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17 July 2014

Much more than network planning in CAST

F&E hears from one of the front runners in logistics planning

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How many regional warehouses do you need, and which of them should you use to fulfil orders for different parts of the country? How long should the lead time be for ordering up various product categories? How should you plan for seasonal peaks? How late can you make your consumer order cut-off times? How can you make best use of stock in transit?

Challenging questions like these might seem to demand a whole range of different software solutions, so it may come as a surprise to know that you can to tackle them all with a single software package.

That product is called CAST, or rather CAST Aurora, to use its latest name. It’s been around for twenty years, and started as a lean but effective network modelling tool. It answered questions such as "Where do I put my depots?" and "How to I organise my network infrastructure?"

Like many good ideas, it simply grew, and is now one of the world’s leading strategic supply-chain modelling tools. The original developer, Radical, was acquired in 2007 by South African-based Barloworld, and that step confirmed its global position.

According to Fraser Ironside, the UK-based head of strategic modelling, Barloworld ploughed "millions of pounds" into rewriting the code from the ground up. Users now include Carlsberg, DHL, CEVA Logistics, Wincanton and Unipart.

Don’t be deceived into thinking the company’s software deals only in depot networks; it’s far more granular than that. For instance, the Optimiza planning and inventory optimisation system can project range stock levels and generate suggested orders, taking account of factors such as stock profiles. "It forces stock planners to do their job properly," Ironside says.

He adds: "In the e-fulfilment world, it’s particularly useful in planning situations where the retailer needs to offer a 9pm cut-off time for next-day delivery. You might need multiple stock locations to deal with this, and CAST can handle this kind of calculation."

Interestingly, Ironside says CAST has been notably resilient during the long recession. "Our business doubled in three years," he says. His explanation is that users have realised that holding inventory means tying up capital, and have been eager to find ways to minimise it.

He points out that supply chains are increasingly complex, suffering from what he calls "SKU proliferation", and adds: "Spreadsheets and even standard ERP products won’t necessarily deal with this adequately."

He claims CAST is easy to deploy, since it simply sits on a PC, but links to a server to pull down the data. Alternatively, the company can host it. It uses a Microsoft SQL Server database.

Barloworld is an international giant, with interests ranging from full-service logistics to mechanical handling. It recently sold its UK-based handling operation to Briggs Equipment, but is keen to make it clear that the separate software operation, Barloworld Supply Chain Software, is still very much in business and is on the expansion trail. Its main development work is still done in the UK, though it also has a South African development wing.

Some of its customers use both the CAST Aurora modelling system and the Optimiza planning and inventory optimisation system – one example being Belron, the parent company of the Autoglass windscreen replacement business.


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