Manitoba Liquor Control Commission automates supply chain

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) is starting on a journey toward an inventory replenishment system that will centralize and automate what is typically a laborious and clerical task for the province’s liquor store managers.
The Winnipeg-based alcohol regulation and distribution agency has just started the project planning phase for introducing the new supply chain software for the province’s 50 liquor stores.

Gerry Sul, the chief corporate services officer with MLCC said the technology is part of a new strategy by the agency that will move retailers towards “a push system, as opposed to a pull system.”

By that, Sul means the goal is to take away the logistics of inventory allocation and replenishment from liquor stores to the MLCC’s head office. There, a small team can better oversee inventory as well as the various distribution arms for the stores when weekly replenishment orders stream in from across the province.

“With 50 liquor stores, each responsible for assortment, you can get into inconsistent application of our strategy and philosophy,” said Sul. The MLCC oversees 1,700 liquor licensees in total, including the 50 liquor stores.

But the technology implementation, with an estimated timeline of eight to 12 months, will be intentionally gradual in order to mitigate risk. The first stage is to turn on software functionality for inventory management, eventually followed by demand forecasting and retail analytics.

Being the sole liquor distributor in the province, the MLCC cannot afford mistakes in any new technology deployment, said Sul. So, part of this cautious approach is a pilot, featuring five stores, set to launch end of this summer. Then if all goes well, the software will be scaled to all 50 stores.

The MLCC is Aldata Solution Inc.’s first Canadian customer for the supply chain software. Elsewhere in Canada, grocery chain Sobeys uses Aldata’s retail space planning offering.

Jyrki Ihanainen, vice-president of sales with the Atlanta, Ga.-based software vendor, explained that the Merchandizing Optimization and Demand-Based Replenishment software, about to be deployed by MLCC, is basically a full enterprise resource planning package that covers master data management to automated replenishment.

That, said Ihanainen, means retail chains can not only ensure the right assortment in the right stores through proper inventory management, but also adhere to industry regulations that require a proper sales pace to give equal opportunity to suppliers.

Prior to working with MLCC, Ihanainen had just recently deployed its retail ERP across a Finnish government-owned liquor chain, which shared a similar business model and supply chain channels as MLCC.

While MLCC is striving for a more centralized inventory process, Sul also expects the new technology will help push the liquor agency toward industry best practices.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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