Since September 2013, the operation of the distribution centre in De Meern has been managed by Astro WMS, a warehouse management system from Consafe Logistics. The system not only ensures efficiency and transparency, but also less complex operation and, therefore, fewer errors on the shop floor. Fredrik Blömer, Videojet's Operations Director for EMEA: "WMS allows us to learn from our mistakes."
A large part of the goods distributed by Videojet Technologies Europe is composed of ink used by encoding and identification systems. De Meern is home to a production facility that meets the ink needs of customers across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
"Here, we also manage the distribution of coding and identification systems and of spare parts that we purchase from our sister companies. Those sister companies supply a small part of the systems directly to our customers, but the order flow and financial flows are always managed by us", says Fredrik Blömer.
Videojet dispatches large quantities of ink by lorry, aeroplane or ship on a daily basis. "Our turnover rate is 24, which means that we never have supplies in stock for more than a fortnight. Just as in our production facility, in our warehouse, too, we work in two teams so that we are able to use optimally the capacity and space we have available", says Blömer.
In fact, Videojet runs two warehouses in De Meern. In the 3,000-square metre warehouse that lies right next to the production facility the ink is stored. A short distance away, a 600-square metre warehouse is mostly home to spare parts. For a long time, operations in both warehouses were carried out using paper pick lists, which prompted Videojet to start looking for a new warehouse management system (WMS). "We want a paperless operation, without employees having to walk around with pick lists or look for shipping labels. In addition, we want to use bar code scanning in order to reduce customer complaints. Many producers looks almost identical on the label, so it is very easy to pick the wrong item", explains Blömer.
At a trade show in Utrecht, Videojet came into contact with Consafe Logistics, a supplier of Astro WMS. "Consafe Logistics stood out by the way in which they got involved in the project. While many other WMS suppliers significantly underestimated the complexity of our relatively small warehouses, Consafe Logistics immediately took an open and unbiased approach", says Blömer. Also, the wealth of functionalities in Astro WMS was a major reason why we chose Consafe Logistics. Most of Videojet's processes can be covered by the standard functionality. Blömer: "I, personally, have great confidence in Swedish companies and, with Consafe Logistics, that confidence has only become stronger. Consafe Logistics have delivered on their promises. They didn't let us down, not even in the face of setbacks during the implementation."
An example of the complexity to which Blömer refers concerns combined orders for both ink and spare parts. When Videojet receives such orders, the relevant spare parts must be fetched from the other warehouse so that they can be shipped together with the ink. "However, because of the safety requirements related to air freight, we are not allowed to book spare parts as air freight spare during the transport between the two warehouses. WMS has been equipped to handle that", says Adrie de Goei, Supervisor in Videojet's warehouse.
Another matter of concern is printing the correct shipping labels. That is why Astro WMS has been integrated with the Ship-it-Smarter system, which selects the most suitable carrier depending on destination, size and weight. The corresponding shipping label is then printed on a mobile printer carried by each order picker. "It took some effort to make this possible, but it's been worth it. Instead of walking over to the fixed printer, order pickers can now prepare the goods for dispatch directly on the shipping floor", says Michael van Maaren, Videojet's Materials Manager.
Efficiency and transparency
Videojet is satisfied that, six months after its launch, WMS is paying off. Efficiency on the workfloor has improved in particular. Besides large orders from distributors who want to replenish their supplies, Videojet also receives a large number of orders from customers in the countries where no distributor exists. These are usually small orders, but Astro WMS very cleverly merges them into batches and, so, they are picked at the same time. "Our process also keeps count of a lot of exceptions that are too infrequent to be managed by WMS. Previously, such exceptions were written down on pick lists. But, now, order pickers receive a pop-up on the screen of their terminals and they have to confirm that they have read and carried out the job", says De Goei. Blömer takes over and says: "WMS ensures you do not build workarounds into the process. That is good, because it leads to efficiency and fewer mistakes."
WMS has not just ensured efficiency, but transparency, too. Videojet now has a better idea of the workload and the number of outstanding orders, for example, so that the operation, if needed, can be adjusted early on. WMS also keeps tracks of which employee has finalised which order at what time. "We've installed cameras in the warehouse because we participate in a special EU programme for air cargo security. And since WMS can retrieve the exact moment of any action, we can now quickly find and analyse the relevant images when a mistake occurs. That allows us to learn from our mistakes", says Blömer.