October 2006 | Case Studies | DC Solutions

Teamwork Wins the WMS Game

Tags: Warehousing

Canadian sporting goods retailer The Forzani Group drafts Q4 Logistics to tackle a WMS implementation.

While many former professional athletes move on to careers in broadcasting or coaching, John Forzani, a former Calgary Stampeder football player, chose a different route. In 1974, Forzani, along with three of his former teammates, charted new territory when he opened an athletic footwear store, Forzani's Locker Room.

Business took off and Forzani and his partners quickly expanded the inventory to include clothing and sports equipment.

Years of growth and expansion continued, and the company acquired several other sporting goods retailers, continually expanding its selection. Forzani's store banners now include SportChek, Coast Mountain Sports, SportMart, Sport Experts, Atmosphere, Nevada Bob's, as well as an online outlet.

Today, The Forzani Group is the largest and only national sporting goods retailer in Canada, with more than 500 corporate and franchise stores. The company sells a vast assortment of sports products, from athletic footwear and leisure apparel to sports equipment.

The company's merchandise mix includes brand-name products together with a large selection of private-label goods. Canadians from all parts of the country readily recognize the store banners and can find all manner of sporting goods and price points among them.

Taking stock and making changes

Forzani's mission is to be the "best store in town," and its 13,000 corporate and franchise employees help accomplish that goal. A large part of that effort involves having an effective warehousing and distribution network in place. When it became clear that the company's warehouse management system (WMS) was not up to par, Forzani's took the necessary steps to optimize warehouse operations.

Forzani's distribution network includes two DCs—a 100,000-square- foot facility in Calgary, and a 475,000-square-foot DC in Toronto. Each day, the Calgary DC processes between 5,000 and 10,000 units and the Toronto DC handles between 75,000 and 100,000 units. Both locations aim to ship orders in less than 24 hours.

Until recently, the DCs used a legacy system, which "served its purpose, but couldn't move forward with the company," according to James Creusot, Forzani's director of business applications.

"We needed specific functionalities—such as enhanced slotting and the ability to receive electronic advanced shipment notices from our vendors—that our legacy system couldn't support," he explains. "The more efficient we make our DCs, the more efficient we can be in our stores, so it became clear that we had to make a change."

Enhancing the existing system was not an option, so Forzani's began the hunt for a new WMS. After a thorough search, the company found the right solution for its needs with Manhattan Associate's WMS. The system proved to be a good fit for several reasons.

"Manhattan Associates has a solid track record working with sporting goods retailers," says Keith Lambert, vice president of supply chain at Forzani's. "It also offers easy integration, and the platforms align nicely with ours."

When Forzani's began its work with the new WMS, it was also implementing other new applications. In all, the company took on four projects, all wrapped into one, at the same time.

Despite that, the implementation began smoothly. The company, however, felt additional expertise tailored specifically to its applications and processes could help optimize the process.

Forming The Team

After researching consultants and checking several referrals, Forzani's partnered with Orange, Calif.-based Q4 Logistics. The Q4 consultants are well-versed in optimizing people, operations, and systems on large-scale projects, and had worked with sporting goods retailers in the past.

"Q4 was a good choice for us," says Creusot. "We were looking for a company with expertise in WMS that could also understand our DC operations. Q4 provided both."

"Forzani's contacted us three to four months into its WMS project," recalls Christina Blythe, project manager for Q4.

"The company had completed part of the design phase and decided it needed an applications expert to help finalize design, configuration, and testing of the new software and processes. Forzani's also looked to us to lead its transition management program."

In addition to the fact that Q4 understood sporting goods retailers and their distribution operations, Forzani's found the company to be a good cultural fit, Creusot says.

"We had harmony in our relationship, which was a bonus," he explains.

A Good Start

As Q4 began its work with Forzani's, it met with the retailer's information technology and business groups to develop an accurate picture of what the project entailed.

"Q4 helped us refine our project—the consultants set a course and stayed true to it," explains Creusot. "They reworked our project charter and we followed those changes."

Forzani's was looking to Q4 for help enhancing its business processes, something Q4 set out to do from the start.

"Forzani's was trying to decide if it needed to modify some portions of the WMS," says Blythe. "We recommended against a number of modifications and instead helped the company make changes to its processes that allowed it to avoid that step."

Forzani's, for example, wanted to use different methods for fulfilling orders and slotting goods. Q4 helped enable those processes in a way that coordinates seamlessly with the new software.

Other areas where Q4 pitched in included helping Forzani's set up allocation priorities with its picking operations, and showing it the pros and cons of active picking.

In addition, Forzani's was interfacing a put-to-light system in the Mississauga distribution center, and Q4 was able to help it incorporate that system into its operations.

Keep it Simple

Q4 also aided Forzani's in simplifying many of its processes, including receiving operations. Forzani's receives shipments on its docks and utilizes flow through and cross-docking operations. DC employees often unloaded trucks and quickly looked over the products before performing detailed receiving into the system.

"The Manhattan Associates software has a module to help perform that task, which Forzani's was unaware of. We helped it tap into that feature to track products from the time they hit the docks," says Blythe. "We also helped it figure out a way to 'mass receive.' Forzani's can slap labels on cases and put them on conveyors."

Overall, the implementation project took close to eight months. Q4's presence throughout the process had a positive effect, according to Creusot.

Since going live with the new WMS at both DCs, Forzani's has reaped the benefits of months of hard work. The partnership with Q4 saved Forzani's approximately $70,000 worth of potential modifications, according to Blythe.

It has only been a few months since Forzani's debuted its new solution, but the executives are pleased with the results and optimistic about the future.

"We are already exceeding our operating capacities in output," says Lambert. "And throughput is up 15 percent. We can move more units in less time with the new system."

Lambert is also satisfied with inventory accuracy—which is already at or exceeding levels from before the WMS implementation—and expects to achieve labor savings as well.

"This implementation was largely an optimization effort, and we achieved significant results," he says.

While Q4 has many WMS implementation projects under its belt, working with a company going live with WMS software in two DCs simultaneously was a new challenge.

"Forzani's took a 'big bang' approach to this project, which we don't see too often," says Blythe. "Overall, for an implementation of this size, the process was pretty painless. Forzani's was able to reach its normal production level quickly, which is a great achievement."

Forzani's is thankful for the assistance it received from Q4 on the project. "Q4 helped us articulate our desires and identify changes we needed to make," says Creusot.

"The Manhattan Associates WMS is highly configurable, and Q4 helped us determine which modifications to utilize. Q4 provided a functional presence to the project that was missing before it came on board."