Associated Grocers of Maine Revamps Supply Chain Systems

Concerned about improving reserve control, rotation of product, and an older customized system, Associated Grocers of Maine began researching supply chain solutions. The wholesale grocer was seeking to improve its distribution efficiency and inventory levels by implementing new supply chain technology.

Initially, the wholesaler investigated making modifications to its existing customized system. But, the wholesaler ultimately decided to purchase a system from an outside vendor that would offer a higher level of functionality. The existing system did not incorporate radio frequency technology, which was a key link to achieving greater warehouse efficiency.

"Basically we installed four software modules, a (warehouse management system), a purchase order management system, a store order management system, and labor productivity software," said Richard Houdlette, director of operations at AG of Maine.

Partial implementation of the software began in the wholesaler's meat and produce areas in May. The remaining modules were installed this fall. "We were hoping to bring all aspects of the warehouse together as one. We had to go to a whole new platform," Houdlette added.

Associated Grocers of Maine selected Uniteq Application Systems as the software provider for this supply chain technology upgrade because it offered a fully integrated package that would allow for a seamless supply chain. The software, provided by Uniteq of Redwood City, CA, has allowed the wholesaler to use radio frequency systems. Currently, Associated Grocers of Maine is using handheld scanners for all receiving and putaway as well as selection for meat. Going forward, the wholesaler plans to expand radio frequency equipment usage to the cigarette and some grocery categories.

Handheld scanners direct an employee through the warehouse providing the most efficient pick or put away procedure and allows the employee to maximize their pick and put away efficiency. Over time, the company expects the new automated system to be much more efficient than traditional paper lists.

Some of the inventory benefits the wholesaler expects to receive include improved accuracy of inventory levels, increased throughput via increased receiving, selecting, and shipping, real time inventory adjustments, better data for slot utilization, and elimination of direct bills and unnecessary trips through the warehouse.

Through the labor module, Associated Grocers of Maine expects to achieve better accountability of available hours vs. required hours, and consistent fair labor standards that are easily maintained. The overall benefits include real time data to assist supervisors in decision making and increased customer service levels. Improvements in customer service levels will be achieved by a decreased number of damaged products and out of stocks, accurate cubing data reducing overloads and damage, net invoicing that provides the retailer with clean statements and the capability of sending messages via the invoice documents, such as delivery schedules.