Rock, paper, data

by MM&D Staff

Julian Tile had a problem. Everything was manual in its inbound order processing.

The Langley, BC-based distributor of porcelain tiles and natural stone products was opening a new 40,000-square-foot DC, and needed to track the movement of 4,000 skids and separate dye lots (batches) of stone and tile.

The company’s existing system required all inventory purchase order receipts, sales order picking, multiple bin locations and dye lot numbers to be recorded manually using a written and batch data entry process.

Inside the new Julian Tile DC.
Inside the new Julian Tile DC.

Not only was this workflow time consuming, it also resulted in significantly increased chance of errors which could mean the wrong product or mismatched dye lot being delivered to a customer. As well, if a customer wanted to re-order matching tile, the initial order had to be found by searching through paper documents. This increased the time it took to fill orders.

Clearly the company needed a better way, to improve customer satisfaction, employee happiness and productivity.

The digital frontier
The great thing about the times we live in is the ready availability of digital solutions. Companies like Julian Tile can leap-frog over the intermediate phases of automation and move straight to complete, integrated solutions.

In this case, they adopted wireless automatic ID data capture devices and barcoding software that integrated with the existing ERP system.

They opted for eight Honeywell units acquired from reseller AMPM Mobile Solutions. Four are rugged mobile computers and four are forklift-mounted.

The CK71 mobile computer provides rapid barcode scanning technology. The CV61 forklift-mounted computers support Julian Tile’s SYSPRO enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and have a touchscreen interface with an externally backlit keyboard. Workers can input data with their gloved hands.

Touchscreen mobile units allow workers to input with or without gloves.
Touchscreen mobile units allow workers to input with or without gloves.

Canadian software and hardware service provider and reseller Phoenix Systems implemented RiteScan barcoding software, which fully integrated with the ERP solution and the Honeywell devices. All of the software operates in the cloud, which eliminated the need for Julian Tile to have an on site server, reducing operating costs and the need for additional onsite technical support.

Reaping the benefits
Workers at the Julian Tile warehouse can now access and update the inventory in real time. It’s easier to find inventory, and because the connected devices allowing scanning rather than manual entry, the number of errors has been vastly reduced. Sales order status is updated as the order is being picked, preventing double orders for the same product.

All this makes for a happier workforce. The solution was an instant hit with the company’s warehouse workers.

As a bonus, the company saw an immediate decline in the amount of time spent by staff trying to find, document and process orders. In fact, order fulfillment times decreased by 50 percent and picking accuracy increased by 20 percent.

The scanning software integrated with the company’s existing ERP.
The scanning software integrated with the company’s existing ERP.

In addition to the immediate and daily gains, the annual inventory-taking process has also been streamlined. Previously, workers had to manually find, read, write and confirm product numbers for every item in the warehouse—a process that took three full days for numerous employees. It also resulted in binders full of handwritten notes.

With the automated data capture solution, this annual event was reduced to a single day with a small team of warehouse workers.

The upshot for the whole team at Julian Tile is increased productivity every day, and improved customer service. Pretty good results that prove digital data about rocks beats paper, any day.