Sofa So Good: Software Upgrade Bolsters Furniture Company’s Growth
A furniture retailer upgrades its warehouse management system to polish productivity.
In the retail furniture business, there is no time for reclining; a company needs every edge to stay alive and thrive. Just ask retailer City Furniture, based in South Florida, which continuously changes and adapts to new circumstances while relying on supply chain best practices.
In 2015, City Furniture found that its warehouse management system (WMS), which had served the company well over the years, needed to be replaced. It was a homegrown system, customized many times over.
City Furniture's in-house IT staff kept patching in changes, which created glitches. It became risky to make any further modifications.
And, due to the software architecture, the WMS had to be shut down one hour every day so the IT team could update and clean tables. This practice reduced the system's available operating time to 23 hours, making it difficult for the company to satisfy its customers' demands.
City Furniture turned to Minneapolis-based HighJump Software, a global provider of supply chain network solutions, and its HighJump Warehouse Advantage WMS for a flexible and customizable system.
Jumping from Waterbeds
City Furniture began as a waterbed store in 1971. "We had to move into full-size furniture because of declining demand for waterbeds," recalls Shaun Feraco, managing director of operations. By 2001, the company opened a 1-million-square-foot warehouse. "We began same-day delivery in 2002, as a competitive advantage," says Feraco.
City Furniture now operates 28 showrooms in Central and South Florida, a network that includes an alliance with 12 Ashley Furniture showrooms. With 1,200 associates, the company handles 1,500 inbound calls daily. Completing 20,000 deliveries every month, its 70 trucks drive 4 million miles per year.
"In 2007, as business started declining, we had to find areas to improve our operations," says Feraco. "So we developed our City Furniture Operating System. We also adopted our Lean philosophy, and a continuous improvement process that lets us grow as an organization."
Almost one decade later, faced with an intensely competitive and constantly changing retail landscape, the growing company—it has plans to open multiple DCs—sought a flexible and adaptable WMS that could provide real-time updating.
"Changes to our existing system became dangerous," Feraco recalls. "We would make a change and then spend hours fixing all the issues that change created."
Feraco and his team did their research. They read through industry trade publications and consulted with other retailers about their systems. "We asked: Is it easy to use? Is it easy to change?" says Feraco. "Then, we asked potential vendors to come onsite for one day to see our entire operation and the full cycle of our processes.
"We then narrowed down the selections, and invited the short list to do demos so we could get an understanding of what their systems were like," he adds. "We sent them our data so we could see how it would flow through their processes."
HighJump's solution furnished the answer to City Furniture's WMS challenges. "The company ranks high on Gartner's Magic Quadrant," says Feraco, referring to the research company's evaluation of technology providers. Used by more than 14,000 companies globally, HighJump's suite of warehouse management, business integration, transportation management, and retail/direct store delivery solutions offers an adaptable platform.
Feraco and his team could maintain HighJump's Warehouse Advantage WMS and make changes as needed. The solution could produce live updates to customized dashboards; it never had to be shut down. City Furniture could own it long term and massage solutions to changing circumstances.
Additionally, the team could scale up the system to any level they could think of. Most importantly, base operations upgrades did not affect add-ons.
In short, HighJump had the crucial feature that City Furniture needed. "HighJump software is architected so that business logic is stored separately from the application, meaning system upgrades do not touch custom workflows," explains Jon Kuerschner, HighJump's vice president of product management and consulting. "City Furniture could continue to innovate the application and maintain a simple upgrade path."
HighJump implements a four-phase process when working with clients. "First, we define the scope of the client's needs onsite," Kuerschner explains. "Then we document what we learned, along with any needed derivations. Next, we move to the configuration phase and make the changes needed to support the business. In the deployment phase, we come back onsite, do all the necessary testing, and bring the system live."
The final phase involves transitioning the customer to HighJump's worldwide 24x7 support organization, making sure the company has access to the tools required to maintain the solution.
"We took six months to document all the flows and SOPs (standard operating procedures)," notes Feraco. The retailer made sure the solution would fit its processes. But as prepared as City Furniture was, a few surprises awaited the company during implementation.
"They were surprised to find so many places to increase productivity," says Kuerschner. "Now they have real-time visibility into their operations and powerful tools—a combination that enhances planning and execution capabilities.
"They know exactly where they are against their plan at any time, and how well their people are doing against expectations," he adds.
Since City Furniture implemented the new WMS in June 2016, it has realized benefits spanning from increased overall productivity to specific procedural changes that also boost the accuracy and efficiency of its operations.
It also has achieved the main objective behind the switch to a new system. "We were growing and constantly updating the existing WMS was difficult," says Feraco. "Now we can make modifications easily. With multiple DCs planned down the road, we now can offer real-time dashboards and create our own customized solutions.
"Real-time dashboards give us hourly, automated individual metrics and show us the progress of each department," he explains. "We offer same-day, next-day, free shipping, or customer pick up; we don't want to find out at the end of the day that we have an issue. With the web-based work in progress, we can see if everyone is where they should be."
The real-time dashboards have allowed Feraco and his team to reclaim a whopping 22 hours of the managers' and supervisors' time each day. In the past, three managers and eight supervisors had spent 15 to 20 minutes of every hour gathering data and entering it into an Excel spreadsheet so they could get productivity numbers. "The new system feeds that information to the dashboard automatically," Feraco says.
Another important benefit is that the system no longer has to be shut down for one hour every day to process the information from the ERP system.
"Everything we built was centered around the shutdown between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.," Feraco says. "The shift that came in to pull the furniture for the trucks for the next day started at 10:30 p.m. That was a difficult time frame. With the new system, I moved the shift to start at 6 p.m. We have significantly reduced turnover, people are happier, and we have a better working environment."
Room to Improve
City Furniture continues to develop new applications with the HighJump software. "We are working on a new chair assembly process," Feraco says. "We bring in all our chairs unassembled in containers, and we put them together as needed. We will move that data from the ERP system to HighJump so we'll have just-in-time information and more control of the pulling process."
"Feraco and his team can do all that themselves now," says Kuerschner. "They can do process improvement themselves. We train the client community to administer and enhance the application, and then we turn the keys over to them."