September 2006 | Case Studies | DC Solutions

Throwing the Book at an Old WMS

Tags: Warehousing

With a new WMS implementation, book wholesaler Bookazine begins the next chapter in its success story.

For a good, old-fashioned American success story, you need look no further than Bookazine, a leading full-service book wholesaler.

Founded in Brooklyn in 1929, the company originally specialized in exporting magazines to Europe. After a shift to selling paperback and hardcover books in the United States, however, the company spent its early years at a location in Manhattan, where booksellers walked the aisles and chose their books personally.

Today, the wholesaler is still family owned and operated, and offers access to 1.2 million titles. Customers include Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and independent book sellers.

The company is staffed by a dedicated team of book experts, many former booksellers themselves. Bookazine maintains relationships with more than 25,000 publishers worldwide, and has one of the largest independent, university, and alternative press listings of any full-service wholesaler. This far-reaching influence has earned Bookazine the capability to source any book in print.

Functioning at this level, however, requires Bookazine to stay at the forefront of technology. As the number of titles and customers in its database kept growing, Bookazine realized its current warehousing technology and methods were not keeping pace with its needs.

A New Solution

"We had an old computer system in place, and were working off manual purchase orders," says Albert Silon, manager of inbound logistics for Bookazine. "After working with our old warehouse management system for one year, it became clear that it wasn't the solution we needed."

The company worked with its conveyor vendor - which brought in the original warehouse management system (WMS) vendor - to find a new WMS provider. The search led Bookazine to 3i Infotech and its ORION WMS solution. Today, Bookazine's 125,000-square-foot distribution center in Bayonne, N.J., runs like clockwork, thanks to the new technology.

Like many companies, Bookazine was looking for a WMS that would fit its processes, not the other way around. It also wanted to achieve the most bang for its buck from the software because, as a small company, Bookazine's technology budget was not large.

"We wanted a WMS that could mirror most of our old system, but do so cost-efficiently," explains Silon.

When 3i Infotech first met with Bookazine, it found the company recognized and could explain its problems, which made the job easier for the vendor. "Bookazine knew what its problems were and what it wanted to do to fix them," says Sharad Vajpayee, vice president of ORION software for 3i Infotech.

Seeking Integration

Bookazine needed to find a software that would integrate easily with its AS/400-based back-end system and update common data systems across platforms. It also wanted to include in the integration some updated equipment, including scanners and conveyors.

At the same time, both parties wanted to preserve the positive features of Bookazine's existing picking, packing, and shipping functions. This posed the problem of integration with third-party software, a challenge 3i Infotech was ready to conquer.

Most of Bookazine's problems centered around its receiving operations, according to Vajpayee.

"From the moment a book comes into the distribution center, Bookazine needs to get it checked in and ready to sell," he explains. "The company didn't have the capability to move through receiving quickly enough and needed to automate operations."

One feature Bookazine particularly liked about ORION is its inventory control capability.

"In our business, physical space is at a premium and turnover of book titles is fierce," explains Silon. "We rely heavily on the software's inventory control and management to suggest inventory moves that consolidate stock and free up inventory slots for the next book shipment. As rapidly as consumer tastes change, so do the subjects and titles of books arriving on our receiving docks."

The ORION package fit the bill. "3i Infotech has a base system that was easily customized to fit our needs," says Silon.

To implement the system, 3i Infotech had to ensure the WMS could easily integrate with Bookazine's existing technology. "We also wanted the system to be foolproof and easy for employees to use," explains Silon. "3i Infotech streamlined the process and addressed any issues as we went along."

A More Efficient DC

The software vendor spent three months testing the system prior to final implementation. After it completed the testing, as well as a time study, Bookazine and 3i Infotech went forward with implementation. It took about two months, working during off-business hours, to bring the system online.

The implementation process was smooth, thanks mostly to 3i Infotech's support, Silon says.

After implementation, Bookazine began to reap the benefits of its new WMS right away - a big help given the book industry's fast-paced environment.

"The system's rule-based logic allows us to configure the warehouse to changing conditions, which are common in our industry," says Silon. "And, its reporting capabilities and manpower analysis enable us to quickly respond to product availability questions and properly schedule DC resources."

RF bar codes, RFID tags, and automated handheld data collection devices complement the WMS software. Bookazine also runs long conveyor systems to help move products through its DC.

"As soon as a book comes into the DC, it is scanned and moves right to the sorting process to be stored," says Vajpayee. "By automating the receiving process, Bookazine has been able to greatly improve its overall process flow."

Implementing the software has also allowed Bookazine to add two workstations in its DC, which helps speed processes. "Speed is crucial in this business," says Silon. "From dock to stock, we are now able to receive some 2,000 cartons per day. Before adding the software, that number was 1,200 per day."

The ORION software also helps Bookazine free up inventory space by suggesting inventory moves to consolidate stock. This leaves room for the next shipment of books, which keeps Bookazine at the ready for handling rapidly changing customer tastes.

In addition, the new system gives Bookazine the capability to gauge daily warehouse worker production.

"We can enter employee codes in the system and check their production against our standards," says Silon. "We didn't have this capability before. It helps us stay on top of production." It is also easy to add new employees into the system, he says.

Progress Reports

Another benefit for Bookazine is the fact that it can now run multiple applications at one time, something the old system was incapable of doing. Silon also likes the ability to expand the company's knowledge base by running reports as needed.

Since installing the software, Bookazine has received ongoing support from 3i Infotech through its customer service system, which has worked well for the company. All in all, Bookazine is pleased with the improvements it has achieved through the new software and is well on its way to becoming a paperless DC, says Silon.

Finding a software package that could adapt to Bookazine's needs was crucial, Silon says.

"This flexibility is key for any company looking to add a new WMS, because every company's needs are different," he adds. "It's also important to take your time when putting in a new system to get it just right."

The relationship between 3i Infotech and Bookazine has been productive for both partners, says Silon. "Bookazine is happy with the system, and that makes us happy," Vajpayee adds.

In the future, Bookazine may add additional bar-code locations and scanners to its overstock locations and integrate the WMS to handle that part of the business as well.

In the meantime, the company continues to build on its firm foundation as one of the nation's top book wholesalers by delivering superior customer service - thanks in part to its new warehouse management system.

End of story.