When Your ERP-based WMS Fails
As the largest independent orthotic and prosthetic distributor in the US, Cascade Orthopedic Supply has been providing high-quality, efficient distribution services for over 30 years. The California-based supplier strives to provide the highest level of customer service and support possible, including ‘order in by 5 ships same day’ and overnight at ground rates.
When Cascade originally realized the need for a warehouse management solution (WMS), their initial starting point was the embedded WMS that came with their ERP solution.
But soon after enabling the wireless WMS add-on, they noticed deficiencies that are inherently present in ERP-based warehousing solutions, including decreased overall system performance, and rigid and inflexible processes.
Cascade began looking for a more robust warehouse solution. They evaluated several warehouse solutions, but ultimately decided on Latitude WMS, provided by PathGuide Technologies, a company that specializes in warehousing and distribution.
Cascade faced the following problems with their previous WMS, each of which was easily solved by Latitude.
Problem: WMS resource hog
Cascade’s old WMS used handheld devices that connected to the server through a Remote Desktop Session and opened the same ERP application as other users. As a result, any warehouse worker using an RF gun would use the same computing resources as anyone working with the ERP on a computer terminal. Warehouse work ended up tying up ERP user licenses, which created a higher cost of ownership.
Solution: Latitude frees up ERP user licenses and processing power
Latitude WMS also uses handheld devices for warehouse tasks, but the devices connect instantaneously to the Latitude servers, and require less processing power to run than other solutions. Warehouse users don’t log into the ERP and no ERP licenses are used by the warehouse staff.
Problem: Incorrect PO branch
Cascade’s previous WMS didn’t alert users if a PO was about to be received in the wrong warehouse location. The WMS couldn’t suggest any putaway locations. Staff were then required to manually un-receive the PO and re-receive it to the correct warehouse.
Solution: Branch Notification
Latitude notifies the receiver if an order is received that is meant for a different branch. The user then notifies a manager that the order needs to be re-routed to the correct branch.
Problem: Item labeling issues
Cascade’s previous WMS system printed item labels, in random order, at the conclusion of a receiving job. The
receiver would then sort through received items to match the labels with the product.
Solution: Latitude labeling
When receiving a purchase order in Latitude WMS, the user has the option to print a label after each item is received. When the receiver accepts the prompt, receipt labels are printed as part of the receiving process. Labels are either affixed to the product at the point of receipt, or if printed later, printed in order of receipt.
Problem: Barcode learning problems
Barcode learning is an absolute must for a warehouse management system, but it wasn’t handled well by Cascade’s old WMS. It could take several steps, and several minutes, for a new barcode to be accepted into the old system.
Solution: Barcode learning in a snap
With Latitude WMS, barcodes are instantaneously learned as part of the receiving process. Additionally, because many products come with several barcodes stamped on packaging, each item in Latitude can have unlimited barcodes associated with its unique record, even different barcodes from different manufacturers (or other distributors).
Problem: Not able to track receiving
Because Cascade’s previous WMS used a type of batch processing for receiving jobs, users had no visibility into a receiving job until the job was completed, approved, and posted. Rather than providing real-time information between the RF gun used in receiving and the server, the old WMS tied a purchase order to a specific RF gun and locked the purchase order for processing. No further information on the purchase order would be sent back to the server until the receiving job was posted as complete.
Solution: Latitude real-time tracking
In Latitude WMS, every warehouse task is visible in real time via Latitude Web. Each scan, each task, and each user are tracked and time-stamped. No more wondering whatever happened to that one PO – you can see it being received from Latitude Web. Coupled with real-time alerts (like notifications sent when a PO hits the dock door) Latitude’s flexibility and versatility vastly dwarf that of Cascade’s previous WMS.
“This kind of info has helped us maximize our productivity, which in turn, has minimized the ‘crunch time’ that we experience at the end of the day,” says Dave Campbell, Vice President of Operations at Cascade. “Another bonus is many fewer receiving mistakes.”
Problem: Putaway bin limits
Cascade’s old WMS handled receiving rather poorly. After items were received, they weren’t automatically entered into a putaway job. When putaway personnel created putaway jobs, they were forced to re-scan and re-key information like quantity in order to enter the items into warehouse bin locations.
Additionally, the old WMS limited putaway to primary bins only. When users needed to put items away in non-primary bins, they were required to manually change the bin information at a computer terminal. This meant that many times, receivers had to write down a new bin number on a piece of paper and then enter the bin information for the item into the ERP system later. This, of course, led to mistakes, as users noted the wrong bin or occasionally forgot to enter the information after receiving.
Solution: Advanced putaway
To begin a putaway job in Latitude WMS, a user only needs to scan the load or cart that items were received into. Users never have to enter quantity information a second time. Additionally, Latitude supports multitude putaway routines and is customizable so that distributors can decide what rules and modes of putaway make sense. This approach has helped Cascade limit the number of misplaced items, which in turn makes picking faster and more accurate.
Problem: Different shipping process for international packages
Cascade has always maintained a competitive advantage by offering a variety of fast, low-cost shipping options to its customers. However, with their previous WMS, international shipping was complicated, because it required a different shipping system than the system used for domestic orders.
Solution: One shipping solution
Latitude WMS with Manifest lets Cascade use one system to ship packages domestically and worldwide using a variety of carriers. Not having to switch between shipping systems, and having automated commercial invoicing, international labels, and automated customs documents (by country and customer) printed with each overseas order has made for a large gain in productivity.
“Combining this feature with Latitude’s paperless commercial invoicing makes for an unbeatable combination,” says Dave Campbell. “Latitude has helped us maximize our productivity.”
Problem: Limited labeling
Some warehouse management systems lack advanced capabilities, like eCommerce UCC128 labels, carton/contents label production, or the ability to automatically print customer-specific packing lists.
Solution: Nearly limitless labeling capabilities
Latitude WMS comes with extremely advanced and highly customizable labeling and documentation automation. Latitude WMS will print labels on demand (and can print labels from an RF scanner to a wire less printer), so labels are produced within the optimal flow of a given warehouse process.
Problem: Real-time scheduling
In the old WMS, releasing orders for picking required a Cascade employee to log onto the ERP system and physically select which orders were to be picked by each picker.
Solution: Active order visibility
Latitude WMS allows managers to set up filtering parameters that allow Latitude to intelligently release orders to the picking staff – without constant human intervention. “Increased visibility lets our shipping department look at in-progress orders and alert carriers if any orders are remaining — before they shut that truck door and pull away,” says Campbell.
Problem: Shipping On Time Coordination
Cascade’s old warehouse management system didn’t offer any way to sort orders by carrier service levels to determine how many orders needed to be completed by a certain cut-off time. In order to locate all of the orders for UPS, a user would need to scan all of the orders on a screen and try to manually note which orders still needed to be picked.
This was obviously a time-consuming process that made it easy to miss orders – users weren’t even able to sort the list of orders by shipper. When missed orders were discovered, Cascade was forced to provide expedited shipping in order to meet customer needs, which cut into their bottom line.
Solution: Automated cut-offs, priority picking, and more
The Latitude WMS audit trail offers management a real-time view of orders in progress to better coordinate with carrier pickup schedules.
In Latitude WMS, shipment types can be automatically associated with a cut-off time and a priority level, assuring that all orders for a given shipping type are picked by priority (ahead of the various cut off times required).
The ‘Review Orders by Status’ window (and the ability to filter orders by customer, route, small orders, large orders, outbound carrier) help shipping managers determine what kind of cut off times are necessary on a given day.
Latitude: The Obvious Solution
Cascade Orthopedic Supply chose Latitude WMS after experiencing frustration with their ERP’s limited add-on warehouse management solution. Coupled with real project management and insight from a company that specializes in warehouse management, Cascade has successfully elevated their distribution efficiencies beyond their original expectations.
“We now get incredible visibility into our operations, from the time the customer service representative sends the order for processing, to the time it’s loaded onto the truck,” says Campbell. “It’s all in real-time now, from start to finish.”
If your distribution business needs a full-fledged WMS that beats the pants off the competition, contact PathGuide today for a free demo and to see if an investment in our world class WMS makes sense for your business.