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Akademibokhandeln, the Swedish bookseller with 125 stores across the country, is already improving availability and cutting inventory with its new RELEX supply chain management system – even before it is fully rolled out.

The retailer had identified a number of goals when it set out to upgrade its supply chain. Amongst them were improving its management of promotions and of the sharp sales spike in the three weeks to Christmas that account for almost 20% of annual revenue.

Another particular challenge for all booksellers is forecasting demand for the constant stream of new titles with no sales history.
The project’s 5-store pilot phase began in autumn 2014. ”We wanted to test the system out during our most important sales period – Christmas, before we made the decision to continue with RELEX,” says Akademibokhandeln’s Purchasing and Logistic Manager Harold Op het Veld.

During the months that followed a number of unforeseen business challenges were identified. “That was when RELEX really proved its worth,” says Mattias Tell, Supply Chain Manager at Akademibokhandeln. “Because RELEX is so agile it’s easy to adapt to situations as they occur. With traditional systems everything has to be specified in advance so it’s hard to be that flexible.”

“Because RELEX is so agile it’s easy to adapt to situations as they occur. With traditional systems everything has to be specified in advance so it’s hard to be that flexible.”

“As the project progressed we could understand RELEX potential even better which resulted in further valuable fine-tuning of the inventory management processes, for instance automatic product ramp downs as well as automatic review of the assortment to continuously remove slow movers.”
The introduction of RELEX was part of a move to centralise replenishment across the 77 stores directly managed by the company (others are franchised). Pilot stores saw availability improve by 3 %.

“The results were more than we expected with improved availability. That’s when we decided to go ahead with the full roll-out,” adds Op het Veld. The system will be operational across the last of the stores this autumn.

“The results were more than we expected with improved availability. That’s when we decided to go ahead with the full roll-out.”

Centralising ordering made a huge cut in the amount of time spent on replenishment. One planner is able to do in a few hours what had previously taken staff in every one of the 77 stores hours every week. That allows staff to focus on impeccable customer service.

“Akademibokhandeln provided an excellent showcase for our Business Rules Engine,” says RELEX co-founder and head of Scandinavian operations Johanna Småros.
“For instance with RELEX you can add new rules governing stock rampdowns. You can then test the rules before applying them, all in good time before the product is completely phased-out. It’s a fast, secure and continuous way to develop replenishment, without a lot of time-consuming and costly programming”.