July 2015 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Terri Anderson: Care and Feeding of the WMS

Tags: Logistics I.T., Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Supply Chain Management, Logistics

Terri Anderson is production warehouse management systems manager at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a global learning company specializing in Pre-K to 12th grade content, services, and technology. She has held this position, based in Indianapolis, since 2004.

Responsibilities: Configure, enhance, and test the company's warehouse management system (WMS); liaison between distribution centers and the technology group; oversee WMS security, manage distribution analytics projects.

Experience: Office administration clerk, billing clerk, over, short, and damage clerk, Preston Trucking Co.; pension clerk, American United Life Insurance; shipping clerk, administrative assistant to traffic manager, Simon & Schuster.

Education: AAS, computer information systems, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, 2007; certificate, project management and business analysis, Villanova University, 2009; BS, business management, Western Governors University, expected 2018.


My first full-time jobs were with a trucking company, but I didn't set out to work in logistics. My career has taken shape because of a series of stepping-stones and opportunities. But now that I'm supporting Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's three distribution centers (DCs), coming to work feels good every day. I enjoy finding ways to resolve challenges.

I manage a three-person team that's responsible for configuring, enhancing, testing, and troubleshooting our warehouse management system (WMS). We're always improving the processes in our DCs, which means we're always improving our systems. When it comes time to make a change, my team approves the function specifications, and then represents the production employees in coordinating with the technology group. We also test the system changes.

In addition, my team is responsible for testing the way the WMS integrates with SAP, our enterprise resource planning system, and with other systems. And we've just taken on a new role: performing distribution analytics. This project will bring greater consistency to the reports the DCs pull from our various systems. Executives, managers, and front line employees use those reports, for example, to monitor activity and determine how many workers to assign to a given area each day.

Right now, different groups within our facilities use different software to generate reports, and they pull those reports in various ways. When we're done, everyone will use the same reports to pull the same information. Eventually, we want to present that information on dashboards, with displays tailored to different users.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt products are printed and bound in production plants in the United States and overseas. Those products—including print and digital educational content, and fiction, reference, and children's titles—move to our three DCs in Geneva, Ill., Troy, Mo., and Indianapolis. From the DCs, we distribute directly to schools, or to DCs operated by school districts and state education departments, as well as to bookstores and B2C for our trade products.

Along with the distribution analytics project, my team will play a big role in implementing a new version of SAP in the cloud. Our company recently acquired Scholastic's Educational Technology and Services business, and we're going to start the re-implementation with that organization. The first time we implemented SAP, it took three years. Now the vendor offers solutions for rapid deployment, which should take only one year.

Looking back on my career so far, I'm proud of the way I've been able to balance work, family, and education. I didn't go to college after high school, but when I accepted my current position, I was required to get a degree. So I went back to school while working full time and taking care of a blended family with six children. It was hard work and stressful. But with my wonderful husband's help, I got through it and maintained a 4.0 average.n

The Big Questions

What do you like to do when you're not working?

I like reading and learning, which is why I'm glad to be back in college. I love swimming, boating, and other water sports, and being with my family. I also enjoy paper craft projects and Ohio State University football games.

What's your alter ego dream job?

I'd like to run a business with my husband. We have such different schedules and we rarely see each other. I think we'd work well together.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Invest in yourself now. Start learning early and becoming great at doing one thing.

What's the strangest surprise your career has thrown your way?

I toured so many distribution centers with the Indianapolis Warehouse Education and Research Council—where I wasn't even a member at the time—that they invited me to join their board. I'm now a director-at-large and will coordinate my first event this year.