Founded in the mid-1960s near downtown Los Angeles, Porteous Fastener Company (PFC) has watched its supply sources shift from the United States to Japan and on to Taiwan and China. Its physical presence has expanded from the original installation now to comprise six regional distribution centers (RDCs) and nine branches, including one in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Company headquarters and a co-located warehouse are in Carson just a few freeway miles north from the Port of Los Angeles.
Fortunately, the system runs like a well-tuned engine, says Vice President and CIO Tom White, with HighJump Warehouse software monitoring product status beginning as much as six weeks before it even hits Los Angeles or one of five other points of entry. Some 5,000 containers arrive annually, with the software managing movement of the goods into, out of and between its distribution centers and warehouses as well as shipments to its customers.
PFC employs a hybridized business model. On one hand, it is a commodity importing and sales organization, competing strenuously for bulk orders. On the other, it is a logistics organization that must maintain a dependable supply of product in its facilities; track stock precisely so that accurate company-wide, detailed inventory records are instantly available to support sales efforts, whether by phone or via automated queries; and finally, assure fast, reliable delivery.
To optimize customer service, PFC has evolved a unique warehousing and distribution network structure. Its warehouses are situated strategically as close to key customers and markets as possible, often serving specialized requirements. Regional distribution centers (RDCs) vary in size from 50,000 to 100,000 square feet and are staffed by as few as 10, and as many as 25 workers. RDC satellite branches range widely in size and staffing, manned by from two to five persons.
Early in its history, PFC management evaluated growth prospects and realized that a strong management software foundation would be required to support them. The company engaged Circa Information Technologies in neighboring Downey, California, to custom-develop an ERP solution that also incorporated a strong logistics management component.
The company also contracted an HighJump Warehouse reseller to implement a warehouse management solution that would bolt onto the ERP software. HighJump Warehouse is an end-to-end, modular solution that tracks movement of stock into, out of, and within the warehouse. It integrates seamlessly with ERP and shipping systems to automate, streamline and verify in-warehouse processes from receiving to shipping.
Several considerations obtained in selection of the system, White says. A major one was the ability to create a bin allocation process that committed specific quantities to specific documents. With this capability, pickers are forced to empty one bin prior to moving to another, and they are prevented from breaking full pallets to fill orders when partials are available.
DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION
PFC maintains distinct databases for its Circa ERP system and for the HighJump Warehouse system, with the two tightly integrated in a centralized configuration that requires just a few keystrokes to reveal if product is in stock, where it’s located and how to get it.
RECEIVING AND TRANSFER
PFC usually knows weeks in advance that a shipment of containers will arrive on a certain date as well as the merchandise destination. The information is entered into the Goods and Routes feature of the Circa database, which updates the respective purchase order and writes the records into the HighJump software as “expectations” in a “receipt bucket” – a non-pickable bin.
PICKING AND SHIPPING
Orders arrive in several ways: by phone, and keyed-in manually; electronically, using the company’s web-based order entry system; via EDI; or through Direct Connect, a program created with the HighJump software development kit (SDK). Customers install Direct Connect on their own software, enabling them to communicate with Porteous’ Circa/HighJump environment directly to learn if product is available, obtain a quote and then accept it. On acceptance, the quote becomes an order and is automatically dropped into the Circa order entry system.
Like other business, PFC is impacted by economic conditions but implementation of HighJump Warehouse enables the company to deal with them constructively through gains in efficiency and reductions in costs. White and Swan feel that the company could easily double the number of orders per day it handles at any location with its existing workforce.
“HighJump Warehouse is a rules-based solution,” White says. “We learned quickly that as long as we work within the rules, it provides us with power and flexibility that is only limited by our own creativity.”
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