Getting A Quick ROI With WMS

Dillen Products, Inc., the nation's largest manufacturer of horticulture containers, mitigated risk and recognized a rapid return on investment by implementing Midgard Information Systems' warehouse management system, Warehouse Compass in 33 days.

Dillen was founded in 1984 and has become a major supplier of plastic planters and trays to the grower segment of the horticultural market. Dillen's product line today includes proprietary pots, trays, bowls, saucers, and decorative planters, The company is also North America's largest producer of hanging baskets. Products are made at the company's manufacturing and warehousing facilities, which encompass over 450,000 square feet in Middlefield, OH, using injection molding and thermoforming processes. The product range serves the needs of growers of flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants.

With Dillen's rapid growth, the company needed a warehouse management system (WMS) that would provide real time visibility to inventory, and do away with manual tracking processes that were costing valuable time and money. Dillen also required a system that would interface to its financial software, MAS 90. Finally, Dillen wanted a rapid solution that would mitigate risk.

To address its needs, Dillen required a turnkey integrated Warehouse Management System that would provide timely and accurate decision support, data collection and dissemination of information for each of its three facilities, as well as any future facilities. The Warehouse Management System needed to improve work processes and the accessibility, timeliness and accuracy of data. Dillen also wanted to increase the efficiency of distribution functions, reduce duplication of effort, better monitor activities, and enhance customer service. To achieve these goals, the company selected Warehouse Compass a technologically advanced, flexible system which provided the capability to accomplish the following:

  • Rapid earn-out value of existing ERP and MRP software applications owned by Dillen
  • Reduce unit labor cost for distribution and administrative functions.
  • Comply with UCC-128, ASN, EDI, reporting and labeling requirements mandated by Dillen's retail customers, such as Wal-Mart.
  • Automate Order Fulfillment Process increasing product turns, customer service and shipping accuracy.
  • Provide information via the Internet.
  • Provide real time visibility across the enterprise to all distribution activities.
  • Provide managerial reporting and costing information for all distribution activity.
Dillen selected Warehouse Compass because it could provide a tailored fit to Dillen's needs and do so quickly, with a guaranteed 45-day installation time. Primarily, Warehouse Compass is a modular solution that allows single modules or combinations of modules to be installed in phases to speed the process of new system implementation to meet immediate needs while providing a scaleable solution for the future. Further, the Radio Frequency (RF) screen flows were tailored to meet Dillen's specific business requirements to mitigate user error and reduce training requirements.

On a general level the system provides the following functionality:

  • Warehouse Compass tracks finished goods items from the end of manufacturing through the shipping process. Items are tracked in full pallet and case quantities, where required, using a serialized license plate for each load and carton labels for cases.
  • Warehouse Compass records all inventory movement and status changes in a central log. Log data fields include User, Date/time, From/To locations, Item, Load, Status, System Function (e.g. Picking, Shipping).
Specifically, Dillen elected to implement the following modules and functionality to address these needs:


· Warehouse Compass Receiving modules allow authorized warehouse personnel to induct finished goods from manufacturing at each of Dillen's three facilities by using Radio Frequency Data Collection Tools. Using the RF units, Dillen personnel scans a serialized load tag, enter the item and the quantity. The inventory can be inducted and placed in an on-hold status to allow for quality control if necessary.

Put Away:

· The Put Away function within Warehouse Compass was configured for Dillen to use a clustered storage strategy to group similar products together and provide for current racking considerations to suggest optimum put-away locations to Dillen personnel. For product that is stacked — as opposed to being stored in racks — Warehouse Compass directs users to the appropriate location for product put-away.

Stock Management:

· Stock Management provides Dillen the inventory management capabilities required by providing users the ability to inquire about locations, items, loads, lots, quarantined product, pulse, and velocity from the workstation or the RF devices.
· Within stock management, workstations and RF users can quarantine product in place (QIP) by aforementioned criteria, as well as perform user directed movements and adjustments of inventory.
· Stock Management also allows Dillen the ability to quarantine all inventory produced during the night shift as a measure of quality control. The inventory is then released from QC by the morning shift.

Orders Management:
· Warehouse Compass orders management provides Administrative Users the ability to group, allocate and activate orders or waves for picking to optimize the picking process.
· Within Orders Management, Orders pulled down from the MAS 90 host via import are queried based on user definable picking/shipping criteria and added to a Picking Wave. As items are added to a Wave, inventory is allocated at the item(s) level.
· Once this process is complete and the system has determined that there is sufficient inventory to Pick the Order, the wave can be activated and made visible to the RF devices. Although this process minimizes the requirement to use paper pick tickets, Warehouse Compass can produce pick tickets that optimize the pick sequence and denote the product to be picked in human readable and bar code form.
· Administrative users have visibility to the picking and shipping percent complete progress of each order.

· Warehouse Compass Directed Picking suggests picking locations that have been prioritized by inventory dating and location considerations. · Picking detail for Location, Item and Quantity is displayed to the user on the RF devices at the appropriate time to eliminate user confusion.

Shipping Administration:
· Shipping Administration allows Orders and Loads to be assigned to Bills of Lading to direct RF users to Shipping or Staging Locations as product is picked.
· As BOL's are closed, Shipping Administration generates required Bills of Lading and Packing List and decrements inventory.

Radio Frequency Shipping:
· Using RF Shipping Dillen personnel are directed to the appropriate staging or shipping location for product that they are carrying.
· As product is loaded onto trailers users scan a bar code tag at the dock door to validate the product being loaded.
· If invalid product is being carried the user is notified.
· If a user tries to close a trailer short they are prompted with the items that are missing.
· When a user completes the loading process they select Close Trailer and scan the trailer location

Physical Inventory and Cycle Counting: · Warehouse Compass Cycle Counting uses item count criteria to automatically produce daily cycle count groups allow user to count items/locations without having to lock down a location.
· Using delta measurement, locations remain active and Administrators can request multiple passes before posting an inventory adjustment.
· With Physical Inventory, Administrative Users build and activate groups for counting. Using Physical Inventory, Locations to be counted are made inactive with the activation of a count group.
Dillen uses Radio Frequency functionality to access Midgard's receiving, put-away, inventory management, cycle count/physical inventory, picking, and shipping modules. The delivery of fully configured software was completed in 25 days from close of contract and fully commissioned, including user training, eight days later. Ben Garlich, VP of Operations with Dillen Products, said, "We have been extremely pleased with the product since taking it live and have had great response from our folks out on the floor. We now have a real time system to help us manage the more than 11,000 pallet positions and shipping of more than 2.5 million units per day. It is great to see our people up to speed and realizing benefits so quickly."

Warehouse Compass was integrated to MAS 90, Dillen's accounting system, by BCG Systems to facilitate the real-time exchange of information between the ERP and the WMS. Intermec Technologies Corporation was selected to provide the RF hardware, which completes the real time solution. Ashley Campbell, Midgard's CFO states "not all companies require the same solution, but they do all want immediate solutions. Midgard accommodates both demands by providing truly scalable WMS software and installing it in a 30-45 day time frame that is unequaled in this industry. Dillen took advantage of these benefits to recognize a rapid return on investment while mitigating their risk."

Using Warehouse Compass led to greater customer satisfaction and lower operational costs due to increased order fulfillment efficiencies and greater accuracy of inventory levels. The fulfillment process is significantly improved because the system directs users to the inventory locations on the most efficient path possible. This eliminates wasted time and money that is associated with searching for inventory. Using Warehouse Compass also streamlines processes by eliminating excess paperwork, manual data entry, and costly reconciliations.