Cycle Force Group designs, builds and distributes bicycles, bicycle parts and accessories. Located in Ames, Iowa, an easy half hour drive from Des Moines, the company has been in the bike business since 1998. It is well established as a driving force in the industry, selling directly to consumers and to retailers.
In addition to its own Mantis line of bicycles, Cycle Force Group manufactures Kawasaki, Polaris, Head and Hollandia bikes under license. The inventory includes a wide range of designs, styles and prices. There is something for every taste, ability and budget from touring and racing bikes to kiddies cycles, a battery operated bicycle for the eco-friendly riders and even crowd pleasing unicycles.
The list of accessories appears endless, from helmets, jackets and hydration backpack systems to bike parts and maintenance products such as pumps. The Cycle Force Group’s commitment to eco-friendly products can be seen in degreasers, battery free lamps and lubricants.
Each day in the offices and warehouses of Cycle Force Group, 30 employees are kept busy processing hundreds of orders. The main warehouse has approximately 30,000 square feet of space and the overflow facility a few miles away measures about 15,000 square feet. There are plans underway for new warehouse space to keep pace with the growing demands.
About five years ago, as the company steadily increased its sales, the inefficiencies in accounting and order management became obvious. Cycle Force Group has always used Sage Business Works (SBW) so it was a natural next step to build on that software’s functionality to resolve the emerging issues. The solution was integration software that allows the automatic download and processing of all orders into SBW through EDI. SBW also generates all picking documents.
The batch picking documents were matched to customer packing slips and shipping labels before being sent to the warehouse to be filled. The orders included:
- Drop ship orders for retail and 3PL customers, usually entered by some form of electronic data interchange (EDI)
- Distribution orders for retail customers such as Amazon and Overstock, dealers and 3PL customers, mostly manual entries
- Direct orders from consumers, entered manually
As the orders increased, so did the urgency in meeting the company’s commitment to a 24-hour turnaround for shipping.
The leadership team at Cycle Force Group was proud of the automation. As an accounting system, Sage Business Works worked well from its installation and continues to do so. However, Sage did not prevent what had become ongoing issues, including:
- Stock shortages
- Wrong products shipped to customers
- Backlogs of orders
- Customer complaints
- Employee frustration with the system and with each other; e.g. time wasted looking for items when manually picking from among 1200 SKUs
- Stock in two warehouse locations with no reliable central inventory
It became obvious the real problem was a lack of control over the inventory as shown by:
- No up to date counts; the once a year shut-down for a physical count was inadequate, inaccurate and time consuming
- No clear identification of location in the warehouse and no connection between primary warehouse and overflow
- Lack of confidence in daily reconciliation reports to customers
The leadership team at Cycle Force Group knew they had to fix the operational problems before any further expansion was feasible.
Searching for a Way Forward
In 2012, they began checking out various companies and asked some of their partners for ideas. IntelliTrack Inc. was the company recommended by a trusted local reseller.
Contact was made with IntelliTrack, a leading provider worldwide of cost effective, efficient solutions for tracking and managing inventory. The IntelliTrack project manager spent a day onsite at Cycle Force Group, asking questions, listening and watching people at work, looking at every process end to end, reading reports and procedures, and checking the effectiveness of existing systems. Graham Watkins, the CFO, was impressed that the IntelliTrack specialist was able to help them identify situations they had not even realized were barriers to their efficiency.
The project manager analyzed all the information he had collected during his visit, considered the application of various IntelliTrack products and prepared a comprehensive proposal for Cycle Force Group. After due consideration and with great anticipation, Cycle Force Group management prepared to move ahead with the IntelliTrack recommendations.
The IntelliTrack Solution
The team at IntelliTrack weighed all the options available before recommending the Warehouse Management System (WMS) RF Professional, including integration with Sage Business Works. They knew this software solution would provide all the tools necessary to address the primary issues at Cycle Force Group, especially the picking process. The WMS package features include:
- Inventory tracking
- Zone picking
- Shipping, receiving and picking
- Physical inventory and cycle counts
- Barcode labeling
- Batched order management
- Management queries
- Daily inventory reports for customers
- Cross dock warnings
- Inventory inspection and grading
Zone picking, in particular, is most efficient. It allows the front warehouse to focus on Parts and Accessories, while the back warehouse processes orders for bikes.
It was also important for IntelliTrack to include functions for:
- Including item details such as wheel size, color and category
- Tracking inventory in three sites: primary warehouse, overflow warehouse and the returns site
- Wave management to grouping sales orders for more efficient picking
- Validating SKU against tracking number
- Labeling pallets with ID as part of the receiving process for use in aging the inventory
- Capturing serial number during the shipping process, but not in inventory
The most significant customization for Cycle Force Group was the integration of data from Sage Business Works into WMS through interfaces for:
- Item master data
- Physical and cycle counts and updates
- Purchase orders including vendor contact information
- Sales orders including customer contact information
- Inbound imported container information
The initial installation included three workstations and five mobile computer licenses. A server was needed to run the IntelliTrack SQL data, license service and RF server software. The main warehouse needed wireless infrastructure installed. It was decided not to equip the overflow warehouse as transfers could be made from either the workstation or a mobile computer.
Cycle Force Group was eager to implement the new WMS system before Black Friday. IntelliTrack was able to follow its usual projected timeline of eight weeks from the initial onsite visit of the IntelliTrack project manager, including:
- Preparation, review and acceptance of the Scope of Work document
- Collaboration and agreement on scheduling all the necessary actions and timelines
- Preparation for programming and installation
- Onsite installation for Alpha testing
- Employee training
- Go live
- Customer satisfaction review
The WMS system went live in November 2012, ready to support Cycle Force Group’s busiest season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even with the glitches typical of implementing any new system, and with 20% more orders to process than the previous year, employees did not have to work late or on weekends. There was an even smoother process in 2013 with the number of orders still higher. Overall, IntelliTrack’s WMS RF Professional software immediately began proving its excellence and continues to do so.
Cycle Force Group has now been using WMS RF Professional for more than 18 months and is very pleased with the results, specifically:
o Efficient picking process with an automatically generated route around the warehouse once to fill a cart instead of back and forth
o Increased speed and efficiency for day-to-day tasks
o More efficient use of employee time as anyone who can access the system can fill and track an order
Improved inventory tracking
o Accurate, reliable information about kind, numbers and location of inventory
o Capacity for management to do spot checks
o Automation means having tracking numbers earlier in the process
o Increased confidence in the numbers for the daily reports to customers
o Increased accuracy of shipments for both corporate customers and individual consumers
o Timelier response to customer queries about status of orders
The only ongoing challenge is making sure all employees use WMS as it was designed. It is not a lack of knowledge as the system is user friendly with most employees trained in less than an hour. Occasionally, though, there are employees who move a skid and forget to scan it, but the number of such incidents is steadily decreasing.
The positive impact of implementing IntelliTrack’s WMS RF Professional is foundational to Cycle Force Group’s future growth. This customized software solution provides a stable operational framework. Company leadership now has the confidence in its basic operations so it is ready to plan the acquisition of new warehouse space and build its market share. A bonus from IntelliTrack is the scalability of WMS; it is robust and flexible enough to grow with the business.
When asked about the main impact of installing WMS RF Professional at Cycle Force Group, Graham Watkins was quick to reply, “Obviously, the inventory tracking is important, but the benefits really show in the speed and efficiency with which we can do day to day tasks. And, of course, it’s easy to use.”
To find out more about how IntelliTrack Inc. can help your company to manage its inventory more efficiently, call 888-583-3008, or visit our WMS product page.