenge lies in finding the right balance between them. The simulation software that the participants could access from a laptop during the course also helped to provide valuable insights into the consequences of changing settings.
The various options for managing inventory provided ample food for thought. In the last session all lessons learned came together in playing the supply chain management game.
The company expects that the new knowledge its employees have gained will enable a further improvement to quality. At Technische Unie, it is definitely no longer a game of chance, but rather a daily game of tactics to satisfy as many customers at the lowest possible costs.