About JW Filshill
JW Filshill Ltd was founded in Glasgow in 1875 and supplies over 200 KeyStore outlets across Scotland and the north of England. It also has 1,600 independent delivered customers.
The company is a member of Unitas Wholesale, the largest wholesale services company in the UK, with a buying power in excess of £8 billion.
JW Filshill and KeyStore have been ranked number one by suppliers in the respected independent Advantage Group Report – in 2021, Filshill came out on top in the wholesale channel programme for the ninth year in succession while KeyStore led the fascia groups for the third consecutive year.
JW Filshill is an award-winning wholesaler and has won the coveted Champion of Champions award at Scottish Wholesale Achievers an unprecedented seven times.
Following significant growth across the Covid period, Filshill have recently reviewed their 10-year strategy and defined the next steps in their 1-3 year plan. With the addition of their new, purpose-built warehouse, they plan to utilise data to inform decisions on the potential of future business opportunities and to deliver demand, financial, and other forecasts.
Filshill engaged with The Data Lab in March 2021, seeking assistance in developing a Data and Technology roadmap to underpin their innovation ambitions. The TORCH team were recruited to review Filshill’s established applications and data environments, and consider how these might evolve to better serve the business. Following recent experimentation with AI, the Filshill team wanted to understand how they could exploit data better, and to introduce further AI and ML methods moving forward.
Derrick Richardson, Epos Manager, JW Filshill told us,
“We knew we already had good systems in place, but we also knew that there were opportunities out there to improve. How can we maximise the use of that data? How can we work with our suppliers better? How can we share information with them (and our retailers) that will benefit all of us?
We also wanted to review automation. We need to make sure the human element in the process is not wasted in transforming the data. Instead we want to use their skill set and experience to turn this data into actionable insights.”
The well-established business has vast amounts of data and, as a result, the engagement required a number of detailed explorations with TORCH Senior Solutions Architect, Margery McConnell. The key themes/recommendations reached:
- Develop a Filshill Logical Data Model (at a high level). We advised the team consider a base model as a starting point and split this into domains, each with a primary owner
- Establish a “Data Insights Platform” in order to further capture operational data, incorporate external data, advance their AI & ML agenda, and deliver insights
- Consider how to best build on, or, on occasion, plan to retire, older business systems in the analytical space
- Prepare for upskilling: the technical and business teams will require skills suited to future work (as detailed below).
The proposed Data Platform could be implemented using a multitude of different data and technology options. However, with limited in-house technology capacity, we advised that Filshill adopt a suite-based solution with all (or most) components from the same supplier. To progress, we recommend that the team partner with a proven data and analytics specialist, with specific expertise and experience in their own industry domain. To support this, TORCH identified a number of qualified specialists from the TORCH Supplier Network.
The Filshill team have wasted no time in implementing the TORCH recommendations. Having met with two of the identified Suppliers, they chose to take their project forward with Glasgow-based solutions specialists, Bridgeall, who came with a wealth of experience in the Retail sector. As they wait for Bridegall’s final proposal, the organisation plans to begin with three key projects that they predict will add value to the business, using these as a starting point for their data journey.
They have already begun moving their data over to the Azure cloud service and the team are also learning more about Power BI.
And, with people being such a key focus for the business, Filshill have set up an internal data steering group (with an aim to ensure consistency across the business). They told us, “We’re keen to make sure the people that are here get the opportunity to upskill.”
Picking up media interest …
Filshills’ efforts haven’t gone unnoticed and CEO, Simon Hannah, was recently featured on the Go Radio Business Show to discuss modernising the business with data, their values, their 10-year plan, and how they drove their vision through the team.
TORCH feedback and value of Scottish expertise
Going into this engagement, Filshill knew they had a strong, established team, but also acknowledged that there were some things they just weren’t ready to do in-house,
“We were looking for expertise, to help guide us through the process, making sure that we didn’t make mistakes and spend money we didn’t have to spend.
It’s like building a house. You have a good idea what you would like to build, but you still need an Architect and Structural Engineer to guide you through the process.
There’s been a real openness and warmth to the TORCH experience and both the Supplier partners proposed by the team were excellent.”
And, the TORCH conversations have brought about new introductions to forums and organisations working through similar challenges,
Margery told us,
“Building that peer group and making introductions, especially when people are in similar businesses (but not competitors), is just part and parcel of what we’re trying to do at TDL. Sometimes it can feel like you’re on a bit of a lonely journey; however, when you look around Scotland’s business community, you will find others happy to exchange experience and ideas with you.”
Could you do more with data?
Speak to our business support team to discover the growth opportunities that data and AI present, develop your contacts, knowledge and expertise, and boost your productivity and profits.