The warehouse guy in each of Parksite's nine locations was the guy with the tribal knowledge. He knew where he had stocked the cedar boards that day; he knew where to pick them. He could decipher handwritten order tickets, most of the time, and with the two-step distributor's 98.3% shipping accuracy, that was pretty good. This system had worked since 1971 and continued to work as long as the warehouse guy did not take a vacation.
Ten months and $250,000 later, Parksite's logistics and IT teams had activated the dormant warehouse management piece of its Pronto-Xi ERP business software and put scanner guns in stockpickers' hands. The technology overhaul eliminated paper pick tickets, set definite bin locations, and enabled pickers to increase productivity by 34%–with 75% better accuracy.
The payback was fast. Cost per lines shipped dropped 20% and four consecutive bank audits at one location revealed 100% inventory accuracy.
"Truth is, we should have done it a lot sooner," confesses Steve Schmidt, vice president of logistics at Parksite's headquarters in Batavia, Ill. "Now when somebody goes to pick an order, they just have a scanner gun in their hand. It tells them the order number and where to go in the warehouse; they walk right over to that bin location, scan the bin, scan the item, pick the 12 pieces, confirm the pick is done, and then they take it back and stage it."
For a company grossing $259 million in sales, the project was as cost-effective as it could get. The functionality of the existing warehouse management software was more than adequate; it just required additional licensing and light initial help from the software vendor. The Parksite team did the rest. They recorded the more than 6,000 SKUs into the system, reorganized the bin layout, programmed the scanner guns, and readied the barcode printers in each of the company's locations across the eastern half of the U.S.
The changeover in company mentality was just as great. With the new system, managers can see where the scanner guns are in the building, when the last transaction was entered, and what order the picker is working on. But that also means no one sneak off any longer to a dark corner of the warehouse and disappear for 30 minutes.
"Was it difficult for people to accept the change?" Schmidt asks. "For that reason, yes."
"Far fewer people accepted it than we anticipated," information technology chief Blake Chadick says. "You're taking the paper out of their hands and putting a scanner there, and with any kind of change like that, there's going to be people who accept it and people who don't." Still, not a single employee left. Those who balked at the beginning fully accepted the system by the end, Schmidt says.
The transition was hard and stressful, with long hours and lots of pressure, says Schmidt, but worth it: "Our inventory accuracy is so high now, it has translated into a higher fill rate to our customers, hopefully getting them to order from us frequently because if we tell them we have it, we have it, and we'll get it to them on time."
More potential for warehouse efficiency within the Pronto software remains untapped. There are functions for bin replenishment, slotting, automated invoicing, and electronic signature capture, but Chadick says the company plans on bringing a GPS program to its fleet first.
"The success story here is not about the product itself," Schmidt says. "The real success is our people's commitment to do it, to get it implemented and execute it every day. The result is all the numbers."