Cloud-based software smooths LCBO's purchase order and delivery operations
FROM THE OCTOBER 2012 MM&D PRINT EDITION
Step-by-step, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is making business flow better by moving some core supply chain procedures into the cloud.
The Ontario government agency, responsible for purchasing and retailing wine and spirits in the province, has steadily been looking for ways to streamline procedures, reduce errors, and free up staff from clerical duties so they can perform more complex, higher-value work. To that end it has completely reworked both its purchase order and inbound delivery scheduling systems, and turned them from laborious, inefficient, paper-, fax- and telephone-based processes into Web-based, automated, self-serve systems.
The LCBO buys alcoholic beverages from roughly 2,700 suppliers in 75 countries. Some suppliers are major, multi-national organizations. Others are small artisanal producers who sell only a few cases of wine to the LCBO every year. In total the agency issues about 40,000 purchase orders (PO) annually.
Implementing a system that was both robust enough to handle the number of purchase orders the LCBO issues and simple enough that it could be used by its entire supplier base made choosing the type of platform a pretty easy decision.
“We knew it needed to be Web-based. We knew it needed to be accessible from anywhere in the world, around the clock. It had to provide that PO visibility. It had to be secure, and have a secure protocol for access and it had to provide online training for problem issues and support problem resolution 24/7. We also needed it to provide good audit trail tracking, exception reporting and real time visibility,” says Lisa MacGregor, director of supply chain for the LCBO.
The LCBO was already using a few applications, including its new submission system (NISS), developed and hosted by the Mississauga, Ontario-based QLogitek division of Logitek Data Sciences Ltd, so it returned to that company to create a Web-based purchased order management system, referred to inside the LCBO as WEB PO. WEB PO, however, was was much larger in scope and was to be the first step in a more integrated supply chain management solution.
Because of the vast changes this system would bring, the LCBO knew it had to invest a great deal in supplier training and preparation before the system could go live, says project manager David Collins.
“With 2,700 suppliers around the world, getting them registered was a big task before roll out. That was the main hurdle for the WEB PO rollout. We developed our own in-house application for them to register. We had them sign up an administrator. They would provide their e-mail address and background information. We would verify that. We held back all the passwords and user IDs until the weekend before we actually rolled out so they didn’t lose them ahead of time. After they became an administrator, they could sign up additional people from their own office.”
One of the challenges facing the LCBO was the multilingual nature of its supplier base. The software itself is only available in English, but suppliers who had problems due to language were able to call the QLogitek-run support line and receive assistance delivered in their native languages.
WEB PO has all but eliminated phone calls and faxes for regular transactions. Now only exception-based incidents need to be dealt with manually. The software handles the rest of the normal, everyday transactions.