This feature article from the latest issue of Inbound Logistics profiles several small and medium-sized businesses that are using information technology to stay competitive with industry giants. It’s a good read and highlights an important fact about the modern warehouse industry. These days, every distributor is competing with worldwide e-commerce giants like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Alibaba and Snapdeal. How can small and medium-sized businesses remain competitive without the resources of these huge companies? Customer service is one big differentiator, but there are also many ways that even small companies can use information technology strategically to achieve similar levels of speed, efficiency and flexibility as their bigger peers.
Here are some PathGuide customers who implemented Latitude WMS to solve specific problems and put themselves on even footing with larger industry competitors.
HUB Industrial Supply keeps up with e-retailers like Amazon and Fastenal by focusing on exceptional customer service and just-in-time delivery. After several years of strong growth, executives were concerned that HUB couldn’t keep using small-company processes as it grew into a medium-sized company. HUB chose Latitude to “future-proof” its warehouse, knowing that the WMS would easily scale with them.
Fisheries Supply, located in Seattle, Washington, relies on the local maritime industry for much of its business. They used some of the features in Latitude WMS to build its own will-call system that can have orders ready in as little as 15 minutes. Latitude WMS automatically prioritizes these orders for picking and sends the customer a text message when the order is ready. Fisheries Supply has built a loyal following among local mechanics and boat owners who depend upon this system for its quick turnaround.
One of the specific goals that Jensen Distribution Serviceshad for implementing a WMS was to reduce training time for new employees. By replacing an outdated paper-based receiving process with a paperless one and implementing hands-free voice picking, Jensen was able to reduce weeks of training down to a matter of days, and decreased picking errors by 95%.
C-A-L Ranch, a chain of farm and ranch supply stores, had seasonal spikes in product demand that turned the distribution center floor into a bottleneck. Hiring seasonal labor was not a feasible solution, so Latitude WMS helped C-A-L Ranch be more productive with the same number of workers and get through busy periods without product piling up in the distribution center.
There’s less than 4 weeks to take advantage of early bird rates for the 2016 Latitude User Conference. This year’s LUC is May 22-24 in sunny San Diego. Additional discounts are available when you register more than 3 people from your company – so bring a crowd!
Three Levels Deep
Our conference is designed for everyone, and that’s why we’re encouraging “Three Levels Deep”. Bring people who represent different areas of your operation. Employees can directly apply the knowledge and practical techniques they learn at the conference to their jobs back home.
Warehouse Managers: We looked at areas specific to warehouse managers’ daily processes to design breakout sessions tailored to their needs. Sessions like Replenishment: Stay Stoked Because You’re Stocked and Dock Wars: Scheduling Inbound Deliveries will inspire new techniques to drive success across your warehouse teams.
Corporate Executives: Network with other executives, exchange ideas about supply chain excellence and learn how Latitude WMS can help inspire innovation and deliver better customer service as the supply chain continues to evolve. Sessions for executives include Motivation by Metrics, Leveraging Latitude WMS for ROI in Your Operations and Latitude WMS for Your Smaller Facilities.
Warehouse Workers: You’re the ones using Latitude every day, so the more you know – the better. Hands-on sessions for warehouse workers include Make an RF “Easy Button” With Task Definitions, Be in the Know With Automatic Alerts and Labels Made Easy.
IT Pros: Learn about Latitude’s evolving tool set and programmable features while networking with other field experts. Sessions for IT Pros include What’s Your IT IQ?, WMS & LMS Release Highlights, Metrics: A Window into Your Warehouse, and Latitude Confidential: Next Level Tips & Tricks.
New & Experienced Users and Prospects: If you’re new to Latitude or still considering a WMS upgrade, we will have sessions that introduce you to basic Latitude WMS features like Cycle Count Planning: Cure Your PI Pain, Inbound Transportation: Control When Trucks Bump Your Dock and PathGuide’s SOS (Spotlight On Support). More importantly, you will have plenty of opportunities to get realistic feedback and advice from current Latitude WMS users. Come with questions and leave with answers!
A sincere thank you to Honeywell and the QubeVu team from Postea, our Platinum Level Sponsors, for helping to make this year’s conference a success!
Be sure to join Honeywell to learn what they are doing about the most important trends and forces changing the landscape of today’s supply chain. You’ll want to make time for Postea’s presentation to discover why dimensioning solutions make sense as the evolution in materials handling, e-Commerce and shipping markets continues to create opportunities for growth.
To see the full agenda or learn more about the 2016 Latitude User Conference, click here. To register, click here. See you in San Diego!
Faust is a highly accomplished business consultant and motivational speaker who has been empowering and entertaining audiences for 30 years. His speeches help people understand the power and challenges of an organization’s culture, identify its key aspects and understand the role each person plays in its formation. He is hilariously funny, extremely smart, and his speeches deliver real business value. Past clients have said that Faust “provides stimulating ideas with practical approaches,” is a “consummate presenter,” and a “guy who truly cares about helping businesses succeed.”
His program will explain the true purpose for organizations and outline the four roles that managers and leaders must embrace to achieve short and long term success. In a presentation tailored to the needs of the warehouse and distribution industries, Gerry Faust will discuss the biggest reason why more organizations never solve their problems, and the key role teamwork plays in achieving organizational goals.
Allais is an internationally recognized expert and inventor in the fields of bar coding, automatic identification and data capture. As former president and CEO of Washington-based Intermec, Inc. (now part of Honeywell), he built the company from a small start-up into the leading manufacturer of bar code scanning and printing equipment. Leaving Intermec after 19 years, Allais founded PathGuide Technologies, a Washington-based developer of warehouse management systems for distributors.
PathGuide is thrilled to have Faust and Allais as our keynote speakers. Mark your calendars for May 22-24, this is one conference you won’t want to miss!
Purchasing a WMS is a business investment that PathGuide customers take very seriously. Any warehouse upgrade involves a number of necessary changes to work processes, and a WMS is no exception. Customers can sometimes become intimidated if they get too caught up worrying about the implementation and assuming that these changes will be difficult.
But that’s simply not the case. With the proper training and staff buy-in, a WMS install doesn’t need to be an arduous process. To address some of the most common concerns, here is a list of popular questions from new WMS customers, and how we answer them:
How long is this going to take? It can take anywhere from four to nine months, depending on the warehouse’s specifics and how well the company has prepared for a rollout. An internal champion who works closely with us for troubleshooting and scheduled employee training can help a new customer go live much more quickly.
How will Latitude interface with our business system? Will we have to change anything? Probably not. Latitude integrates with all major ERP systems including SAP, Oracle, Epicor, Microsoft Dynamics, and Infor.
How do we set up a RF network in our warehouse? How many access points will we need? What about better servers or higher network speeds? A PathGuide engineer will visit a new customer’s warehouse and do a complete walkthrough to determine exactly how the customer operates and what its needs are. They will handle technical problems like this.
How does training take place?We usually bring customer representatives to our Seattle office and let them practice with Latitude in our mock “warehouse” training room. We’ll also send PathGuide engineers to conduct on-site trainings, and we encourage customers to follow up with their own hands-on training.
Can we get Latitude to do _______? The answer is almost always yes. Latitude is highly customizable and we can usually modify it to fit the customer’s exact needs.
Can we get documentation or checklists for all of this?Of course! We want to make the tools in Latitude WMS as easy to use and accessible as possible.
Implementation can seem intimidating if you look at it in its entirety, but it isn’t as difficult as most people believe at first. That’s why it’s our job to break the process down into manageable chunks and help our customers get through the implementation one step at a time. This personal touch helps our customers feels more secure and leads to a smoother rollout – and that’s better for everyone.
PathGuide wrapped up a great 2015 by adding four new customers in December. Here’s an introduction to some of the new distributor companies that will be deploying Latitude WMS across their operations in the coming months.
Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies –Centinela is a family-owned feed and pet store chain with fifteen locations across southern California. It offers pet supplies and related services such as dog training, grooming and vaccination. It has a long and colorful history in Torrance and Los Angeles; in fact, one of its older stores was a historical landmark In Barnes City before the area became a part of L.A.
Engineered Specialty Products –Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, ESP Inc. provides its customers with high-quality gauges, thermometers, instruments and other sensors. We’re happy to be working with another growing industrial products distributor.
Coastal Farm and Ranch –Coastal Farm and Ranch’s distribution center serves 15 stores in the Pacific Northwest from its home base in Albany, Oregon. Part of the Mid-States Group, the company specializes in outdoor products, workwear, livestock feed, tools and gear for farm and ranch communities.
Devil Mountain Nursery –One of our more unique customers, Devil Mountain Nursery is a plant wholesaler in San Ramon, CA. It offers a wide variety of materials to local landscapers and gardeners, including drought-resistant plant species. We’re looking forward to helping the company with some of the unique challenges involved in tracking and shipping live plants.
These businesses show the breadth of PathGuide’s continuing growth and have one thing in common: a commitment to quality customer service. We look forward to helping each one of these operations achieve their fullest potential in 2016!
PathGuide recently discussed its business growth in Canada, but did you know that the sales boundaries for the Latitude warehouse management system stretch to other parts of the globe?
As an example, Latitude has been deployed in Panama since 2009. It was selected for use by Rodelag S.A., a well-known retail chain with more than 500 employees that services the entire country. Rodelag has been a trusted name in Panama since 1950 when two prominent families, the Romeros and the La Guardias, joined forces to bring a Sears-like department store to the Chiriqui Province. Today, Rodelag offers everything from motorbikes to clothing in branch storefronts found in small towns such as Chitre as well as in the capital of Panama City.
Panama is experiencing explosive economic growth. Over the past decade, it has been one of the fastest growing economies worldwide, and dominates the growth of its neighbors in Central America. Average annual growth was 7.2 percent between 2001 and 2013, more than double the regional average. It’s estimated that its growth in 2015 will remain a respectable 6.2 percent.
Panama’s economic climate has enticed other retailers to enter the market. So how does an older, stable company like Rodelag continue to remain relevant to its customers in such a fast-growing environment? By adding technologies such as PathGuide’s Latitude Warehouse Management Software. Latitude helped it re-engineer its warehouse and distribution operations, facilitating better customer service and more efficient inventory management. The customer service element is particularly important in Panama, which does not have a long history of retail customer loyalty; for generations, residents have routinely shopped more than one retailer to compare prices. A WMS such as Latitude helps Rodelag ensure that the most needed items are in stock at its facilities, engendering customer satisfaction and repeat sales.
PathGuide customers have a knack for finding unexpectedly innovative uses for their Latitude systems. For example, marine distributor Fisheries Supply uses Latitude WMS to automate a high-speed Will Call order system that can have customer orders ready for pickup in 15 minutes. This gives the company a high value market differentiator that boosts sales and reinforces its commitment to customer service.
Fisheries Supply is a marine distribution center that has operated since 1928 in the heart of Seattle’s maritime industry. It deployed Latitude in 2010 to improve order accuracy, but soon found other ways that the new WMS could improve its business, such as job prioritization. By taking advantage of the WMS’s built-in algorithms, Latitude helps employees determine which item is placed in the picking queue first and ranks each individual order by importance. This allows each team to pick the most urgent items 100 percent of the time. Fisheries Supply then realized that this prioritization feature could benefit Will Call orders as well.
Before deploying Latitude, Fisheries Supply assigned Will Call items to a single picker. If there was a sudden spike in Will Call orders, the picker couldn’t keep up and orders were delayed. Now, with paperless prioritization, the Will Call system looks at the urgency of each order, so it can be picked, packaged and ready for pickup within as little as 15 minutes. Customers, many of whom are local boat owners or mechanics that rely on parts and equipment from Fisheries to do their jobs, can come by and pick up their orders without any lost time or hassle. Latitude allows Fisheries Supply to have those crucial orders ready on schedule every time, which results in happy, loyal customers and repeat business.
To read this article in Industrial Supply, click here.
As with most questions, the answer is “it depends”. Whether or not a WMS will turn your warehouse into a well-oiled, profit-producing machine depends a great deal on your warehouse, your industry, your business practices, your leadership, and your employees. But ultimately, a WMS should offer you the following benefits:
faster receiving, putaway, picking, shipping
more accurate inventory
fewer receiving and shipping errors
This might sound very basic, but trust us, these are major improvements for any distribution business. If you can ship your products to your customers be faster and more precisely than your competitors, then you’ve got an edge in your industry.
Your most basic WMS will offer you these benefits, and a good WMS will deliver all of that and more. As you can see from our Latitude WMS product brochure, Latitude WMS does a LOT more than simply making your operations more efficient in areas like picking and shipping and receiving. Latitude also does Returns. Cycle Counting. Replenishment. Package Manifesting (with certification from all majoy carriers). Consignment Inventory and Front Counter Orders. Holy heck, how awesome are front counter orders? So very awesome, that’s how awesome.
Latitude WMS has multi-dimensional functionality. It’s a broad product that also allows you to drill down into the smallest details. There’s so much that Latitude WMS can do for your warehouse, so why not go ahead and give PathGuide a call and see how we can help you gegive your distribution business a competitive edge?
Eric Allais (PathGuide Technologies), David Maldonado (Gexpro), Greg Laycock (PathGuide), Scott Poehlein (Gexpro)
We here at PathGuide gear up for our yearly Latitude WMS users’ conference a couple of months in advance. Modules are updated, assignments given, presentations brushed up and revamped, databases and VMs tinkered with. While half of us deal with making sure the rooms are booked and the guests invited, the other half of the village strives to provide our users with a useful overview of this year’s solutions and innovations, in ways that are both informative and fun.
Nerves fray as I ask people not accustomed to giving public presentations to stand up and explain a module to our most critical (and supportive) experts – the people who use our product. It all culminates in a couple of days of intense discussion and hands-on learning. Ideas are thrown around, notes are taken. Meals are shared, and concerns are voiced. Beer is consumed in vast quantities.
When the dust clears, hopefully our valued customers are not only awakened to what the future holds but energized to put the warehousing science into practice. Every software company knows that software users are the real experts. Sure, we take pride in our excellent engineering team, but nothing beats a Latitude user for pinpointing efficient warehouse process and controls.
PathGuide wouldn’t have a product worth discussing if it wasn’t for the feedback and brainstorming that occurs every year during our annual Latitude User Conference. Our clients make up the most important part of our community – they are the ones who review our product, use it on a daily basis, and improve its functionality through their suggestions and, yes, even their complaints. I can testify that our engineering and support staff returned from this year’s user conference both mentally invigorated and newly appreciative of just how vast a collective knowledge pool our users provide to us, and to each other.
Here’s to our continued stamina, and our motivation to push our product forward in the name of organization to progress. Thanks to all of our customers who joined us this October to help make our product an even more valuable investment.