Consistent Profits Depend on Running a Tight Ship. Which Depends on Easily Customized Processes
“What we liked about Silver Creek Software’s WMS was that it wasn’t hard-coded with only one set of functioning rules. WMS enabled our IT department to build any algorithm we needed—to create rules that would take into account the specific properties of each product. In effect, we were able to adapt software to meet our business processes, instead of having to make our processes adapt to software.”
Modifiable Algorithms versus Hard Coding
One of the most unique features of Silver Creek Software’s WMS is the flexibility it allows in customizing pick sequences. For instance, Daegas says, the WMS system enabled his company to create a picking order that made sure ice-packed standard broccoli was never stacked on top of organic strawberries, which would have caused the melt water to drip down and deposit traces of pesticides or fertilizer on the berries. The company also created picking orders that prevented cold-packed produce like broccoli from being packed next to bananas or tomatoes that need a warmer environment.
“What we liked about Silver Creek [Software’s] WMS was that it wasn’t hard-coded with only one set of functioning rules,” Daegas says. “The flexibility of Silver Creek [Software’s] WMS enabled our IT department to build any algorithm we needed—to create rules that would take into account the specific properties of each product. In effect, we were able to adapt software to meet our business processes, instead of having to make our processes adapt to software.”
Similarly, Daegas says, his company was able to increase efficiency by organizing work in terms of tasks instead of order picking. It could, for example, create a task in which a picker would be able to fulfill multiple orders while making one trip through the warehouse, rather than fulfilling one order per trip. It is these small efficiencies, he says, which add up to higher profits.
Time Stamping to Verify Orders, Improve Performance
Daegas says that another useful features of Silver Creek Software’s WMS is the ability to time stamp warehouse activities. Suppose a customer complains it received only 3 of the 5 cases of oranges it ordered. With a time-stamped video monitoring system integrated into WMS, warehouse staff could use WMS to call up the date and time the customer’s order was picked, then use that information to locate the accompanying video footage, and see how many cases the picker added to the order.
“You can see right there on the monitor how many cases were picked.” Daegas says, “This may not provide definitive proof, but it does enable you to eliminate possible errors. And that can help you maintain valuable customer relationships.”
Since WMS provides time-stamped logs of the work being done inside the warehouse, it can also help managers identify how quickly each task is being performed. This information, in turn, can be used to measure the performance of warehouse employees and, for instance, provide incentives for outstanding work.
Don Daegas spent 18 years as IT director for a major West Coast produce distributor. When the company wanted to improve the efficiency of its warehouse operations, it put Daegas in charge of finding the best warehouse management system (WMS). According to Daegas, “WMS manages the movement of product from the receiving side and put-away to picking and loading. It manages the continuous process of receiving product, putting it in the warehouse, identifying and tracking its location in one or more of warehouses, and then letting it down to facilitate picking.”
After carefully assessing the company’s needs, Daegas chose Silver Creek Software’s WMS. Silver Creek Software is known for its customized software designed to meet the unique needs of each customer. Daegas and his team put this reputation to the test, fully integrating its new WMS into the company’s operations. The result is a highly efficient warehouse management system that enables the company to wring big profits out of small margins, while continuing to deliver the highest-quality products.
Real-Time Order Change to Save Costs
Silver Creek Software’s WMS also provides users with a real-time visual work cue that contains all of the picking orders currently in progress. Warehouse managers can drill down into the work orders to see what orders are being picked, how far along they are, and who is doing the picking. They can then change the sequence of the orders and even select which pickers fulfill which orders.
“The WMS enabled our managers to see how each order was being picked and refer to color-coded task status bars to see how far along they were,” Daegas explains. “One really nice feature was that, until the order was actually being picked, a salesman could add or delete products per a customer request. Sometimes this meant that we could combine customer orders, re-route the delivery, and save the entire cost of rolling a truck.”
Daegas notes that while truck routing is not part of WMS per se, it does highlight the value of having WMS integrated into a company’s core ERP system. Part of creating picking orders, he says, includes knowing such things as the capacity of each truck in terms of number of pallets or weight capacity. If this information is stored in a separate system, it can make it harder to create the correct order. With the wrong order, trucks can be inadvertently overloaded and subject to costly fines and shipping delays.
A Tight Ship Means Good Profits
In the end, Daegas says, success in the produce industry is all about efficiency. Each product that comes into a warehouse has to be put away, picked and processed, loaded onto trucks and delivered to the customer. This involves a lot of people and a lot of processes.
“The whole idea of WMS is to reduce error and reduce steps to the bare minimum. But each company develops its own way to run efficiently—to get the most out of its facilities, products and people. When you have a WMS like Silver Creek [Software’s WMS], you have the ability to tweak and tune your warehouse operations to achieve your own version of maximum efficiency—and that’s the name of the game.”
About Silver Creek Software
Silver Creek Software was established in 1983 in Boise, Idaho. Silver
Creek Software dedicates its business exclusively to our Visual Produce
ERP solutions. Visual Produce is a financial management program that is customizable and designed to address the business needs of fresh produce wholesalers, distributors, packers, shippers, processors, brokers and growers.