On Sunday March 1, updates will be applied to the IntelliTrack Stratus products. The updates will take approximately one hour, during which time, the site will be unavailable.

If you have any questions regarding the update, please feel free to contact us.

Once everything has been successfully completed, we will provide a detailed explanation of what to expect with the latest Stratus update.

 

trainIt’s still as true today as it ever was—in the logistics industry, time is money. This is evident at American shipping ports, where so much work is put into speeding up processes and making them more efficient, and it affects everything the price of all consumer goods.

At the port of Georgia, workers are as aware as anyone about the importance of fast and efficient shipping, and this is the reason they are looking into the possibilities of shipping freight via the rail networks.

The Baltimore to Ohio railroad was incorporated in 1827 and is still in operation, lines such as the Norfolk Southern and CSX are more recent, but all of them play a crucial role in shipping goods to outlets nationwide. Rather than becoming less important over time, the railways are gaining importance.

In 2014, the Georgia Ports Authority have documented that they moved 340,000 containers via the rail network, representing an increase of 5% over the previous year.

A representative of Georgia ports has said that the expansion of railway shipping operations has been central to their budgeting plan for the last ten years or more. As part of this, they are working to improve the speed and efficiency of land shipping with Norfolk Southern and CSX.

There are many benefits of this strategy—rail is the most fuel-efficient way to ship freight. Companies can ship approximately a ton of freight over 500 miles using only a gallon of gas. There is also the added benefit of preserving the road network, which would suffer some wear and tear from road shipping, as well as an extra element of safety that the railway provides. In addition, there are obvious environmental benefits to be gained from shipping by rail, where the carbon footprint is much smaller.

Some of the investments made can be seen at the Mason Intermodal Transfer Facility, which is part of the Norfolk Southern network, which opened in 2001, and also Chatham Yard ICTF, which is part of the CSX network, opened in 2008. When the Mason facility opened it was the 7th busiest port in the country per container handled, today it is the 4th behind the Port of New York / New Jersey. Most shipping experts agree that the Mason and Chatham facilities have played a major part in the growth of the dependence on railways for shipping, owing to their capability for seamless and efficient transfer of containers from sea to the railways.

Warehouse OperationDo you fit the profile of business owners who want larger warehouses? Seventy-one percent of respondents to a 2014 study by Motorola wanted either to acquire another facility or to increase the size of their current building. There are usually a couple of obvious reasons:

  • The volume of your business is growing, and/or
  • You are expanding your product lines

If you are confident this growth is sustainable, you need the extra space so warehouse expansion seems like a good idea. After all, the economy appears to be turning around with an uptick in consumer spending, resulting in an increase in manufacturing. Also, e-commerce is enjoying a huge popularity with no end in sight. Huge warehouses are a staple for online businesses which must be ready to respond instantly to customer demands.

Technology Considerations for Warehouse Expansion

However, there’s more to warehouse expansion than leasing another building and buying product to fill it. Do you have the technology solution in place to manage that extra product, especially if it is located at several sites? Handling more products usually means managing more personnel too. At IntelliTrack, we have a team of specialists just waiting to discuss your particular situation and see how we can help you.

We understand the complexities of a warehouse operation. There are many points where human error can be a problem in receiving and storing product and processing customer orders. An IntelliTrack barcode or RFID solution can minimize, if not eliminate mistakes in labeling, storing, accessing and shipping your inventory.

The larger you grow your operation, the more opportunity there is for making mistakes. In order to plan for foolproof inventory management, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you handle consumable inventory, fixed assets or both?
  • Consumable items come into your system, are processed and move out. This includes products that are stored or manufactured, then shipped to customers.
  • Fixed assets are part of your property inventory, are used or deployed and then returned. This includes your own equipment, tools and supplies and items that are sent out, perhaps leased to customers and then returned.
  • What information do you need about the product in the warehouse, including lot and serial numbers, vendor, expiry data, condition, size and color?
  • Do you need to validate shipping against predefined orders?
  • What information do you need about stock levels, including re-order alerts and data on surpluses?
  • How often do you do physical counts?
  • What do you need to know about employee performance, including equipment usage and time taken for receiving, storing, picking and shipping?
  • Do you need to track assets or equipment that is deployed repeatedly?
  • Do you require real time data in order to monitor operations?
  • What kind of reports do you need to make management decisions for planning operations and financial management?

All this information will form your decision about a warehouse management system. The best technology in the world is ineffective if it does not meet your particular needs. 

Technology Solutions for Managing Warehouse Inventory

There are many software solutions available for managing your warehouse inventory. A sampling includes:

You are probably looking for a mobile solution to increase the productivity of your warehouse workers. Issue each one with a mobile device for capturing data for storage in a central file and accessing picking and shipping orders and any other information needed to keep product moving.

Scalability is an important feature of a successful software solution. If you are considering expansion of your warehouse operations, you want to be sure any technology will be able to accommodate the increase in product, vendors and customers.

Integration into larger information systems is also important to save time and duplicate work. Link a WMS solution to an accounting system such as QuickBooks, to shipping providers such as WorldShip and even to your security information system if there are concerns about inventory loss.

Decision Making Process for Warehouse Technology

Whether you are making the leap from a manual or spreadsheet inventory system or upgrading your current electronic system, you will probably need expert help in considering the options available. The IntelliTrack team can walk with you through the decision making process:

  • Review of current operations and plans for expansion
  • Identify points where technology can support the operations based on answers to the questions about your consumable and fixed inventory
  • Discuss benefits of incorporating a warehouse
  • Review with you the pros and cons of various warehouse management technology solutions, both software and hardware
  • Recommend solutions and support your decision making
  • Facilitate installation, training and implementation of warehouse management solutions
  • Arrange for ongoing support services

Benefits of Expanding with Warehouse Management Technology

An attractive ROI is important when considering expansion of your warehouse operations. Even when you know the market is there and the product is available, you do have to consider how quickly you can amortize the upfront capital expenses such as:

  • Buying, building or expanding a facility
  • Customizing the building design including dock and yard
  • Purchasing/leasing additional warehouse equipment
  • New or additional technology hardware and software for inventory management

IntelliTrack reps would be pleased to show you the kind of savings you would realize if you move from a pen and paper inventory to WMS technology. For example, a small warehouse operation can save 90% in labor cost using barcode technology instead of manual inventory counts.

The procedures you are following in your warehouse now might not work as effectively in an expanded operation. It is important to have a WMS system that allows you to monitor the entire end-to-end process. Such technology is efficient and accurate, increasing productivity, reducing picking and shipping errors and increasing customer satisfaction.

Contact our IntelliTrack team to help you plan for a WMS solution to be built into your warehouse expansion plan right from the beginning.

IntelliTrack Warehouse Management SoftwareManaging the inventory of a warehouse or distribution center can be an exercise in frustration. There are many points where errors in labeling, storage location or stock levels can leave employees frustrated and customers very unhappy. Working in multiple locations can add complications.

Warehouse management technology is a good solution and even better when part of an integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. IntelliTrack, an industry leader in inventory management products, offers several technology solutions for successful inventory management of all sizes of warehouse operations. They also have the experience and expertise to recommend options for integration with ERP.

Warehouse Management Inventory Solutions

IntelliTrack WMS is a robust, cost effective solution for managing inventory through the warehouse and distribution system. It is available in three versions:

Depending on the operational needs, available features include:

  • Physical inventory, shipping, receiving and picking system
  • Terminal messaging
  • Pallet tracking
  • Cross dock notification
  • Sequenced pick and put away
  • Wave and zone picking

The entire inventory can be managed from one dashboard, including product search by item description or location, browsing and generating reports.

ERP Integration

Warehouse employees and supervisors know their work is the primary focus of their warehouse/distribution operations but they do need the support of many other business functions to run a successful operation. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system facilitates the flow of information among all the business units and can even manage contacts with external stakeholders.

How ERP Works

An ERP solution is really a suite of applications such as WMS that are managed through one common database. It can support various hardware and applications even for mobile devices while maintaining a consistent look and feel for the user. For example, data is transmitted from a warehouse worker to the centralized database where it is processed and any net changes, orders or reports sent back to the user and/or on to other support services and management.

IntelliTrack WMS has the capacity to be integrated into a full feature ERP system which might use a common database for:

  • Supply chain management, including inventory info that triggers purchasing, promoting specials on overstock or moving stock to different location
  • Processing orders from receiving, cross docking and generating picking orders and shipping labels to sending a re-order alert to purchasing
  • Accounting functions, including processing payments for product received, invoicing for product shipped, managing cash flow and preparing financial statements; e.g. WMS can connect with Quickbooks
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) from sales and marketing to customer service
  • Human Resources function which includes recruiting, training, managing payroll and benefits and performance reviews
  • Self-service access to information for suppliers, customers and/or employees

Benefits of ERP Integration

Although the ERP concept was originally developed for large companies, it quickly became obvious that any size of organization can benefit from system organizations. There are two primary focuses for reviewing the benefits of integrating IntelliTrack WMS into a larger ERP system.

  • Operations

A well designed ERP solution increases efficiencies and productivity such as:

  • Eliminates entering data more than once in various information systems such as purchasing or generating shipping labels, allowing employees more time to communicate with each other about operations
  • Provides real time data including location, stock levels, expiry dates and status of product
  • Allows every authorized person access to the same real time data
  • Management

Having WMS integrated into an ERP system with one central dashboard is cost effective and efficient as it:

    • Provides up to date info for monitoring operations
    • Provides info for performance management of individual and work teams by providing reports on time spent and cost of each activity
    • Identifies inconsistencies and potential problems such as stock shortages that are not triggering re-order alerts, all affecting customer relations
    • Maximizes the capacity of all the company technology, decreasing dependency on several information systems, each with its own capacity and maintenance issues
    • Decreases the amount of IT support needed
    • Supports quality assurance initiatives which can lead to improvement in the routine operations and the overall business process
    • Provides comprehensive reports to support any expansion plans for the business; the more complex the business, the more important it is to have a coordinating function
    • Produces customized financial reports to reflect the various business processes and allow for more specific financial management decisions

Overall, the data available from having IntelliTrack WMS integrated into an ERP system allows employees to be more productive and management to be more strategic. An integrated information system is more flexible and responsive to change than an organization with compartmentalized processes. Management can plan and even test operational changes. As soon as the implementation goes live, they receive immediate feedback on how those changes impact the work and results across the entire operation.

Management decisions about operational changes, budgets and staffing models will be evidence based. This increases the feasibility of moving in a certain direction. The integrated model also allows for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of changes which leads to problem prevention or early intervention.

IntelliTrack WMS solutions are available for any size and kind of warehouse. However, their effectiveness can be greatly enhanced if they are attached to a company-wide ERP system.

Contact the IntelliTrack team of specialists to start the discussion of installing or upgrading your warehouse inventory management system.

Nowadays, shippers have a lot to consider, so how can tinkering with their logistics strategy be justified? It’s an approach many will choose to avoid. Here is an explanation as to why they should reconsider.

The argument is based around the two parameters of price and capacity. Companies should seek to integrate intermodal as part of their logistics strategy for the best results, relating to those two areas. High volume shippers should not sit on the fence when it comes to making decisions about an intermodal strategy, as these are the key parameters of the industry.

Prices Will Keep Rising.

A lot of companies out there believe that the recent drop in fuel costs will help them see a reduction in shipping costs, but they are wrong, although, not completely. Prices will be affected by the fall in fuel costs no doubt, but not enough to be considered meaningful. For evidence of this, it might be worth looking at the truckload indexes rate supplied by CASS & DAT, which suggests that the price of shipping is not falling in equal proportion to the cost of fuel. This knowledge directs us to the fact that supply and demand is what buoys prices in the industry, in a much more significant manner than the price of oil.

Capacity Will Remain at a Premium

Shippers need to get wise to the fact that in reality, the demand for capacity is not going to decrease any time soon—they must keep their options open when it comes to intermodal conversion. Data generated by economists suggests that demand for 53′ containers will increase in relation to global issues, however, the US is well paced in this area.

The index to use here is the Industrial Production Index, which should become the parameter by which 53′ supply & demand dynamics are measured. This trend can be traced back to August of 2013, when the numbers began equating to what we saw in 2007, pre-downturn figures. It is also considered that the fall in mortgage rates will boost consumer spending in the short term.

With so much to consider, intermodal is a great competitor on price compared with truckload, and for tinkering with capacity. Multitudes of shippers are separating their 53′ capacity into intermodal so that they may meet their capacity requirements where truckload is struggling to fulfill the demands placed upon it.

ISRPIntelliTrack Inc. is an industry leader with more than 20 years of experience providing the best possible inventory management systems. IntelliTrack specialists install their state of the art software on existing hardware or recommended devices from trusted partners. Either way, they provide a full service solution to companies searching for ways to track and manage diverse inventories.

The Company

BRS Relocation Services, Inc. (BRSNY) has more than 25 years of experience providing professional relocation services to organizations of all types and sizes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Their clients include government agencies, financial and healthcare institutions, media and other businesses.

These moving experts are serious about their motto, ‘Consider it done!’ One phone call is all it takes to start an efficient process, from inspecting the site and surveying the inventory to preparing a quote, signing the contract, labeling, packing, transfer, unpacking and installing.

BRS also provides warehouse storage for furniture and equipment and secure, organized record storage. It might just be for a day or two while new premises are organized, or for months. Some customers need ongoing storage that is readily accessible on a piece by piece basis. The BRS team is prepared to review all customer needs and develop tailor made solutions.

A value added service is providing referrals to professional firms for architectural work, cleaning, electrical work, real estate services, printing and even web design. BRS knows that there are often unexpected pressures that require immediate access to reliable, knowledgeable resources.

The Challenge

As BRS expanded, it became more concerned about two areas that were challenging for its asset management:

  • BRS equipment

Moving equipment is expensive and BRS has plenty of it, from more than 10,000 dollies and 5,000 commercial bins to dozens of lockable security bins, Masonite and panel carriers and ramps. Then, there is the consumable inventory such as labels, bubble wrap and protective cardboard.

For years, BRS simply used a manual system that made it difficult to keep track of all the pieces. For example, the full complement of dollies would not be brought back from a job, but no one was quite sure where they were. Workers might not even be sure how many they had. Someone would be dispatched to find the lost ones but was not always successful. Also, management could not count on having accurate, up to date records, especially for the packages of consumables. Both time and money were wasted unnecessarily.

  • Customer items in storage

Although many customers simply store their entire shipping load for a few days or months, BRS had other customers such as television studios who needed access to their inventory, often on a regular basis. For example, a television show might have been looking for a particular prop or stage design but they were not really sure where it was stored and BRS did not have easy access to that information. The studio would probably have ended up making, buying or renting a new piece.

In 2013, BRS made the decision to move from manual tracking to a barcode technology system to keep track of their equipment. There would be no more checking paper files and then searching warehouses to find specific items.

The IntelliTrack Solution

In order to find a solution for keeping track of its own inventory, BRS management was steered to IntelliTrack. After reviewing the inventory challenges at BRS, IntelliTrack turned to its Stratus line of products to find just the right barcode technology.

Stratus software is particularly efficient and cost effective as it is web based and provides an inventory management system that:

  • Can often be installed on existing equipment eliminating a large capital outlay for new hardware
  • Backs up and stores data on a secure cloud server
  • Is easily accessible anywhere, anytime for real time information
  • Can produce reports on whatever information about his inventory that the client requires

After discussion with BRS about their operations and what they wanted to achieve, the IntelliTrack reps recommended Stratus Inventory Shipping Receiving Picking (ISRP) as the most appropriate software package for managing the company equipment.

Paul May, Operations and Warehouse Manager at BRS, pushed the conversations further and it was decided that IntelliTrack Stratus ISRP would also be good for tracking customer inventory. The system is especially effective for media studios staging their television sets. When they know exactly what item they want but aren’t sure of the location, they can simply input a few keywords and Stratus ISRP tells them where to find it. Other times, customers might want to browse through their inventory for ideas on what would work on a particular set. Once the selection is made, the customers can enter the items they want info the Stratus System; BRS does the picking and delivery.

The process is straightforward:

  • BRS prints and affixes a barcode to each item of inventory in storage, indicating whatever information the customer and BRS need, including size, location, color, user and any other pertinent details
  • The barcode is then scanned by a mobile device and the captured data is stored in the cloud
  • Stratus ISRP supports physical counts, cycle counts and moving inventory
  • BRS can retrieve data when needed for any updates, picking and delivering
  • BRS can also produce reports for day-to-day monitoring of the operation and for strategic planning
  • For studio customers, BRS takes photos of each item and scans them into the system
  • Storage customers may access the system to browse certain files in order to identify items they want BRS to pick and deliver for them
  • Customers are not identifiable to each other so confidentiality is maintained

The Outcomes

BRS has been using IntelliTrack Stratus ISRP since January 2014 and is pleased to report that there are three main areas of positive outcomes:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Management and staff have confidence in the accuracy of their physical counts of inventory, making it easier to plan work and deploy resources.
  • With accurate, real time data available on Stratus ISRP, BRS staff now know exactly what equipment went out, when and to where. There is no more time lost searching for items such as misplaced dollies. There is also a decrease in worker frustration and blame-laying, resulting in a smoother, more efficient workflow.
  • Increased accountability
  • Stratus ISRP supports financial accountability by tracking the amount of inventory on hand. For example, a stock level alert will indicate it is time to re-order a supply such as bubble wrap. The flip side is elimination of overstocking which negatively impacts cash flow.
  • The data collected on the Stratus ISRP system supports loss and theft prevention, making staff more accountable for company equipment and supplies. Because movement of equipment is noted within the ISRP system, staff no longer have any excuse not to return at the end of the job with all the equipment they signed out.
  • Increased Sales

BRS has been able to use IntelliTrack Stratus ISRP as a marketing tool to enhance its usual relocation and storage services:

  • The capacity for customers to go online to see photos of stored items is especially attractive to studios looking for props and stage designs. Customers save money when they can use an item they already own.
  • Integrated, accurate real time tracking of inventory over multiple sites is another selling point. All the information is available on one site with one access procedure.
  • Knowing the precise location of any stored item allows BRS to pick and deliver it more quickly than was possible with the previous manual inventory system.

All these outcomes are easily translated into increased profitability in an already successful business. BRS is saving time and money by knowing exactly where its own and its customer inventories are stored. It is also increasing its sales revenue by billing customers for the time spent accessing the unique online inventory catalog service. BRS is definitely more than a moving company!

IntelliTrack Service

BRS has been pleased with the responsive way IntelliTrack has been able to accommodate their special requests. Paul May was quick to say, ‘IntelliTrack tech support people are fantastic’.  They were able to customize file formats so a keyword search could find items in different sites or with different shows. They developed a function to ensure confidentiality when there are multiple customers accessing ISRP. The entire program is intuitive, user friendly and easy to understand.

From the BRS perspective, May described his experience with IntelliTrack as working with ‘people who care about what they do’. The partnership with BRS Relocation Services is definitely another IntelliTrack success story.

As executives who work in procurement find themselves under more pressure to provide value for their stakeholders, they must come up with new and innovative ways to achieve a streamlined supply chain. In 2015, they will need to look at their procurement operations and focus on how to extract the most value by looking at their goals and processes.

The level of expectation placed on procurement is growing at a fast pace and managers need to take control, or risk being left behind. In order to help with this, let’s review the five major areas that will effect operations this year.

Organizational Alignment
The first is organizational alignment, which will require more emphasis in the coming year in order to stay ahead of the curve. In order to do this, procurement needs to improve upon the relationships it has with other aspects of the organization—finance, sales, marketing, R&D, etc. If these relations are improved, it will mean that procurement is moving towards delivering the amount of value required by the business and it’s stakeholders.

Inventory Strategies
The second area to look at is inventory strategy. The rise of multi-channel retail means that simplification of the supply chain and shortening the life cycles of products and new technology are of utmost importance to leaders in procurement. In 2015, they will have to focus on strategies that can optimize their ever-expanding inventory network and help improve the service they provide to the customer.

Performance Management
The third area is performance management in real-time. Central to this will be cloud-based software, which is now crucial to the supply chain, especially when it comes to purchasing. Procurement leaders will be able to build on their relationships with partners in sourcing and have more insight into the supplier base, which will ultimately help save money.

Emerging Markets
The fourth area is emerging markets as a source of growth. These include markets in Asia and South America, which have been identified as sources of growth in logistics and manufacturing. 2015 will see supply chain executives capitalize on these, which will, in turn, have a significant effect on the supply chain. As a result, pricing, product design and logistics will all be impacted.

Partners
The fifth and final thing to note is that suppliers will become partners in the sharing of information related to problems you might share. This will provide procurement with more information than just what is related to product specifications, as they will be able to see how their suppliers solve problems.

The market for warehouse management systems continues to grow at a rate of about 6% per year. This growth is driven by the economic landscape, which has been improving and thus encouraging companies to devote more of their budget to technology. This money is showing up in the DC, bringing a more streamlined system that is much more visible and easily analyzed. It also goes towards upgrading and replacing existing, outdated solutions.

Let’s examine this growth and the state of the WMS market currently—find out which are the key trends in the industry and highlight the technological developments on the horizon.

WMS Harnesses the Power of the Cloud

Dwight Klappis, VP of research for Gartner, says that there has been a rapid trend for companies adopting cloud-based WMS solutions. Worries over whether to protect data with a firewall or open it up to the web, and worries over performance and scalability, have been put to one side. Cloud-based management systems have become a preference for the majority of shipping companies.

WMS Continue to Evolve

Even though WMS is the major player in supply chain software, the makers of products are still seeking to find ways to improve their service. This attitude is motivated by the needs of their customers, and the innovations come in many shapes & sizes. For example, at a basic level, the vendors of software are focusing on the development of solutions to support processes like cross docking, multiple manufacturer facilities and bypass shipments.

WMS Goes International

Demand for WMS shows up outside of the US as well—emerging markets are said to be about 15 – 20 years behind the WMS systems of companies operating in established markets. In emerging markets, businesses are evolving towards a point where even rudimental developments in WMS are becoming extremely important, and are set to gain a greater foothold as businesses continue to strive towards meeting orders in an efficient and timely manner.

What do you see in store for WMS? Share your thoughts by commenting on our Facebook or twitter pages.

Blue Maestro, based in the United Kingdom, is a fairly new company that provides wireless sensors that can be used to track environmental conditions, such as temperature.

Using Bluetooth technology, the sensors link to smart phones to deliver information about the area’s temperature, humidity, and air pressure levels. The products are popularly used by consumers with exotic pets, but recent innovative products will help monitor perishable storage environments for businesses.

Read the full article here: Blue Maestro Prepares Release of New Bluetooth-Enabled Sensor Products

There is much speculation about the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the transportation industry, though as yet there is not much implementation. The benefit of its application will be in filling the shortage of workers in the logistics industry. Now is the time to make a new strategy for distribution networks as part of the ongoing digital revolution.

E-commerce is extending into B2B transactions, nano stores are becoming popular and we now have a circular economy. Due to these factors, the flow of goods will gain speed, increasing in frequency and intricacy. Over the next ten years, packing density, which is the amount of order lines per meter cubed, will grow by five to ten times. The cost of transport or storage will not be the major influence on the organization of distribution networks. This will rely on how efficiently goods can be handled, and the logistics industry is changing due to developing technologies.

There are three such developments that will have a major impact upon distribution networks, they are: Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T), autonomous transport, which will transport goods over these networks, and the developments in warehousing technology.

TEN-T is a group of ten designated transport links which cross national borders which will be built and developed by the European Commission until 2030, and will include innovation over railways, roads and water. The objective is to firm up the transport infrastructure in Europe by implementing intelligent management systems to the transport network, in the hope that costs will come down. The new network will be safe and robust, and will carry goods uninterrupted and reliably along it’s corridors between Europe’s major hubs.

Autonomous transport in the form of unmanned trucks is becoming more possible with developments in AI. Wireless technology will be used to interconnect ‘road trains’ with a manually controlled truck at the front. They will need to have the capacity for enough volume and frequency; therefore distribution centers will need to be enormous in order for logistics companies to combine the flow of transport across chains in order to deliver more frequency & reliability.

Distribution centers are also becoming what is known as ‘dark stores’, where robots, RFID chips, automated case picking, GS1 pallet labels, dock & roll and pick by voice are the technologies which are combining to handle the increased intricacy and frequency of deliveries, and DC productivity has been increasing exponentially as a result of their implementation.