Scalable WMS Keeps Pace with Exponential Growth

Distributor climbs from manual to automated operations while reducing errors and elevating productivity

In 1990, Australian mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape became the first person to climb from sea level to the summit of Mt. Everest, using lightweight outdoor gear crafted by fellow climber and product designer Roland Tyson. The two later co-founded Sea to Summit, naming their Australian company after the successful expedition. With global expansion of their brand, they now supply gear ranging from dry bags to sleeping bags and camp kitchenware to retailers such as REI, Cabela’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods. To accommodate exponential growth, the company’s distribution center in Boulder, Colo., moved into a new facility and installed a new scalable warehouse management system (WMS).

Employing approximately 50 staff, the North American DC experienced rapid growth that quickly put pressure on its small warehouse. When management made the decision to move to a larger facility, they also took the opportunity to overhaul warehouse operations by adopting a state-of-the-art WMS.

“In our previous warehouse, we were simply bursting at the seams and couldn’t capitalize on new sales opportunities,” says Shaun Frazier, Operations Manager.

Evaluating and Rolling Out Latitude WMS

Sea to Summit evaluated several WMS solutions, and ultimately rolled out a new WMS that was compatible with its with SAP Business One enterprise resource planning system (ERP).

“After an on-site inspection of another distributor using the same combination, we were incredibly impressed by the functionality and its seamless integration,” Frazier says, “so we knew we had a winner.”

The WMS rollout was carefully phased in to reduce potential disruption. The operations team began receiving goods using the WMS, and began storing and picking inventory from a single, generic location. In preparation for the full system go-live, the warehouse team conducted a full inventory, and taught the WMS all of the product barcodes along the way.

“Our implementation went without a hitch,” Frazier says. “I really give it high marks. It’s smooth, glitch-free, and works seamlessly with our ERP. In addition, the web interface is straightforward and easy to use and the whole platform works exactly the way we had envisioned.”

The WMS supplier’s engineering team helped design well-defined pick-paths. Once product has been picked, it’s fed down a conveyor to the packing and validation stations. The warehouse team also adopted 100% paperless picking, allowing all warehouse workers to be directed solely by their hand-held RF terminals.

After an order has been packed and validated, it continues to the ship line where it is manifested. Each customer has its own profile set up in the ERP, which the WMS accesses to retrieve information about preferred shipping method, account payment processing and even expedited shipping details. This functionality has saved Sea to Summit countless employee hours while increasing order accuracy.

“Prior to implementation, we already had processes in place, but they were incredibly manual and inefficient,” Frazier says. “Our volumes have continued to rise dramatically, but the number of errors is extremely low and we’ve been able to cut training time for new employees by 50%. Our operations are far more straightforward and streamlined now.”