Necessity: the Mother of Investment

Ware-Pak goes from surviving to thriving after deploying a new warehouse management system


Installing the WMS at Ware-Pak's facility took a few months, but deploying the system was just the start of the implementation process. Ware-Pak took a phased approach to moving its customers — seven at the time of the deployment — onto the system, beginning with just one, assessing the lessons learned and then moving onto the next client. IWS assisted in bringing the first couple clients onto the system, after which Ware-Pak was able to work largely on its own to configure the business rules within the system to meet the specific requirements of each additional customer.

The hardest part of moving to the IRMS solution, according to Shay, was simply adopting standardized processes. "We've never been a company that's been really big on having written procedures, but moving to a warehouse management system requires that you do things in a very consistent fashion," he says. "It forced us to write specific procedures for every step of the way, and we found that our ability to do things the way that we felt like doing them on any given day went away."

This transition to standardized processes required a change in how Ware-Pak's staff approached their work. "We had to instill a lot of self-discipline in ourselves to not take shortcuts," Shay says. For example, with the new system, Ware-Pak deployed wireless, radio frequency (RF) scanning units to direct employees' picking routines, and staff had to become accustomed to following the prompts provided through the units. Shay says that while Ware-Pak's warehouse employees were trained on the new system and many were able to adapt to the new rigor imposed by the WMS, some staff did have to be replaced.

Brewer, IWS' president, says that his company's customers often go through a culture change as they deploy a new warehouse management system. "When you're putting in a best-practice solution, it may be telling people to put inventory in a different place for travel path optimization and labor utilization, rather than the place that people were used to putting it," Brewer says. As a result, employees must learn to trust the new system, even if they don't always see the logic behind the instructions coming out of the WMS.

Increased Control

Ware-Pak's short-term pain of having to document all its warehouse processes, however, produced the long-term gain of a higher degree of control over the ongoing operation of the distribution center. For example, the system now allows the company's managers to track the movement of every employee in the warehouse facility throughout the course of the day so that resources can be directed from one line to another based on the number of orders that are open at any given time. Supervisors can do a sort on outstanding orders, identify the priority orders and direct resources to process overnight shipments first. The system has also allowed the warehouse staff to focus on getting orders prepped for the different carriers — such as UPS, DHL, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service — depending on each carrier's pickup time at the facility. That has allowed Ware-Pak to increase its same-day shipping averages to 90 percent, with 98 percent of orders shipped within 24 hours. The increased control over operations has had other positive effects, including improved shipment accuracy, according to Shay. "Before, we were probably between 87 percent and 90 percent accuracy," he says. "With the new system, our quality now fluctuates between 99.7 percent and 99.9 percent. It's just given us incredible quality performance." In addition, Shay estimates that Ware-Pak has been able to reduce its labor costs by almost 25 percent, even while bringing on additional clients, thanks to the increased efficiency engendered by the new system.

The company's customers have benefited from the new WMS' ability to provide inventory and order information through an online interface. "Our clients no longer have to call us to check the status of an order," Shay says. "As their customer service people are talking to their customers, they can go online to our ‘virtual warehouse' on the Internet, look up an order and see exactly what is the current status. Our customers love it." Indeed, this new level of service has helped Ware-Pak increase its customer base from seven before 2000 to 84 today, including several big-box retailers.

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