We live in a world that is constantly changing. New technology creates better ways of managing our time and assets. As the old adage goes, time is money. Crown Equipment Corp., a billion-dollar electric lift truck company, realized this truth five years ago and began looking for a better way to take care of its customers and to increase revenue.
Crown Equipment is a privately held company that manufactures and sells heavy-duty lift truck equipment and related supplies. Previously, it was using a homegrown legacy system to handle its warehouse processes. Under the legacy system, workers received a hard-copy allocation picking list and were responsible for picking, packing, and shipping as many as 500 or 600 items on the list. "Our on-time delivery percentages were terrible," recalls Ken Jutte, Crown's distribution manager.
The company kept adding more employees, but did not see the ROI (return on investment) that it was looking for. At the time, Crown stored its parts in multiple warehouses, which were several blocks apart. Additionally, the legacy system Crown had in place required a lot of paper handling which often led to poor communication, inaccurate shipments, and slow turnaround times for the customers.
Manual Picking Meets Automated WMS
Crown decided to consolidate its operations and also looked to automate its warehouse processes. Crown began erecting an 80,000-square-foot warehouse to centralize all its resources. It also began looking for a WMS (warehouse management system) solution to streamline its warehouse picking, packing, and shipping processes. The company contracted consultant Richard Muther & Associates to find a WMS solution to replace the legacy system it had outgrown. Initially, Crown was able to narrow its choices to three warehouse systems.
Ken Jutte recalls that there were three main factors that led to Crown's final decision - cost, functionality, and availability. "Unlike other WMS solutions Crown looked at, which required a lot of programming to fit our needs, Robocom's (Massepequa, NY) RIMS (Robocom Inventory Management System) WMS could be installed without any programming modifications," said Jutte.
A 25% Increase In On-Time Deliveries
"Crown customers began to notice the effects of the new RIMS solution right away," said Jutte. Since Crown went live with the RIMS, order location accuracy has increased by 20%. On-time delivery percentages increased to 90% (a 25% increase compared to Crown's prior record). Currently, the company performs 8,000 tasks in a 24-hour period, 7,000 of which are pick-related. Jutte notes, "Since the installation of the RIMS solution, Crown's employee-to-task relationship increased by 21%. Even though employee productivity increased, the overall number of employees did not increase." Certainly, consolidating all of the company's forklift parts under one roof played a role in making the warehousing operation more streamlined and in increasing inventory accuracy.
One of the main problems with the previous legacy system had nothing to do with multiple warehouses. The main problem was that it did not have the functionality to allow for scheduling assignments. Workers had to rely on hard-copy pick lists. They had to coordinate scheduling among themselves for picking, consolidating, and packing each complete order. Additionally, legacy users oftentimes had to wait for other users to leave the pick area queue before they could get to the next step in their task.
The only change that Crown has made to the WMS since the original install date was to add Comtec portable printers to the solution. With the portable printers, Crown workers are able to print labels that include customer number, item number, item description, and quantity of items needed or in stock at the point of need. Crown's only additional plans for changes to its integrated system are to upgrade its handheld bar code scanners. Within the next 12 months, Crown will upgrade from the Intermec Janus 20/20s to the Intermec Ataris. With its automated WMS solution, Crown is prepared to continue growing and competing with the best of manufacturers in the global economy.
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at JayM@corrypub.com.