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Alpens New distribution centre and warehouse management system drives growth, customer service and bottom line


There are, quite obviously, many reasons why companies elect to design and build a new distribution centre.

In the case of Alpen Products, Australias leading manufacturer and importer of party and catering accessory products, for example, the motives were many and varied.

The flourishing business needed to handle ongoing business growth. It wanted to substantially enhance customer service – via such things as vastly reduced order lead times. And Alpen also saw a potent opportunity to reduce costs and improve productivity.  Against such a background in 2007, Alpen moved from its previous northern Sydney facilities in Brookvale to the nearby suburb of Cromer. 

Over two years was spent meticulously planning, reviewing and designing exactly what facilities Alpen felt it needed in the new sales, administration, manufacturing and distribution centre for its 2000 plus SKUs.

With the move to its new facilities completed and highly successful, the company recently opted to further address its growth, customer service and bottom line objectives with the implementation of an advanced warehouse management system (WMS).  This latter initiative was also very specifically targeted at the job satisfaction of its staff. Facilitating the multi-tasking of warehouse personnel. Removing what were considered to be old style and too rigid reporting structures.

As well as adding to operational efficiencies, by giving personnel ‘at the coal face’ the capability to quickly and efficiently make a far greater contribution to day-to-day operation of the DC.

Alpen selected the PULSE WMS, designed, developed, and implemented by Australian headquartered PULSE Logistics Systems.

Established in 1967, Alpen distributes it products through a diverse range of retail, wholesale and educational markets. Markets that see it as a major supplier throughout Australia and New Zealand.

However, as managing director Greg Byrne stresses, “This is a highly competitive business in which the customer is supreme. So no matter how long you have been around, that counts for little, unless you are continually improving and enhancing how you are working with the all important people who buy from you.”


Gary Frost, professional services manager, PULSE Logistics Systems; Greg Byrne, managing director, Alpen Products; Andrew Barker, general manager, Alpen P roducts (L-R).


“To be successful you need to deliver quality. You need to deliver product satisfaction. But at day’s end you simply need to deliver. Not when you think you might be able to. But precisely when your clients want you to deliver.”

“In our old Brookvale set up, our expansion was fast outstripping what our warehouse could effectively service against our business benchmarks criteria.”

“And thus the decision to drastically change our facilities, processes, and IT systems.”

“We set, what I would describe as, an ambitious wish list for what we wanted to do.”

“That, as I said before, included a major improvement in order fulfilment, much greater inventory accuracy, better picking accuracy and much improved operational efficiencies.”

“So yes, the first step in achieving all of that was certainly moving to the new premises. But we always knew that this would be of marginal benefit without the implementation of a WMS.”

“Here we again took time to examine our options. But from our viewpoint, the system presented to us by PULSE Logistics Systems would do everything we needed, in the way we wanted to do it.”

With the geographical move and the PULSE WMS implementation now recently completed, Mr Byrne reports “mission accomplished”.

As Alpen’s general manager, Andrew Barker notes, “Previously, our order turnaround, particularly in busy seasons, could have been as much as three to four days. Now with the PULSE WMS our customers can expect same day or, at worst, next day despatch depending on, of course, how late an order comes in. And so that aspect of our ambition to improved customer service has been well achieved.”

“What is equally significant is that coping with peak order times can now be very simply managed.”

“Seasonally, we see our order levels more than double. Which in the past created a range of problems and issues for us. But now the PULSE WMS lets us handle this with ease.”

“The ability to handle those peak volumes, as anyone in a like business would well know, used to be all about taking on additional temporary staff.”

“Sure we needed them, but we were all too well aware that it seemed to take an eternity to train them. It seemed we would just get them ‘up to speed’ when they were no longer required.”

“Now with the PULSE WMS and RF, these all important temps are typically up and running in a day. We ‘buddy’ them with an experienced staff member and it is amazing just how quickly they become productive.”

And Mr Byrne adds, “PULSE has also drastically broadened what our DC staff can do and how they can do it.”

“Historically, if a storeman noted that a particular SKU, that was supposed to be available, appeared to be out of stock, he’d mention that to his supervisor who would then raise the issue with the front office. And when the latter had time, they’d try to resolve things.” 

“Now, all warehouse staff have the capability to immediately and simply address such issues using RF. So if a product just happens to be in its wrong slot, the guy on the floor can identify the problem immediately. And it then becomes an equally immediate task for the person responsible to get the problem sorted.”


“So let’s think about that. What our WMS and RF has given us is a way to make everyone on the team a real contributor. They see a hassle or an apparent stock anomaly and they can help solve it. There and then.”“And with that, we have also been able to strip back many of our more traditional reporting structures which has resulted in individuals feeling more a part of a real team. In itself that is a huge plus. And it took the WMS and RF to help make that happen.”

But back to moment-by-moment operational matters, where both Mr Byrne and Mr Barker agree that, “our new system also now gives us the pivotal performance statistics and data that we can look at on a daily basis. At a glance we can see where we are doing very well and also where things are not so perfect.”

“With our WMS we also have our designated ‘key performance indicators’ readily available, so we can easily see where we are at. This is a big contributor to good management. It’s something that now contributes to staff motivation, let’s us know when some re-training is required, and allows us to reward performance.

Adds Mr Byrne, “being efficient, is also, quite obviously, about good inventory management. We thought we had always been good in this essential task. But the WMS, with RF cycle counting, gives our warehouse staff the capability to identify exceptions and possible stock variances in real time, and it saw our last stock-take result in less than point zero one percent discrepancy.”


“But at the real coal face, it is still all about the customer. And so a further great contribution of our new WMS initiatives has been the dramatic reduction in picking errors. We have many large orders but also many small ones.”

“Every order warrants the same degree of precision. But in managing often very large volumes of small SKU orders quantities, our old way of doing things was not as error free as it should have been.”

“An issue that is now a problem of the past. And which to repeat myself gets to the nub of delivering great customer service.”

As Mr Byrne adds, “its also interesting to see how the PULSE WMS has impacted on our customer service staff. They are far more confident in handling urgent orders as they know the warehouse can handle these, and they also know the warehouse is equally confident it can. Which is another tick in the box for enhanced customer service.”

At the end of the day, Mr Byrne suggests that the real success of Alpen’s new DC facilities and WMS decision has been the response from customers.”

“They are enthusiastic about our new fulfilment capability. And, overall, it’s the service we now deliver that enthuses them to be solid and most valued repeat business clients. Our customers are our business. We wanted to service them better. And we are now convinced we are doing just that.”

    Published in MHD Supply Chain Solutions 


Ask yourself why are so many growing organisations implementing WMS alongside their existing or new business systems such as ERP and MRP? – As organisations struggle with diminishing product margins and less room for price negotiation they are turning attention to often out of control and increasing Supply Chain costs.

Following meticulous reviews of their existing and new business system requirements, savvy companies have identified that the ERP warehousing modules on offer just don’t have deep enough functionality to strip costs out of their supply chain, and cannot match their competitors who are operating with an advanced WMS.

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