Tag Archives: scalability

Customer Spotlight: Red-L Distributors

Customer Spotlight

Red-L Distributors has built its business by providing customers with quality products, great product selection, added value, and personal service. Based near Edmonton in Alberta, the company has been supplying Canada’s oilfield, agricultural, transportation, construction, mining, and forestry industries since 1961. Today the company offers a diversified range of products from hydraulic, industrial, and high pressure hoses and fittings to lubricants, bowie pumps, and diesel engine oil, all from its 12 locations in Alberta and British Columbia.

Why Latitude?

Red-L first implemented PathGuide’s Latitude WMS in 2007 for its advanced features and compatibility with their ERP system. As it rolled out Latitude WMS, the company was able to transform its warehouse into a cleaner, safer and much more efficient workplace by reorganizing its operations and taking full advantage of the enhanced layout and workflow. Following this successful deployment, in 2011 Red-L began using Latitude’s Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) functionality to help its clients efficiently maintain stock levels and independently manage replenishment orders. Red-L had found traditional forms of vendor-managed inventory replenishment problematic because they were generally slow and prone to human error, resulting in increased travel time for Red-L’s sales team and lengthy replenishment cycles.

VMI orders are processed by Latitude and imported directly into Red-L’s ERP. The process is not only very efficient, it also saves a significant amount of time and reduces the likelihood of input errors. This has given Red-L a competitive advantage, and greatly reduced the burden on Red-L’s clients. In fact, 40 of Red-L’s clients now use VMI to handle product replenishment, averaging an 80 percent improvement in turnaround times.

More Information

To learn more about Red-L, visit their website at: http://www.redl.com/. More information about Latitude WMS can be found here: http://www.pathguide.com/Solutions.aspx.

Interview with Douglas Hunter, chairman of PathGuide’s Latitude Advisory Board (LAB)

We recently spoke with Douglas Hunter, the newly elected chairman of PathGuide’s Latitude Advisory Board (LAB). Douglas is the operations manager at Eldorado Trading Company, and was the original implementation champion at Eldorado when Latitude WMS was first rolled out. He has been a part of the industry for many years, and shared some of his views and advice about getting the most out of Latitude.

PathGuide: What are some of the benefits or unique ways you use Latitude WMS?

Douglas: Latitude has provided a major improvement to our business in inventory management and in staff performance by increasing accountability and reducing manual steps. Previously, we used our ERP to manage all warehouse inventory operations, which did not give us data in real time or with much detail. Managing inventory and order processing was extremely labor-intensive due to the ERP’s inability to manage inventory in multiple locations, as well as the required time-consuming action of sorting and processing picks on paper.

The customization that we tend to describe as our “game changers” are the automation in order routing by customer type, carrier and FIFO, in a paperless pick environment. We can now manage inventory in real time in multiple locations, instead of our previous practice of using manual reference fields to know secondary or back-stock locations. The customization of the LMS Manifesting & Shipping System offered by PathGuide removed countless manual practices and allowed us to process more orders without adding additional stations or staff. Finally, the ability to add customized reports, alerts, and dashboards has helped us reduce email volume due to manual alerts, and has given us strong visibility down to the team or individual level for performance metrics.

PathGuide: Why did you join PathGuide’s Latitude Advisory Board (LAB)?

Douglas: For me, being a LAB member means having stronger insight into the growth of PathGuide’s products and vision plans. It also means having the ability to give feedback from an operational standpoint on areas in need of improvement or presenting ‘outside the box’ ideas that we identify in the day-to-day use of our WMS. The LAB gives power-users of Latitude the ability to brainstorm new concepts with PathGuide’s talented team, in order to continue enhancing an already great product.

PathGuide: What advice would you give to companies considering a WMS?

Douglas: Do an ROI plan with strategic growth goals and an analysis of your practices in order to identify the areas needing improvement. Far too often, the larger issues are obvious because they are the triggers for your organization’s search for a WMS in the first place. If you are struggling on where to start this analysis, review white papers on warehouse inefficiencies or visit a best-in-class facility to see processes that are stronger than those in your own operations. Examples of some areas to focus on are inventory accuracy, measuring productivity, pick path sequencing, and paper picking.

You should know what your company wants to achieve by adding a WMS to your operations. The benefits of adding Latitude WMS include warehousing visibility improvements and automation. From staff productivity visibility, real-time information on item storage in multiple locations, faster dock-to-stock in receiving, stronger order release control, a more accurate inventory, customizable manifesting features, or a product that will grow with your company, Latitude can enhance the capabilities of your business and increase your customer’s satisfaction through timely, accurate orders.

You would be hard-pressed to find a better customer service practice in any industry.

Competing With Giants

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 Services had 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.

Are cheaper WMSs better?

Photo by David Paul Ohmer

When it comes to making a purchase as large and important as a WMS, start-up cost is not a minor factor. It’s not as if purchasing a warehouse management system is a small investment, after all. From the cost of the actual equipment to the software, to the training, to all of the employee time invested in learning how to work with inventory management, implementing a warehouse management system is a big deal. Continue reading