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John Hanna, Director of Operations
Atlanta Dental Supply
Atlanta, GA

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Industrial Distributor Opens the Productivity Valve

After improving a customer’s warehouse processes with new software, the solution provider phased out the WMS and rolled the functionality into a new ERP. 

Churn is a fact of business; customers come and customers go. But how does a company win back a customer once it has moved to a competitor’s product? For Warehouse Management System (WMS) provider PathGuide Technologies, the secret is simple – product innovation and exceptional customer support. At least, that’s according to industrial distributor Rawson, Inc. Rawson implemented PathGuide’s Latitude WMS, then phased it out three years later as it replaced its antiquated ERP. Once Rawson realized that it had also lost a lot of WMS functionality in the switch, the PathGuide team was soon back to help. Read on to learn why.

With 18 locations across Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mexico, Rawson offers instruments, valves and accessories and operates a booming value-add business assembling components for valve automation, control and monitoring, instrumentation, diaphragm seals and more.

Rawson’s distribution center in Houston, Texas is central to the success of the entire business, but the warehouse floor was often a scene of chaos and disorder. The company’s warehouse operations were purely paper-based until 2009 and relied on a 30-year-old JD Edwards ERP system. This led to frequent problems with inventory accuracy and delayed shipments. After seeing other distributors benefit from a dedicated WMS, Rawson began researching its options.

Seeing is believing

After seeing several warehouses operating with PathGuide’s Latitude WMS, Jeff Greenberg, director of operations at Rawson, still wasn’t sold. “The warehouses we visited were so quiet and organized that we thought they weren’t busy,” said Greenberg. Initially Rawson was skeptical that Latitude could interface with its old ERP, but PathGuide’s team built the necessary interface – at no extra cost.

Impressed by PathGuide’s ability to deliver a fully functioning WMS, Rawson implemented Latitude and immediately witnessed substantial improvements in warehouse processes, especially in receiving and picking. For three years Rawson experienced a much calmer, more efficient warehouse and had an error rate close to zero for shipping incorrect products.

Then in 2012 everything changed. Rawson decided to revamp its entire distribution business, starting with a completely new ERP system that included a warehouse management component. Believing that life would be better running on a single platform, Latitude was phased out and replaced with the native WMS functionality built into the new ERP. “If we’d originally started with our new solution, we probably would have been satisfied,” said Greenberg. “But having experienced Latitude, we realized that it didn't have the same richness in its put-away and picking routines, like being able to prevent users from mixing orders. We were losing functionality, but we thought we could live with it.”

Repeat performance

Within a year, however, Rawson needed more. “In 2013 our value-add business started growing so rapidly that we were running out of space,” said Greenberg. “As business continued to expand, we decided to install two vertical lifts.” Rawson approached both their current ERP provider and PathGuide for help.

“We learned that PathGuide offers superior expertise interfacing with material handling equipment, and could complete the project much faster than our current provider,” added Pat Fox, corporate warehouse manager at Rawson. “That’s what led us back to PathGuide and Latitude.” Within a very short time PathGuide had Rawson’s lifts completely integrated. “We were amazed that they achieved this so quickly,” said Fox. Lightning had struck twice!

The proof is in the pudding

What impressed Fox most about PathGuide was its unwavering commitment to support. “The PathGuide team is very responsive,” he explained. “If we have a problem, they get right to it. One time we had damage caused by a hurricane and PathGuide went above and beyond to fix everything, working late over a weekend. And it was all covered by our regular support agreement.”

“Our implementation of Latitude has helped enormously in shipping,” he added. “The shipping manifest system allows us to scan barcodes and interface directly with the ERP while also auto-populating information for the shipping station. We have 14 people using Latitude on a daily basis, and they are able to scan and match inventory to an original purchase order and create barcodes on the spot. Latitude’s dashboard is great for managing daily routines, so it’s easy to locate orders and see whether they’re on hold, ready for shipment, or ready to be picked.”

“Our warehouse today is very organized. We don’t have paper everywhere and people aren’t running around like crazy. We do still have some errors,” clarifies Greenberg. “But there’s been a drastic reduction in shipping mistakes. Everything works as advertised, and we couldn’t be happier with PathGuide.”