By Editorial Staff
At a time when many wholesale distributors are cutting costs, instituting layoffs, freezing wages and just not spending any money, Bardon Supplies Limited decided that if it is to survive the current economic downturn it must focus on two key areas in its supply chain, its customers and its warehouse.
Many distributors will tell you that it's crazy to talk about investing in your warehouse during times like these. But in 2005, after the company was purchased by Group Deschenes, Barry Raycroft, vice president and general manager of Bardon Supplies, picked up where his now-retired father, Don Raycroft, left off. Don founded Bardon in 1969 in Belleville, Ontario, with a small building and a desire to provide the industry what it desperately needed: unmatched customer service. Forty years later, with Don's son at the helm, Bardon Supplies is a full-line, stocking, wholesale distributor of plumbing, HVAC and industrial pipe, valves and fittings, and Barry Raycroft's motto and vision are similar to his fathers.
Therefore it was not out of character to address the one area that has such a dramatic impact on service levels and customer satisfaction, the warehouse. In 2007 Bardon commissioned Total Logistics Solutions, Inc. to assist with the implementation of an industry-leading warehouse management system in the company's Barrie location. Rene' Jones, the founder of TLS, was already familiar with Bardon since he had been the project manager during two previous WMS implementations in the company's Belleville and Kingston locations.
The Barrie branch is approximately 30,000 square feet and has 13 warehouse employees and five delivery drivers. According to Wayne Buck, the branch manager in Barrie, "It was not a question of whether we were meeting our customers' needs, it was a question of, could we meet them more efficiently while simultaneously reducing our warehouse operating costs?"
The implementation of the system was completed in February 2009 with a wall-to-wall physical inventory. "We have always taken our annual physical inventory serious, but this was one of the most in-depth inventories I have ever been involved with," said, Mike Brymer, the warehouse's inventory control specialist.
On the Sunday following the completion of the Saturday inventory, the warehouse began receiving, picking, packing and loading orders with the new system. There were the usual reservations from customers and employees, but the implementation went flawlessly. Customers at the will call counter immediately began asking how their order would get picked without a pick ticket, as the warehouse now uses radio frequency (RF) devices to process all transactions.
As product arrives on the dock, an advance shipment notification (ASN) is generated that selects the most appropriate locations for the product prior to it being touched by the receiving department. "It is great!" said Warren Symes, the lead receiver, adding: "I am amazed at the accuracy. It has virtually eliminated receiving errors, especially with serial numbered product. Before we had to read the tiny numbers on the packing slip and then verify those numbers to the number on the box. Now we just scan the product and the system knows if that is the serial number it was expecting. If it is not, we cannot proceed."
The picking process has been streamlined as well. The order pickers no longer pick an order from start to finish. The orders are broken down into smaller, more efficient chunks based on the type of product to be picked. For example, an order with fittings, a heating coil and pipe can be picked by three different people simultaneously and merged during the loading process. In addition, pickers no longer need to walk up and down aisles looking for lost product. The system now directs the pickers where to pick an item from, based on a predetermined picking sequence. Should they choose not to pick the item from the location suggested by the system because, say, the product was damaged, it forces the picker to enter a traceable "reason code" showing why they are not following the directive. Upon receiving a "reason code," the system then displays additional locations where the product is stored.