Appleby Westward Case Study - Retail / Distribution

SPAR Distributor make fruitful savings in excess of £50,000 with DG software



“Formate is like an extra member of staff who works 24/7, doesn’t complain or ask for pay rises.”

Ross Griffiths, IT Manager


Appleby Westward-website-1


Click HERE to download the Appleby Westward Case Study in PDF version

Appleby Westward were wasting huge amounts of  time & money with manual paper based business processes until they implemented Formate which saved over £50k pa and increased efficiency.

01604 671177
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Appleby Westward implements Formate and infoRouter.  infoRouter provides a repository for all business documents whilst the Formate virtual printer captures their invoice report and automatically splits it by retailer.  The whole process runs automatically saving thousands of man hours every year.  Read on to see how this project was achieved.


Appleby Westward is the SPAR wholesaler for the West Country, with a long-established local distribution service.

Appleby Westward prides itself in being more than simply a distributor of goods and takes a very active role in helping retailers increase sales and profitability. Part of Appleby Westward’s commitment to retailers is a strict adherence to 24 hour order lead times, meaning their backend systems must be both robust and efficient, with the flexibly to cope with changing trading conditions.

The Challenge

The Central Billing Department in Appleby Westward acts as a buying consortium, allowing retailers to buy through Appleby Westward, even though retailers may place orders directly on suppliers.

A weekly store pack is sent to each retailer containing a summary of all the orders previously placed and copy of the supplier’s invoice.

This pack includes a large document containing over 50 pages and is sent to over 250 retailers. The manual photo-copying and filing of supplier invoices into a series of “pigeon holes” was proving to be a problem with each retailer having its’ own pigeon hole.

At the end of the week, it would be someone’s task to systematically retrieve all the supplier invoices from a specific pigeon hole, and then attach them to the consolidated invoice (PL260 report) from their BCP business system, thus creating the invoice pack for one retailer. As Appleby Westward have over 250 retailers this process took a significant amount of time and staff found it a dull and unrewarding task.

“Document Genetics had an off the shelf solution which meant we got what we needed quickly and with a rapid ROI. The cost saving per annum is over £50,000!” Tony Gummow, Finance Director.

In addition, the filing cabinets and pigeon holes took up lots of valuable office space.

Queries from retailers also presented a problem as the copy invoices were all filed manually. Answering questions involved trawling through reams of paper to find the document relating to a specific query. This again wasted time and delayed the response to their stores.

“I decided to investigate new ways to deliver the store pack whilst saving electronic copies of both the supplier and consolidated invoice.

We were wasting hours and money simply photo-copying and sorting pieces of paper. We also had a high turnover of staff as people found the job repetitive. I wanted to scan all the paper supplier invoices and store them electronically. This would enable us to run our consolidated invoice report and automatically match and attach an image of the supplier invoice. I also wanted the ability to deliver the report electronically via PDF. I believed it could be done, but didn’t know how, which is where Document Genetics came in!” Tony Gummow, Finance Director.

The Solution

The Document Genetics solution can be broken down into 3 key areas:

  1. A scanning solution allows a user to scan a batch of paper invoices, extract the index data from the invoice (e.g. invoice number, date, supplier, total etc), then release the images and meta-data to the document management repository. Finally, the batch of scanned invoices are automatically registered on the BCP business system.

  2. The document management repository holds a PDF image of the supplier invoice, with indexes, along with any other supporting documents (e.g. copy of the original PO, GRN etc). Users on the network with access rights can quickly search for and find a copy of a supplier invoice – this can be viewed, printed, faxed or emailed, all within seconds.

  3. Lastly, an output management element of the solution takes the consolidated invoice report from the BCP business system, reads the retailer code, then automatically retrieves the relevant supplier invoices from the document management repository and attaches them. The store pack is then printed or emailed in a PDF format to the relevant store.

The Detail

Scanning of Paper Invoices
Scanning of the physical paper invoices is carried out using a Kodak i250 scanner, which scans at a speed of over 50 pages per minute. For the larger suppliers (i.e. the ones which send a high volume of invoices), the capture software automatically identifies the invoice and key index fields are automatically extracted. For the smaller suppliers, index fields are manually keyed from image. One of the index fields captured is the supplier code – once read, this is verified against a supplier list held in a SQL database to check its validity.

Document Management
infoRouter now provides a repository for all documents within the business. This encompasses scanned paper invoices, BCP business system documents processed via the Formate Output Management Software or even human readable copies of EDI invoices held in a PDF format. Documents can be easily accessed by authorised employees, using a powerful search engine. In addition, Formate can also retrieve documents via an ODBC lookup facility.

Delivery Store Packs
Formate provides the backbone for the new store pack system. The Formate virtual printer captures the BCP consolidated invoice report and automatically splits it by retailer. It then retrieves an image of the supplier invoice from infoRouter and attaches it to the consolidated invoice. Formate then checks SQL database table to determine the correct delivery method, which is either hard copy print or email. For those being emailed, Formate creates a single PDF document of the store pack and emails it to the correct address for each store. The whole process runs automatically saving thousands of man hours every year.

Cost Savings

The cost saving achieved in this project are remarkable. Appleby Westward provided the figures given below:

Paper Cost Savings - £15,000 per annum

  • Replacing pre-printed A4 continuous invoice stationery with plain A4 copier paper
  • End of day and other routine reports archived as PDF files for viewing instead of overnight printing on continuous listing paper
  • Scanned images avoid photocopying VATable supplier invoices on A4 copier paper

Staffing - £30,000 per annum

  • A reduction of two staff in Central Billing from scanning supplier invoices; eliminating the process of inputting in supplier batches, photocopying, filing alphabetically in retailer order then finally retrieving and checking in a weekly routine. Now once the supplier batches are scanned and input, the system prints invoice sets once a week and there is no further checking.

External Scanning - £12,000 per annum

  • Complete sets of Goods Received paperwork were collated and sent to a third party for scanning after six months to facilitate later document retrieval. Appleby Westward now capture images of documents generated by the BCP system
    and scan paperwork received from suppliers and carriers in-house. 

About Document Genetics 

At Document Genetics, we have helped countless businesses of all sizes to automate their document processes – this cuts costs, improves customer service and delivers many other benefits. We offer a wide range of software and services to address your need.

Contact Document Genetics on 01604 671177, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

View our range of Case Studies