After about 10 years of use, Sulco Warehousing and Logistics concluded that it had hit the wall with its third party logistics (3PL) solution. Sulco had conscientiously installed updates as they were released but as a new decade loomed it became apparent that the system was inadequately configurable to customer requirements as they continued to evolve.
THE HighJump SOLUTION
HighJump 3PL is a deeply featured, multi-module third-party logistics solution that runs on a Linux server at Sulco’s Springfield headquarters location and is networked to the other three facilities. It allows the company to manage the flow of customer inventory with detailed, real-time warehouse information from the instant it is notified of incoming goods to the time the goods leave the shipping door. It streamlines customer service, accounting and billing operations with paper-free processes available for virtually every step, enabling such activities as web-based customer access to inventory information, automated calculation of charges based on individual customer contracts, and electronic billing. Comprehensive management reports allow the company to optimize space utilization and labor management.
THE SULCO SITUATION
Sulco Warehousing and Logistics is a division of The Sullivan Companies, a family-owned and operated consolidation, distribution and warehousing company headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts. Starting out as a trucking company in the mid-1900s, it is today a complex of six divisions, each focusing on a discrete sector of the supply chain.
TRIGGER FOR CHANGE
One trigger for change was MeadWestvaco’s incorporation of alpha characters on its roll label barcodes. This made it necessary to parse out the alpha character, an exercise that the existing software solution could not accommodate. The software vendor’s suggested alternative was to relabel pallets as they arrived.
Historically, inbound and outbound orders have arrived by fax and email and are then keyed into inventory in the system. Now, with HighJump 3PL implemented, the company increasingly employs electronic data interchange (EDI) with client systems, saving work and improving accuracy.
REDEFINING WAREHOUSE SPACE
Sulco’s warehouses are not mapped geographically, but are well organized by bin location, a process that was instituted along with the implementation of HighJump 3PL. In one building, for example, the company reconfigured what had been organized around 15 locations to a refined layout of 455, all of them represented individually in HighJump 3PL. Correspondingly, the new Sulco warehouse structure incorporates sections ranging from a high of 144 bin locations to as few as five.
AUTOMATING INPUT, INVENTORY TRACKING
“HighJump is able to pick up and process every detail from the RF guns,” Amalfa says. “It time stamps each activity which helps us control the greatest cost factor that we can actually affect — our labor expense. The clerical staff is no longer swamped with paperwork backlogs, since such data as receipts, confirmations, shipping and posting are input automatically from the floor.”
Operations floor supervisors assign the outbound orders out to the warehousemen. When the order number is selected in the RF gun, the gun displays the location to be picked along with such information as the product identification, the lot number, the location, and any special services or requirements.
INTEGRATING WITH CUSTOMER SYSTEMS
Sulco integrates tightly with some key customers’ own inventory processes to maintain their inventory files automatically while also keeping its own data current in HighJump 3PL.
Besides dramatically simplifying warehouse operations while also accommodating shifting customer requirements, Sulco has begun seeing hard savings from efficiencies effected by its new 3PL software systems.
“With 80-plus customers, we must deal with change constantly, and HighJump now provides us with the flexibility we need to keep up with them. In fact, we are able to anticipate changes and put inventory tracking processes in place before our customers complete their own new initiatives. Equally important, we can operate more effectively and economically while we do it.”
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