Picture two young guys doodling up business plans on cocktail napkins and probing their imaginations for a bell-ringer. If you’re guessing Silicon Valley, guess again. It was Portland, Maine, in 1997, and Alex Fisher and Stew Maloney were evolving a concept for the pet industry modeled on the approach of New England yogurt-maker Stonyfield Farm – a commercial enterprise with a socially conscious dimension.
A NEW DAY
Today, Planet Dog stocks approximately 500 SKUs, selling to tens of thousands of customers through a host of independent pet product retailers as well as large retailers such as Life Is Good, R.E.I., Frontgate and Amazon.com. The company has also established an online retail presence at www.planetdog.com and operates a company flagship retail store in Portland – as much for the customer feedback as for the revenue. Annual sales continue to grow and the company has received the Maine Governor’s Award for Business Excellence as well as Outside Magazine Top Places to Work.
A PRICE FOR PROGRESS
Growth can have its downside and in its first years, Planet Dog struggled with inventory management and shipping, with most of its product housed at vendor facilities. Its QuickBooks accounting software had difficulty coping with the increasing volume and complexity of the business as well as with functional tasks it was not designed to do.
A STRONGER ERP SYSTEM
In 2005, Planet Dog management contacted a Microsoft-Certified technology solutions provider an HighJump reseller partner also located in Portland. The reseller proposed implementation of Microsoft Dynamics GP, an enterprise management software solution with extensive warehouse management capabilities. Management agreed to the purchase and the reseller implemented the software on a server at the Planet Dog store. Employees at the company’s headquarters and warehouse locations accessed the software over a Microsoft Windows network.
NEW WAREHOUSE, NEW PROCESSES
But it was still a paper-driven operation. The company briefly considered an RF-driven warehouse solution from Maximum Data Solutions but concluded that because of the nature of its warehousing operations the time was not right. By 2007, however, it had become apparent that Planet Dog’s growth virtually demanded more physical space and a more efficient warehouse process. Two decisions were made: to acquire a 25,000 square foot facility and to revisit the automation of key warehouse processes.
IMPLEMENTATION AND OPERATION
The system was installed in October 2008, with the HighJump partner supporting the implementation.
“We have a lot of new items and seasonal items, so we need the flexibility to move picking bins around,” Wise says. “In the directed putaway process, you can’t put an item in a bin that is not assigned to it. We get around this with bin transfers, and since the RF guns record the placement of all product in the inventory records, we can always find it quickly.”
The live information supplied by HighJump Warehouse for GP dramatically increases the power of the Microsoft Dynamics GP software. Deployment as a single, integrated system has also eliminated duplicate data entry into Excel, allowing marketing management to easily analyze profitability by product line. Live inventory access from the order entry process has dramatically reduced time spent on the phone with customers. Wait times and callbacks have been reduced, and often eliminated, since customers can be advised of their order status immediately at any point in the pick-pack process. Shipping errors have been almost completely eliminated.
When Planet Dog went live, the impact was immediate. “We have a company policy to ship an order within three business days of its being placed,” Wise says. “After the implementation of HighJump Warehouse for GP, most orders were fulfilled within one or two days, even during the busiest seasons.”
“Even so,” Wise says, “we maintain on-time and accurate shipping even with a reduced staff. We can’t make precise oranges to oranges comparisons, but the advantages are apparent across the company. Our inventory speed and accuracy is vastly improved. Order fulfillment is faster and more accurate, and we’ve cut our paperwork in half. Our warehouse is more efficient and customer service is at a very high response level. This solution is exactly what we needed.”
Call us to discuss your needs
Sign up to be added to our email list