September 2004 | Case Studies | DC Solutions

New Warehouse, New Software: A Winning Combination

Tags: Warehousing

Matching a wireless services company with the right WMS provider leads to stellar results

Ever Win International, based in Los Angeles, could be considered a manufacturer and distributor of cutting-edge technology. By combining global manufacturing and distribution capabilities with value-added services for the wireless industry, the company aims to provide total vertical integration solutions to its customers.

But while its wireless products and services have always been progressive, until recently, Ever Win's distribution center was anything but. Operating out of a 15,000-square-foot DC with a paper-based, manual system, Ever Win was having a difficult time meeting customer needs.

As the company experienced growth while changing its strategic direction to service a solid base of 50 large customers, it became clear that a new, modern DC was in order.

"Our former system was manual, and we had products laid out in the DC by category," recalls Chad Treadwell, vice president of operations. "For instance, one section of the DC was dedicated to chargers, and another was the location for headsets. It was inefficient and our customers saw right through it."

The former DC was located right next to the corporate office. When orders came in, Ever Win employees carried them out to the DC for processing. This method sometimes led to lost orders or slow processing. And, if an order came in at day's end, the staff didn't get to it until the next day.

"It sometimes took two to three days to get an order out," says Treadwell. "It was inefficient and costly, and our larger customers worried that as their volume kicked up, we wouldn't be able to handle it."

In danger of losing customers, Ever Win found a new, 51,000-square-foot DC down the road from its former operations. Because the new DC would be located farther away from corporate headquarters, an electronic system was in order.

WMS Now, ERP Later

Ever Win wanted to move quickly, so it made its physical move at the same time that it set up a new Warehouse Management System (WMS). A new enterprise system was also in the works, but the company decided to add that later, concentrating instead on getting the WMS up and running.

Luckily for Ever Win, the right WMS partner for its application was just a customer referral away. Radio Beacon Inc., located in Toronto, Ontario, had previous experience in the cell phone and wireless industry, so it was ready to take on Ever Win's challenge.

When Ever Win first approached Radio Beacon, "we were pretty new at figuring out what we needed," Treadwell admits. But the company understood the importance of a robust WMS, and it also knew that it needed that system to integrate completely with the ERP system that it intended to implement.

Ever Win's WMS selection process took about three months. The company decided on Radio Beacon not only because it met Ever Win's specs, but because of its positive referral as well.

Ever Win's approach to software implementation was unique.

"Usually companies start with an ERP system and add WMS later," says Dale Jeffries, president of Radio Beacon. "But Ever Win's greater need was getting into the new DC, and the WMS was essential to doing that quickly."

Ever Win's approach was also an affordable one. "The company started relatively inexpensively because it had confidence that it would later be able to easily plug in the ERP system," he says.

Once the two companies began to work together, Ever Win's immediate needs became clear. "With its old system, Ever Win was lacking real-time inventory knowledge," Jeffries says.

Fit Processes to the System

Overall, the two companies spent about six months implementing the WMS, followed up by the ERP system. During the implementation, Treadwell asked for few changes to the package Radio Beacon offered.

"I've seen companies try to change systems to fit their processes," he says. "I knew it would be easier to fit our processes to the system and tweak it down the road if we needed to."

Radio Beacon offers a large number of configurations with its package and makes its various options available as needed. "Ever Win needed a way to track cell phones and warranty returns," Jeffries explains. "We added a serial number tracking feature into its system. Today that feature is available to other companies as well."

The implementation took slightly longer than a "normal" one, says Jeffries, because of the challenge of adding the ERP system after the WMS. "Normally we're in and out of a facility in about 30 days," he says. "But with the ERP added afterwards, we did a series of mini-implementations."

Jeffries was very impressed with the Ever Win staff's technical know-how, which made the implementation go smoothly. "Everyone there was very knowledgeable," he says.

Treadwell recognizes this advantage as well. "When we've needed Radio Beacon, it has been there," he says. "But most of the time, our internal people are very skilled and have been able to handle upgrades and other issues since implementation."

Since the original implementation almost three years ago, Ever Win has made numerous upgrades to both the WMS and the ERP as they've become available.

"The challenge is making sure we go to the system with the last integration point so that the communication between the two systems can continue smoothly," Treadwell says.

Radio Beacon has added several features to its package in the three years since Ever Win first selected it. These include features to help companies with inbound logistics from overseas, for instance, as increasing numbers of companies conduct business globally.

"We're also working with Ever Win on adding web-based visibility for order status," Jeffries says.

Complementing the software in Ever Win's new DC is a fleet of new equipment, including RF-scanning devices, printers, lift trucks and racking. And, says Treadwell, "all the original RF devices we purchased are still working and have yet to be replaced."

Stellar Results

To say that the move to a new warehouse along with new software has been a boon to Ever Win would be an understatement. "Our efficiencies have gone through the roof," says Treadwell. "In the old DC, there were times when we couldn't find products in the midst of shipping orders. Today, we have real-time access to inventory and orders."

That translates into a simple fact for Ever Win: "If we don't have it, we don't sell it," says Treadwell.

Another benefit of the new software is improvement in shipping accuracy. "It used to be that I'd look over our shipping reports to find out where the mistakes were," says Treadwell. "We had about 85-percent accuracy on our outbound orders. Today, I rarely get those 'mistake' reports and we have accuracy of about 99 percent. Our customers like that."

Because Ever Win made its move to the new DC and software at the same time that it changed its strategy to focus on fewer, larger customers, its order make-up has changed as well.

"We process between 50 and 75 orders each day," says Treadwell, "and these are large quantity orders. With the old strategy, we shipped about 7,000 pieces each day; now that's about 150,000 pieces a day."

In addition, Ever Win is able to complete daily warehousing tasks with fewer people than before. "We used to need 30 people to pick orders," says Treadwell. "Now it only takes a few."

The software has been a big plus for a company used to working with a paper-based system. "Ever Win was able to grow without having to worry about its warehousing operations," Jeffries says.

In the future, Ever Win will likely add more software to its arsenal, all of which should easily integrate with the WMS. In the meantime, there's no looking back, Treadwell says. "This system has really paid off for us. We easily got a return on investment within the first year."