Replacing a Legacy System
How This Company Grew While Reducing Labor Costs
With over 60,000 SKUs covering everything from bearings to bits, and roller chain sprockets to WD-40®, PaulB’s goal is to help agricultural, industrial, mechanical, and fleet service companies save money on parts and supplies.
For roughly 20 years, the staff inside PaulB’s well-known ‘big green warehouse’ relied on an Open Systems accounting and ERP solution for all of their inventory requirements. Although it had served its purpose well, the legacy system could only provide a simple text field with general inventory location information, making it difficult for employees to locate items for putaway or picking. In fact, the limitations of the system forced the warehouse to be configured in such a way that similar items or brands needed to be grouped closely together. After that, it was up to each employee to remember their locations. The consequences of this process were slow, inefficient pick paths, a high rate of errors and long training times for new staff.
So when PaulB’s management decided to retire Open Systems, Epicor’s Eagle ERP was chosen as the replacement. Even with Eagle, PaulB was aware that there were several limitations to its functionality, such as allowing only up to six bin locations per item and no ability to track quantity per bin, making it difficult to distinguish between full rolls and individual cut items. With this in mind, PaulB opted to implement a WMS solution that would provide additional granularity for its particular fulfillment center model. Epicor recommended PathGuide’s Latitude WMS.
“Latitude allows us the flexibility to assign our stock to multiple locations with different quantities per location,” said Jim Hostetter, president of PaulB Wholesale. “We chose Latitude because it mapped really well to the way we wanted our receiving, putaway, picking and shipping processes to operate. That gave us the confidence that we’d be able to deploy a very robust, step-by-step process that would enable highly-accurate operations.”
Going cold turkey
PaulB decided to implement all of Latitude’s functionality in a single phase.
“Five months after our go-live with Eagle in September 2014, we went completely live with Latitude. We had prepared by assigning locations to each SKU, so we were able to get up and running in both receiving and shipping from the very first day,” said Hostetter. “To help smooth out the integration process, we assigned our shipping supervisor and the warehouse manager to ensure that everyone was ready. Their roles were to help us navigate the process, which went quite smoothly with the help of the PathGuide team.” There was one part of Latitude’s deployment that required additional time.
“We requested a custom integration that turned out to be trickier than we’d expected,” continued Hostetter. “It’s a plug-in that allows us to sell directly out of the DC in addition to its more traditional role as a distribution center. PathGuide dispatched a software engineer who was quickly able to understand our business needs and design exactly what we required. This now allows us to flow orders down through Eagle and ship them out using Latitude.”
PaulB also decided to implement Latitude’s Cycle Count Planning Module. Requiring only one or two man hours per day, the module creates a logical and systematic schedule to ensure inventory for all locations is counted.
“Using Latitude’s Cycle Count Planning, we’ve been tracking our inventory discrepancy value and it stands at only 0.06 percent for the whole year. Twelve months ago it was approximately ten times that amount,” said Hostetter. “Even with our small e-Commerce engine driving line orders out all day, we’re experiencing better receiving and shipping with a 99.75 percent accuracy rate on our shipping line count. This level of accuracy would not have been possible without the tools provided in Latitude.”
Benefits of cross training
“The customizable menus in the RF terminals are great,” said Hostetter. “We especially like the fact that they can be stripped down to show only what a receiver needs or what a shipper needs. That makes the training process much easier. Our guys used to be totally paper-based but these devices have streamlined the entire process enormously. What’s more, it only took our employees a day to become proficient using the new tools.”
Latitude’s ease of use makes it possible to cross-train employees for multiple functions. This has been especially useful on busy days when areas such as shipping may require extra hands in order to meet a truck’s deadline.
“With Latitude it is so much easier to train our teams for different tasks, so they can flip from one function to another,” continued Hostetter. “If we need to get a shipment out in a hurry, we’ll bounce a receiver over to shipping for a couple of hours to help out. It has been very effective.”
The physical location of inventory has also become far less important. Using Latitude, it doesn’t matter where items are stored. Bearings can be next to belts or sprayer tips, and employees don’t need to spend weeks learning where each product can be found. From a warehouse management perspective, this results in faster putaway and picking flows, allowing the warehouse to increase volume with the same number of employees.
“Our business has grown by over 10 percent in the last eight months, but we’ve actually been able to reduce employee costs in receiving by 20 percent,” said Hostetter. “In the past, it was difficult to hire short-term employees in busy seasons because it took so long for them to remember locations and become productive. Now, new employees can make an impact after only a day of training.”
“We’ve had a very positive experience with Latitude,” Hostetter concluded. “It helps us save money in so many ways, which we enjoy passing on to our customers.”
The solution is Latitude WMS
Latitude is an enterprise-grade Warehouse Management System that automates warehousing and distribution to provide real-time online information about inventory. Latitude automates all operations from inbound transportation management, receiving and order picking, to manifesting and truck route/stop management with delivery confirmation, all while integrating seamlessly with major ERP business systems. In addition to providing deep warehouse functionality, Latitude is flexible enough to accommodate each customer’s unique business practices while ensuring that basic and advanced tasks are performed efficiently and accurately. More information can be found here.
About PathGuide Technologies
PathGuide Technologies, Inc., a privately held company founded in 1989, is a leading provider of warehouse management solutions for wholesalers and industrial distributors across North America, Canada, and abroad. PathGuide’s software and services help suppliers increase productivity and order accuracy, improve customer service and lower labor costs, ultimately driving greater profitability. To learn how distributors of all sizes can benefit from improved warehouse management, visit www.pathguide.com.