- Barcode identification and control of inventory
- Real-time control over orders in both warehouses
- Management of expiry dates and serial numbers
- Real-time inventory updates on showroom purchases
- Personnel management; efficiency and effectiveness tracking
- Work optimization procedures; more production, same staff
- Real-time tracking of SKUs and their warehouse locations
- Flexible order fulfillment based on product, clients, orders
- Simultaneous picking of multiple orders by individual workers
- Alerts and alarms for quick response in fulfilling key client orders
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The Company and the Network
Founded in 1991, Kleks has been a member of the Partner XXI commercial network/buying group since 1997, when 17 companies with similar market orientation joined forces to negotiate volume buying opportunities and to establish non-overlapping market territories. Kleks’ market comprises the region surrounding Torun, an 800-year-old city bisected by the Vistula River in Northern Poland, and encompassing a potential market of some 3,000 businesses, educational institutions and government agencies at all levels.
Through the partner network and its own individual initiatives, Kleks offers some 6,000 different products, representing as many as 30,000 individual SKUs. The extensive inventory includes office machinery and equipment; office and computer accessories of all kinds; a broad assortment of writing, labeling, mailing, presentation and binding products; furniture, food and even hygiene and sanitation staples.
Sources include both Polish companies such as International Paper Kwidzyn, Kostrzyn, Majewski and UNIPAP Strzegom, and international firms such as Pentel, Pilot, Bic, Esselte, Argo, Fellowes, Bantex, Biiurfol, 3M and Hewlett-Packard.
Kleks operates two warehouses that are located five kilometers apart. The initial structure comprises 1,200 square meters (13,000 sq. ft.) and is a dual-purpose facility. Along with its general warehousing and fulfillment operations, it incorporates a retail outlet that accommodates consumer and commercial walk-ins that account for some 15 percent of the company’s volume.
The larger facility, with 2,000 square meters (21,500 sq. ft.), was initially devoted solely to storage of product but has now been upgraded to a fully functional distribution center. Kleks operates its own fleet of light, medium and heavy-duty vans to transfer product between the two facilities as well as to service customers. Eighteen warehouse workers staff the two facilities.
Virtually since its inception, Kleks recognized the vital role technology could play in its operations. For several years, it has employed the comprehensive CDN XL management software system, a solution that is currently in use by almost 2,000 medium size business organizations. Since 2008, the company has also used an automated data collection module with its ERP software to track product movement into and out of the warehouse, with data acquired via Casio and Datalogic wireless barcode readers.
While this hardware-software combination enabled the company to transmit data from the warehouse floor to the ERP system, it did little to organize the actual physical activities of the warehouses. Inbound merchandise was stored almost randomly, with warehouse workers placing it wherever space was available and trusting to memory to retrieve it.
Problems were predictable. One was the inability to identify the locations of goods in the warehouses, forcing workers to waste time searching for product if it were not stored in an assigned space. Not only were customer orders frequently delayed or delivered incomplete, but also warehouse costs remained unnecessarily high because of constant overtime requirements.
Moreover, the lack of physical organization within the facilities led to putaway confusion, with workers often required to search for open space when putting goods into storage. It became clear to management that it had exhausted the potential of its software solution and that a dedicated warehouse management system that could exchange data with the ERP software was required.
Selecting a Solution
The company was close to adopting a solution from a Polish technology firm when the AG Consult Owner Grzegorz Zwolinki asked to present the Accellos solution. Wojcik was eager to listen because the solution under consideration held several disadvantages.
Chief among them was the fact that each warehouse would require its own server and its own instance of the software. This configuration not only was dramatically more expensive, but also it would result in frequent redundant data entry, the establishment and maintenance of communications between the two facilities, and the burden of supporting separate hardware-software environments.
Conversely, with the Accellos solution, a single hardware-software implementation would serve both facilities as a unified operation. Data entered once would populate the fields throughout the system; communication between the facilities would be seamless and transparent; and maintenance would be limited to a single, central server. The choice quickly became clear and the purchase was concluded at the beginning of 2011.
The Accellos solution is a modular software system that can be integrated with any ERP system. It directs and tracks all warehouse processes -- from deliveries and putaway to shipping, to moves, lot tracking, serial numbers, expiry dates, and more -- gathering data via both stationary and mobile devices. It allows supervisors to manage the productivity of individual workers and enables detailed reporting of their work efficiency. Fully configurable, the system can even be modified on-the-fly without disrupting production.
At Kleks, the software resides on a Windows server in the larger of the two warehouses, with data exchanged over a Motorola wireless network based on AP5131 Access Points and Casio fixed and handheld wireless terminals. The software exchanges data with the company’s CDN XL management system via a custom-designed interface.
To Kleks’ management, the Accellos solution offered the centralized, organized control over facilities, processes and personnel that the company was missing. In a series of meetings, the consultants explored the company’s operations in depth, reviewing its business processes, defining the issues and outlining ways to deal with them in a project document.
The key objectives that emerged from the analysis included:
- Automation of logistics and warehouse process via automatic identifiers and barcodes
- Better organization and more effective use of warehouse space
- Increased efficiency of personnel
- More effective management of order status and follow-up
- Standardization of warehouse processes
A critical first phase was the physical reorganization of the available warehouse space, which also entailed the acquisition of additional racks and shelving. With the storage spaces upgraded and redesigned, the consultants developed a naming strategy for the aisles and bins that could be replicated in the Accellos software to create a virtual representation of the warehouse infrastructure.
With this accomplished, the consultants configured the various warehouse processes to assure not only efficient physical workflow but also that precise data was captured as each phase of the warehouse activity occurred. They adapted the standard series of AccellosOne WMS reports to Kleks’ requirements and created the documents and labels required for warehouse operations and shipping. “Management was very open to our suggestions,” says AG Consult's Zwolinski.
While implementation of warehouse activities proceeded, an interface was being built to permit direct exchange of data between the Accellos solution and the CDN XL ERP software. Kleks had commissioned a second consultant to develop the interface.
A key modification involved data originating in the retail operations. Prior to the implementation of the Accellos software, sales were recorded at the register, with the data sent to the ERP software, which issued a receipt and updated the inventory records. Now, the inventory records are updated in real time within AccellosOne Warehouse, which forwards information on the transaction to the CDN XL system for generating the customer receipt.
“The change may not seem significant, but it is an important element in maintaining precise inventory records and standardizing the flow of the data,” says the consultant’s lead implementer.
Aside from minor adjustments, the implementation was exceptionally straightforward, according to AG Conslut's Grzegorz Zwolinski and Jacek Wolski. “Every system has its own way of doing things and while this was our first experience with AccellosOne WMS, the software is very easy to understand and to implement,” says the consultant’s lead implementer on the project. “It also has its own international language files that can simply be selected and turned on.”
Under the new warehouse management regime, data is captured automatically with every phase of the activity, commencing with the receipt of goods at the inbound dock. For that reason, says Pawel Wojcik, Kleks insists that incoming merchandise be barcoded both for efficiency and for avoidance of errors. In some circumstances, the warehouse personnel might generate missing barcodes prior to putaway, but more often, Wojcik says, the merchandise will be sent back.
With the warehouse geography configured and barcoded by area, shelf and bin locations, AccellosOne Warehouse directs putaway to the locations where the merchandise is to be stored via the handheld devices. Inbound product arrives both as palletized goods and in cartons. The software allows SKUs to share bin space, and as they are put in place, their precise bin locations are entered into the Accellos records via the handheld devices.
Inbound orders arrive by telephone, fax or via Kleks’ Internet store and are entered into the CDN XL ERP software, which immediately downloads them to the Accellos WMS software for fulfillment. Pending orders are displayed on the handheld devices and warehouse personnel assemble them on a “next-up” basis.
Prior to implementation of the Accellos system, each picker could fill only a one order at a time. The Accellos software provides the ability to allocate and wave multiple orders, so that pickers can move about the warehouse to assemble multiple orders in the most efficient manner and move them to the shipping station.
Once orders are picked and packed, the Accellos software generates the shipping documentation and labels – whether for a common carrier, parcel carrier or Kleks fleet. Since Accellos updates the CDN XL software in real time, the ERP software generates an invoice as soon as orders are ready to ship. The invoice goes in the box with the order, and the management software updates its sales order and accounts receivable records. The Accellos inventory records, meanwhile, are updated as product is picked.
The impact on operations was immediate, Kleks’ Wojcik notes. With no increase in manpower, the number of orders shipped has increased by about 40 percent, even while virtually all overtime has been eliminated. Orders per day have climbed from 100 to about 140, with fill rates increasing by some 30 percent.
Where orders for unavailable goods in the past were usually lost because the company had no back order support, short shipments have fallen to as few as five percent of the total items ordered. The Accellos software provides a full audit trail of all orders, enabling back orders to be included in the process. They are now normally shipped in no more than three weeks.
Automation of most warehouse procedures has eliminated the possibility of errors in all phases of warehouse operations from receiving to shipping. And altogether, Wojcik says, management estimates that the use of AccellosOne Warehouse has increased revenues by as much as 10 percent after only six months in use.
According to Wojcik, the Accellos warehouse management system automates and increases the efficiency of warehouse operations throughout the whole company. All workers are trained to perform all of the warehouse functions, and the combination of AccellosOne Warehouse and the wireless network/terminal infrastructure allows the company to closely coordinate the activities of each individual, maximizing their productivity. Because the software is extremely user-friendly and workers were already familiar with using the handheld devices, training requirements are minimal.
Physical inventory counts used to impact productivity significantly, with operations suspended for four days for the actual physical count and two more for manually adjusting the count using paper forms. The company still intends to perform a physical count, but fewer people will be needed, with the overall process simplified through the use of the warehouse management software’s running inventory count.
“We have the ability to manage our staff and workflow better because the software provides us with the tools to measure, review and compare,” Wojcik says. “We have shortened the training period for new employees from 3 months to only a few days, thanks to a system which supervises their activities and which directs their fulfillment assignments by means of mobile terminals communicating directly with the software.
“The implementation of AccellosOne Warehouse system allowed us to raise the level of our customer service significantly, and we now manage our inventory consistently in both warehouses. We have fully realized all of the expectations that we had for the system."