DMS Savings: Par for the Course
Fueled by increasing customer and vendor requirements and a major acquisition, King Par finds a DMS that fits its needs to a tee.
Selling golf clubs has never been a difficult proposition for retailers, thanks to steady consumer demand for new equipment. Making sure retail outlets are fully stocked and adequately prepared to meet the changing needs of golfers, however, requires an integrated and seamless distribution network—especially when selling equipment as close to cost as possible.
Flushing, Mich.-based King Par is perhaps the "most popular unknown" among the myriad golf club manufacturers that sell and distribute equipment worldwide. The company develops and distributes several "private label" projects, including the Ti-Tech program for Wal-Mart, the Stonehouse program for Dick's Sporting Goods, the Golf Master program for JJB Sports, and the Stellar program for the National Golf Buyers Association.
King Par also owns several value-priced golf club lines—Knight, Affinity, Fortune, and Strategy—all of which target unique markets.
"We are a golf club manufacturer, distributor, and retailer," says Kelly Harrison, IT director, King Par Golf. "Our primary function is distributing our brands."
In 1999 the company allied itself with Toronto-based TECSYS Inc. to streamline its distribution and warehouse processes using the software developer's EliteSeries 6.3 solution. However, more recent changes within the company, fueled by increasing customer and vendor requirements, a major acquisition, and continued brand growth, compelled King Par to upgrade its existing Distribution Management System (DMS) package and further automate and streamline order management, cost tracking, and distribution processes within its worldwide network.
The Power of Integration
"When King Par went to market in the late 1990s, it was looking for an integrated distribution and warehousing solution, one package that could manage forecasting, purchasing, import control, RFID warehousing, order management, and pricing ," says Peter Brereton, president and co-CEO of TECSYS.
The advantages of an integrated warehouse management system (WMS) and distribution management system operation were twofold.
"First, it involved all the issues associated with integration: one vendor upgrades its package, then you have to update the interface; six months later the other vendor updates its package and you have to update the interface again," Brereton says.
"Second, because it is one integrated solution, the whole system operates in real time," he adds.
This real-time visibility into what inventory was available similarly made the company more flexible in meeting customer demands.
"Suppose there's an order that is 80 percent through the warehouse being picked and packed, ready for shipment. Then a customer calls and asks you to add one more piece to that order. It's not a problem. That's not the kind of thing you can do with two disparate systems that send information back and forth once an hour," says Brereton.
The compatibility of both DMS and WMS processes was a critical linchpin for King Par at the outset of its relationship with TECSYS. To accommodate future growth, however, King Par was looking for a solution that would allow it to be more proactive about the information it was receiving and better able to share this real-time data with customers, suppliers, and internal departments.
The decision to upgrade to TECSYS' EliteSeries 7.2 version couldn't have come at a better time.
In 2003 King Par acquired Orlimar Golf, a higher-end golf club manufacturer with a considerably more discretionary customer base. The acquisition marked a new directive for the company as it began looking at a new roster of potential vendors and customers.
"The decision to upgrade to EliteSeries 7.2 had less to do with the Orlimar acquisition than better gauging and tracking costs," says Harrison. "It had more to do with our need to track costing for overseas containers. We really didn't have a good way to identify how much it cost to move an individual part or item overseas."
Still, folding the Orlimar brand into its existing business presented a big change for King Par because, before the acquisition, most of its golf clubs were being distributed to and sold at wholesale retailers.
"Orlimar is a higher-end brand, which makes the acquisition all the more important," notes Harrison. "It will have a big impact on our business because customers who now pay $300 for a golf club want to know what kind of research goes into its manufacturing as well as club specifications. By contrast, someone who is looking for a cheap golf club is buying solely on price."
Sensing its impending growth into a more exclusive market, King Par realized it needed a better system of sharing information with all its supply chain partners.
From Client Server to Browser Based
The EliteSeries 7.2 version offered significant enhancements that allowed King Par to accommodate growth as a result of bringing Orlimar on board as well as changing business requirements.
"From a functionality standpoint, we added a new module that is designed for high-volume importers moving everything by the containerload," says Brereton. "The solution tracks containers, what vessels the containers are on, what port the vessels are coming into, as well as insurance, handling, and port costs. It also manages direct container drop-ship where required, which a lot of shippers are doing now.
"So the system will literally place an order for a container that will be drop-shipped directly to Target or Wal-Mart."
The second big difference is that the new version is browser-based, rather than a client-server technology.
"Ease of use is an important aspect of the upgrade," says Brereton. "The user interface is such that anyone who is comfortable operating a web product is comfortable operating our product. What used to entail a five-day training class is reduced to simple procedural training. This way the rollout is quicker and far less costly."
With rollout in September 2004, the upgrade has had an immediate impact on King Par's ability to not only better track costs but also integrate its IT processes with remote sales reps and new business interests.
"From an IT standpoint, all the current applications are browser based so I don't have to worry about selling clients anymore," says Harrison. "It similarly enables my remote offices and reps to have access to tools they did not have before.
"Also, the new version has metadata—which is essentially 'data that describes data.' This allows us to validate information in terms of doing EDI with suppliers as well as with customers who might otherwise issue large chargebacks if data is not accurate," she notes. "Now we have the ability to write rules to describe our data more accurately and have more error checking built into our IT processes."
There are also expanded EDI capabilities that King Par can use to consolidate purchase orders. "We can receive a large PO that covers multiple stores instead of one for each. The main advantage is that it will cut down on EDI costs and streamline the number of documents that we trade with our customers," says Harrison.
Harrison hopes to achieve similar efficiencies with vendors as well. "We are just beginning to do EDI with the supplier side. The new system allows us to track the costing and get data directly from suppliers as to when the shipment left, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. They will feed that electronically into our database. Then we'll be able to see the costing," she adds.
"To increasingly validate our information is a great asset," says Harrison. "Customers demand very specific details. We can give them the ability to query us directly—because of the browser-based interface—so that they can find out what parts are low in stock and automatically replenish their inventory."
Even in its initial stage, the upgrade to EliteSeries 7.2 has afforded King Par much greater flexibility in using the information it receives from its suppliers and retail customers to drive greater efficiencies within its supply chain. As far as logistics efficiency goes, that's anything but par for the course.