Modernizing DC Operations Without Changing Warehouse Management Systems
Imperial Distributors serves 3500 supermarkets and other retail stores throughout the Northeastern United States, supplying a wide range of health, beauty and wellness products, general merchandise, seasonal and other non-food grocery items. After a decade of consistent growth, the 77-year old company was moving into an all-new state of the art DC in 2017. Back in 2013, however, the company was facing growth challenges in an aging facility with a legacy warehouse management system and paper-based processes.
Finding The Right Solution For Warehouse Managers and Workers
“After several years of double-digit growth, we were running consistently late shifts, pushing dispatches, and starting to have increased quality issues,” said Perry Lundberg, VP of Supply Chain at Imperial. “Our team members were doing everything possible to keep up, but they needed help. Our picking processes and legacy WMS simply weren’t up to the task.”
Imperial’s 20-year old JD Edwards warehouse management system from Oracle provides RF-based receiving and inventory control, and although it also provides RF-based picking, the system does not adequately support Imperial’s complex picking requirements. Therefore, picking was performed using stickers and paper lists across more than a dozen different picking zones.
Supply chain and IT managers at Imperial investigated a variety of technology alternatives to modernize their picking processes, including a WMS upgrade. In the end, they selected Lucas Systems and the Lucas Mobile Work Execution System.
“We felt that Lucas was the best fit for our company, and their solution would support our existing facility and evolve with us as we move into a new DC. We also thought that the Lucas voice-directed mobile applications would be easier for our long-time employees.”
In 2017, when Imperial moved into its new automated facility, they took the Lucas system along and have seen continued improvements in productivity and efficiency in their new showcase Distribution Center.
The Lucas Solution
The Lucas Mobile Work Execution Solution at Imperial includes:
- Lucas Engage work execution software downloads order information from JD Edwards and creates work assignments for associates across 12 picking zones, including picking from reserve for replenishment.
- Lucas Move mobile applications featuring Jennifer voice, with configurable voice picking workflows by zone for piece picking (bucket brigade/pick and pass, cart picking) and case picking.
- Engage management dashboards providing real-time productivity, work status and exception management. Managers access Engage at their desks or on tablets on the warehouse floor.
- Pickers use the Lucas Move software on Zebra mobile computers. Jennifer voice communicates to pickers through their headsets and pickers confirm their work by speaking back to Jennifer.
- Reduced mis-picks by 80 percent within two months of roll-out.
- Overall picking productivity increase of 35 percent, across all pickers and picking workflows
- Reduced overtime
- New employees can work independently in less than 2 weeks, compared to 6-8 weeks prior to the Lucas solution
- Improved management visibility reduced the need for line leads to monitor work in each picking zone