Latitude WMS Brings a Winning Smile to Atlanta Dental Supply
Atlanta Dental Supply, headquartered in Duluth, Georgia with offices in Alabama, Florida and South Carolina, is a premier provider of dental supplies to more than 5,000 dentists in the Southeast. Since it was founded in 1868, Atlanta Dental Supply has always held a core commitment to excellent service, with a mission to build relationships that are both lasting and rewarding through the precise delivery of product, service and technology solutions to the dental profession.
Within its 55,000 square foot distribution center, the company picks 38,000 to 42,000 order lines per month. With more than 14,000 items in stock, from the most advanced surgical equipment to toothbrushes, pick accuracy and correct order fulfillment was a past challenge.
In 2003, the company invested in the Latitude Warehouse Management System (WMS) from PathGuide Technologies as part of a strategy to increase pick accuracy and overall warehouse efficiency. Latitude is a software suite that automates warehousing and distribution to provide real-time online information about inventory. Latitude automates all operations from receiving and order picking, to manifesting and truck route/stop management. It integrates seamlessly with all major ERP business systems such as Microsoft Dynamics, Activant, J.D. Edwards and Oracle.
Since using Latitude, Atlanta Dental Supply says the greatest benefit has been the increased satisfaction of its sales representatives – a by-product of having a more accurate and efficient warehouse. Atlanta Dental Supply, a privately held company, competes with multi-billion dollar corporations and so its sales reps, and the relationship they hold with customers, are critical to Atlanta Dental Supply’s success. In an industry that is highly competitive, retention of sales reps is a key challenge.
“Simply put, when you have errors in the warehouse you have unhappy customers and then you have unhappy sales reps – that’s when you’re at risk of losing both,” said John Hanna, Director of Operations at Atlanta Dental Supply. “Order accuracy with Latitude is a key competitive advantage that helps us go up against the big guys and win.”
Latitude a Window for Continual Improvement
When Latitude was first deployed, Hanna and his crew were pleased to find how easy the system was to use. Under the old paper-based system, new warehouse pickers needed six months to a year before they were fully effective in their job. Today, that training time has been radically reduced. “Now with Latitude a new employee can literally be effective in one day, and after 3-4 weeks they are completely up to speed. With the handheld terminal, the process of finding the right product is so much easier – it’s hard to make mistakes now.”
Since using Latitude, picking errors have been reduced by at least 33%, and the system is used daily to give Hanna and his team the data they need to continually refine warehouse operations.
“We review each error that happens and research it to understand the problem,” continued Hanna. “Whether it’s a technical glitch or an employee just having a bad day, Latitude helps us identify and fix errors to ensure the highest level of quality and accuracy possible. Since using Latitude our warehouse employees are also more accountable and we can monitor mistakes to help them improve. Before we couldn’t review operational details at the individual employee level.”
Latitude allows Hanna to identify even the most granular improvements. For example, Hanna recently added more label printers in the receiving department. With three people working in receiving sharing one label printer, the workers were traveling back and forth a fair distance between the boxes and label printers. By adding more printers, travel time was reduced, and workers are able to process more items in less time.
“Before, we couldn’t leverage our system to this extent to make improvements at such a granular level,” said Hanna. “We really couldn’t imagine operating without Latitude.”
Product Integrity and Compliance
Like any company in the healthcare industry, Atlanta Dental Supply must follow strict state and federal regulations designed to ensure the security and integrity of products as they move through the supply chain. As part of its compliance effort, Atlanta Dental Supply worked closely with PathGuide on the development of a custom drug pedigree application (a government mandate designed to prevent product tampering and counterfeiting by providing a solid chain of custody for pharmaceutical products).
A pedigree is a statement of origin that identifies each prior sale, purchase, or trade of a drug, including the date of those transactions and the names and addresses of all parties to them. A pedigree may be in paper (hard copy) or electronic form and must include the addresses and lot numbers of the drug or product.
Now with Latitude, Atlanta Dental Supply knows the exact location of products for any pedigree in its system as a result of lot capture at both inbound receipt and at outbound sales order picking. The ability to exchange pedigrees electronically also makes it easier for partners to do business with Atlanta Dental Supply and improves customer trust in the validity of the products. Since Latitude matches physical products to pedigrees, the return process is also easier to manage.
Atlanta Dental Supply also relies on Latitude’s lot tracking, warehouse functionality that is considered to be a must-have for food, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries where quality is critical. With Latitude, individual products can be easily tracked because lot numbers are recorded when received into inventory. From the moment an item with a lot number is shipped, the lot tracking module will track the lot, customer, invoice number, invoice date, and amount of the invoice. As orders are shipped, lot numbers are assigned to each sales order so that the database knows which lots were shipped on which orders.
“Before Latitude, we did not have a good way to track lots, which also made rotating products with expiration dates a huge challenge,” said Hanna. “Expired product would sometimes go out to a customer, who would then reject the product. It was an added frustration for our sales reps that we were very eager to eliminate.”
A Smiling Future
Since automating the warehouse, business for Atlanta Dental Supply continues to grow steadily by about 10% each year, and volume of units shipped have grown 46% while staff increases have been less than 10%.
As part of the company’s plan for continued growth, Hanna and his warehouse team will rely on Latitude. New features in Latitude such as slotting (a module that assesses strategic placement of product within the warehouse) is currently being considered as well as other custom applications.
“We work with many ERP-related vendors and PathGuide’s support is by far the best – they are deliberate, supportive, and go the extra mile to make a project successful,” said Hanna. “Many companies are great at talking, but PathGuide is great at listening and follow-through – they deliver on their promises. Whenever I need a custom app for our ERP system, I first go to PathGuide because if they can do it, I know it will be the easiest and most affordable way to get it done right.”