Down to the Wire with SEA Wire and Cable

Now that Latitude WMS has been successfully implemented throughout SEA Wire and Cable’s operations, the next project is to outfit its warehouse with large information screens.

The cable and wire industry differ from most distributors and suppliers in one critical way. Their products are measured, cut and sold in feet rather than the manufactured items that can be pulled from a warehouse bin or shelf. This creates some unique challenges, not least of which is the need to manage cut wire and cable inventory accurately, which is considerably more complex than picking and shipping easily countable, individual items.

One such company, SEA Wire and Cable, has built an enviable reputation for fast service, exceptional technical prowess and 24-hour customer support. With over 4,800 U.S. and international customers in the military and aerospace industries, the company prides itself on rapid turnaround of critical customer orders, averaging up to 500 shipments each day.

All shipments originate from SEA’s purpose-built, air-conditioned 90,000-square-foot Facility in Madison, Alabama, which stocks over 11,000 items and more than 60 million feet of wire.

SEA differentiates its offerings by providing several value-added and supplemental services, including laser wire marking, custom color coding, custom labels, dyeing, cut and strip wire, cut and marked tubing, etching, kitting and sub-assemblies. For customers requiring even faster response times, SEA provides access to on-site, vendor managed inventory services, including Kanban, JIT, dock to stock, demand-pull, consignment and stock rotation.

Why use a WMS?

Cutting and selling inventory in feet creates a unique set of challenges, such as knowing not only if a cable is in stock, but what length remains and whether it is a continuous piece or cut into multiple lengths. On top of that, the strict requirements and regulations governing the military and aerospace industries require accurate traceability to ensure that a potentially defective product, such as wire with thin jacket insulation, can quickly be identified and quarantined from sale. For these reasons, most of SEA’s inventory includes manufacture lot information, date of manufacture, the revision level, the location of its manufacture, the date of expiration and associated documents, such as test reports.

It is critical to have immediate access to this information.

“Starting in 2011, SEA spent three years trying to make use of its existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform (Prophet 21) to handle these tasks,” said Nick Meyer, SEA’s warehouse manager. “In theory, it should have worked well, but in practice, the ERP wasn’t able to handle the level of granularity we required.”

Spending the time to get it right

“Someone familiar with our Prophet 21 ERP system recommended that we speak to PathGuide about getting a purpose-built Warehouse Management System (WMS),” continued Meyer. “We were willing to spend the time to get it right, so although it took us another three and a half years to deploy Latitude WMS, PathGuide collaborated with us along the way to develop a lot of enhancements that suited our unique systems and processes. By the time we went live, it was basically just a matter of flipping a switch, with virtually no disruption or surprises. Running on the Microsoft SQL Server platform made Latitude WMS the perfect bolt-on for our ERP, allowing it mold to our specific uses. It was the perfect choice.”

Customized enhancements make all the difference

SEA also uses PathGuide’s Latitude Manifest and Shipping System and is delighted with the customized enhancements such as the Lot Startup Module, which takes existing enhancements from receiving operations and integrates production and line numbers into a comprehensive document tracking process. This has greatly improved the efficiency of the processing department.

Now that SEA has successfully implemented Latitude throughout its operations, the next project is to outfit its warehouse with large information screens. These will provide real-time status updates for the 40 warehouse employees regarding the number of shipments or pick tickets left, and any items that require priority. The company expects to deploy these screens in strategic locations by the end of 2018.

“We take continuous improvement seriously,” concluded Meyer. “Our goal is to reach zero defects. But that goal of zero defects cannot be accomplished in-house alone; it must be an entire supply chain initiative. For us, purchasing technology like Latitude that supports our business, and the business of our customers and supply chain, is a critical part of continuous improvement. PathGuide and Latitude helped us take a step forward to reach that critical goal of being error free.”