Magazine Article | June 1, 2001

Increase Customer Loyalty With One-To-One Fulfillment

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

When business started growing, corporate made the decision to replace its legacy systems - and the 71-year-old publisher chose a packaged warehouse management solution. Find out how the new system allowed the company to reduce backorders, eliminate physical inventory, and customize product fulfillment.

Integrated Solutions, June 2001

Rodale Inc. is a family-owned company and a publisher of information on healthy, active lifestyles. Rodale reaches more than 30 million people each month through its magazines (such as Prevention, Men's Health, Organic Gardening, and Runner's World), books, Web sites, and interactive media. Rodale's Book Division alone publishes 100 titles each year and maintains a backlist of 500 titles.

Because of inventory levels and an increasing subscriber list, Rodale made a corporate decision to eliminate in-house development of applications. The company was determined to find a solution for replacing its legacy systems and had four main objectives with implementation: improve inventory accuracy, reduce warehouse backorders, reallocate resources, and streamline the supply chain processes. "We wanted to ensure that the right packages were delivered to customers when they wanted them and at a competitive price," explains Pamela Masser, project team leader at Rodale. With the new solution, the company also wanted to perform customer-specific operations to inventory items, which included customizing promotional marketing inserts shipped with each order. By leveraging customer information for marketing purposes, Rodale believed it could motivate its customers to return for further purchases.

Address Legacy Issues By Partnering With A Packaged Solution Provider
Rodale needed to address legacy systems that could not meet the demands of an expanding business. The cost to upgrade the mainframe, the peripheral hardware, and homegrown software application used to manage the supply chain was prohibitive. The company believed it could do better with a packaged solution that could be quickly implemented.

Rodale then discovered the EXceed warehouse management system (WMS) from EXE Technologies (Dallas) - a global provider of fulfillment, warehousing, and distribution software. EXceed WMS is a component of EXceed Fulfill which provides the core functionality for fulfillment center or warehouse management. The warehouse management system offers query capabilities, multiple data views, built-in security, fully integrated RF Task Management, graphical label design, and Internet accessibility; but Rodale chose the solution for different reasons. "EXE offered us the best base package," adds Masser. "Plus, the company partnered with us to create a Work Order module." Rodale and EXE worked together and installed EXceed WMS, as well as an Oracle Database running on an HP9000 K570 UNIX server, a Windows '95 and Citrix metaframe connection, an RF Network utilizing two NT servers (with 10 units connected to each), a stand-alone reverse logistics scanning system that uploads data into EXceed on demand, and a daily download and upload process of importing data into external systems.

Installation Quick And Meets Main Objectives
The entire installation took 11 months, and according to Masser, the biggest consumption of this time was centered around development and testing. She also noted that there were minute learning curves associated with this installation. "For the day-to-day inventory transactions, this system was not difficult for employees to learn. However, the administrative users were accustomed to 'home grown' systems that were customized to meet their every need. It was a culture shock to some people to have to adapt their work methods to the packaged software."

Overall, however, the system has met the needs of Rodale. After the company initiated a formal cycle count program using EXceed, it was determined after 20 random counts by an auditor, with each count passing, that Rodale could waive its physical inventory. The EXceed solution enables Rodale to manage and control the flow of inventory throughout the distribution process. It also allows perpetual inventory and location tracking with receiving, putaway, move, cycle count, staging, and production features. According to Masser, "The biggest results we have seen are reduced warehouse backorders and the elimination of the yearly physical inventory, due to formal cycle count procedures and proven inventory accuracy. A single warehouse backorder could take hours to fix. We had hundreds, sometimes thousands a month, and now we have none. This translates into improved customer service and huge savings for us." Rodale also uses EXceed to customize product fulfillment based on customer information in the Rodale customer relationship management (CRM) database. With EXceed, Rodale can also create targeted marketing activities including promotions and cross-selling. For example, Rodale can now create its promotional inserts.