Culverdocs supports one of the UK’s leading pet product brands to move away from manual quality control processes in its warehouse and manufacturing operations, improving record management and delivering huge time savings.
- Quality control inspections
- Exception reporting
- Non-conformance workflows
- Supplier dashboard and accreditations
- Secure reporting and record keeping
Armitage Pet Care can trace its roots to 1775, when Samuel Fox Armitage founded his company. Today, the company supplies some of the UK’s biggest retailers with high-quality pet care products. As well as manufacturing stock in its Nottinghamshire factory, it works with suppliers around the world.
Kev King, Head of Manufacturing & Compliance, joined the company in 2017 tasked with updating the company’s operations and attaining key ISO accreditations and discovered that existing processes were very manual and paper-based. Once the business had achieved the ISO 9001 Quality Management standard and the ISO 14001 Environmental Management standard in 2018, Kev began looking for ways to further optimise operations.
“One of my targets for 2021 was to digitalise our quality control operations,” explains Kev. “A lot of our suppliers are in the Far East, so moving to an app-based process would ensure greater transparency and data sharing both ways. Initially, I wanted to get all the documentation online, so I could access it wherever I was in the world. And so that suppliers could understand exactly what they were expected to do.”
At that time, quality control processes involved wheeling a trolley of paper manuals around the warehouse to undertake the necessary checks and then fill out a paper form. This would then be taken back to the office and typed up into Excel spreadsheets on the office computer. This was a very cumbersome and time-consuming process.
When things got busy, a backlog could build up in the warehouse. Kev would have to take people off the manufacturing lines, to send them over to the warehouse to clear the backlog – causing more delays downstream. “I don’t want to be sending staff across when there is product to check in the main factory,” explains Kev. Having worked in the highly automated automotive manufacturing sector, Kev knew that digitalising the process could deliver huge benefits.
“I wanted a very simple system this time. When I got in touch with Culverdocs and explained what I needed, we had several meetings. Their customer base gave me confidence that Culverdocs could deliver what I needed. The risk seemed very low,” explains Kev. “And it was a great price – unbelievable, really. At that kind of value, I was quite happy to give it a go.”
Their customer base gave me confidence that Culverdocs could deliver what I needed. The risk seemed very low.
Kev says he has been particularly impressed by the consultative approach taken by Culverdocs. “To be fair, I didn’t really know what I wanted,” he admits. “I kind of knew, but Culverdocs are really good at coming up with ideas. Within a week they’ll come back with something to try.”
In May 2020, Kev took the decision to kick off the project with a digital quality control form to support visual inspections. He began working with Culverdocs to design a suitable solution. At the same time, he purchased new phones and tablets for staff on which they could run the new app.
Instead of wheeling round a trolley of files and documents, all the information was now accessible on their hand-held devices through the app. “It saved my team a lot of work,” emphasises Kev, “a lot of work.”
The Culverdocs app was extremely well received by staff. “At first they were sceptical,” says Kev, “but almost straight away my quality controller told me he saved so much time. His day used to be three hours of inspection and five hours typing it up, doing the reports, sending the emails. If he found anything wrong he had to raise a report. But now, because of the app, he doesn’t need to write that report. He just clicks a button and the report is automatically generated. He doesn’t need to do anything else. On a bad day, it would save him at least four or five hours – so sixty percent of his time. And, on a good day, he can just get more products checked out of the way.”
Since launching the app, it has never been necessary to send additional staff over to the warehouse to clear a backlog. This alone equates to time savings of around six to twelve days per month. “One day of my quality manager’s time is worth six months of the app. I’ve got several times ROI right there,” explains Kev, “And I’ve got a reporting system that is much more robust. The reports are instant; we’re not dealing with an Excel sheet. It’s all standardised. And its cloud-based. When you look at it, it absolutely outweighs the cost.”
One day of my quality manager’s time is worth six months of the app. I’ve got several times ROI right there.
The app is also making life easier for Kev. He says, “It makes it so easy for me. I can report now, immediately, straight out of the app. It shows this is where we are now; this is what we’ve got.” The reports can be shared with the executive team and the purchasing department.
There are environmental benefits too. Colour matches can be checked via the app, so the business has eliminated a lot of colour printing it used to do. As well as being better for the environment, this has saved money on time, energy, paper and inks. With more than 1,000 products, some of which can change two or three times per year, this saving is substantial.
Some of the money saved has been spent on updated mobile devices, so the team have new capabilities for video conferencing which they use if they need to escalate issues.
Even staff who were initially nervous about moving to an app, have bought into Culverdocs. “My quality manager worried what we were going to do with all the files and folders,” says Kev. “We agreed to keep them for six months to be sure the app worked, then we’d bin them. We have got away from all that paperwork; all that storage. Now, she absolutely loves it.”
Following this initial success, Kev has continued to work with Culverdocs to digitalise processes. “It took about six weeks, maybe less than that, to get the first app up and running. We’ve developed it fifty times since then,” says Kev.
One such development was a supplier portal where suppliers can do their own QC inspections prior to dispatch. It went live in October 2020. “The supplier can log into the app,” explains Kev. “We tell them what we want from them. They complete the form. I then get a certificate of conformity from them via the app before they ship it.”
Culverdocs helped ensure that the app met all the supplier requirements, including meeting technology standards for it to be approved for use in China. Now, with these pre-checks completed using the app, the plan is for the warehouse team to have a phased transition from checking everything to spot checks.
At the beginning of 2021, Kev began working with Culverdocs on a supplier audit solution, which could save thousands of pounds on independent inspectors. All the supplier information, including inspections, non-conformance certificates, accreditations is all in the app. “The dashboard is so simple. And it’s valuable information that does help with purchasing,” Kev explains.
Kev is also working on a new solution for customer service. The idea is that customer complaints can be tracked and monitored as part of the overall quality control reporting. “We’ll have a dashboard that has the definitive data. If I have more than five complaints in a month about a product, it will trigger a higher inspection but that’s work in progress,” says Kev. “I come up with lots of crazy ideas and Culverdocs puts them into practice!”
Kev hopes that the information in the portal can also be leveraged to simplify and streamline the new paperwork around exporting. “The app has saved administrative time, but that is now being used up with export paperwork. Ideally, we want to get all that in the app too.”
Armitage Pet Care was acquired by Spectrum Brands in October 2020. With manual processes in place elsewhere in the group, Kev hopes that the Culverdocs solution will be picked up on a wider basis across the group.
He says, “Culverdocs are great at drawing out my ideas and converting them into a solution that works. So far, we’ve been pretty successful. It’s hard to go to an IT person and say I’ve got a problem, but I don’t know how to fix it, but I can do that with Culverdocs. And it’s very competitive. And it’s so easy. I would definitely recommend it to anybody. We need more people like Culverdocs in the world to help us get us out of COVID, so let’s do it!”
Culverdocs are great at drawing out my ideas and converting them into a solution that works. So far, we’ve been pretty successful.