Inventory Management Software Supports Reverse Logistics

TradePort USA has been offering reverse logistics services to retailers, manufacturers and distributors for more than a decade. Headquartered in the historic small city of Somersworth NH, this dynamic, innovative company has established an expertise in recovering and reselling consumer electronics at wholesale prices.

Situated in a renovated mill, the TradePort warehouse is the destination for overstock, open box, distressed and returned electronics. All devices are subjected to a 4-point Product Evaluation Process based on package condition, cosmetics, functionality and package contents. Then, the items are repaired or refurbished as necessary. When they are ready for resale, the electronics are marketed through various e-commerce channels including the TradePort website, Amazon and eBay.

Each day,TradePort’s shipping and receiving departments are hustling to make sure the many packages keep moving in and out. The company also operate a storefront business in Somersworth. Well positioned to expand its partner base and set up satellite distribution centers, TradePort wanted to make sure it had the capacity to guarantee complete customer satisfaction with both vendors and buyers.

The Challenge

Like many other successful businesses, TradePort discovered there are always challenges riding the coattails of company growth. The leadership team recognized the symptoms of systems issues which would be more problematic as they expanded, including:

  • Unexpected stockouts
  • Selling items not in actual inventory
  • Incomplete orders being shipped such as a TV without a remote control
  • Inventory information stored mostly in employees’ heads
  • Too much time taken to put together an order
  • Time spent dealing with unnecessary customer complaints
  • Uncertainty about current status or location of item
  • Unknown on hand Inventory
  • How long product has been in the warehouse (turn times)

It became clear the real problem was the lack of control over inventory coming in and moving out. Employees were not confident they knew exactly what was in stock and where it was in the process of grading, repair or refurbishing. Customer queries and complaints told them the checks and balances were not in place for filling orders.

It was obvious the issues of scaleability and inventory control had to be addressed. Dave Marino, the Director of Operations and Logistics at TradePort is clear that they “needed control of the product as it wasn’t sustainable to take on additional vendors or additional partners” when they were not sure when the product was received and where it could be found. Management was committed to resolving the issues in order to plan realistically for expansion.

Finding a Solution

There was the hope that an off-the-shelf product was the answer. TradePort did consider a few options which were readily available, but were not confident the products would solve their problem. With the help of GHA Technologies, Inc., a solutions provider, TradePort came to realize they would be better served by engaging professionals to assess their particular situation and recommend a custom solution.

The consultation process started with IntelliTrack Inc., a leading provider of efficient and cost effective inventory management solutions around the world. The IntelliTrack Project Manager spent a day onsite at TradePort, watching, listening and checking records so he understood every step of the process and who did what. He confirmed the company needed to know more than the description, location and number of items in its warehouse. The ability to track the work in progress for each item was critical, from verifying the product’s functionality to making it saleable and preparing it for shipping.

IntelliTrack was ready to present a proposal and negotiate an installation at TradePort.

Setting the Stage

By now, TradePort management was seriously laying the foundation for expansion and wanted to make sure that any technology solution would be designed for their new environment.

 

The leadership team at TradePort committed to implementing Lean manufacturing principles by mapping the value stream of all its processes from the perspective of the end user. Then, they worked hard to eliminate any wasted time and effort in the workflow. The result for TradePort was a 40% expansion in the warehouse, streamlined operations and reduced waste.

TradePortwas now prepared to upgrade its inventory control system.

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The IntelliTrack Solution

IntelliTrack chose its recommendation carefully: Warehouse Management System (WMS) RF Professional, locally installed and using barcodes. This particular WMS solution could focus on TradePort’s primary need to track the work in progress. The software features standard functions such as:

  • Physical inventory and cycle counts
  • Shipping receiving and picking
  • Barcode labeling
  • Zone picking
  • Batched order management
  • Management queries
  • Productivity reports by user or transaction
  • History lookups by user or transaction
  • Cross dock warnings
  • Inventory Inspection and grading
  • Relocating product within the warehouse
  • Accessory kitting
  • Flexible import utilities for inventory and orders
  • Receiving Orders to allow the receiving department to see expected product (preparation)
  • Ability to create custom product conditions
  • Timely and knowledgeable customer support

 

IntelliTrack was also able to customize functions for TradePort, including:

  • Inventory inspection screen able to track an item in an unknown condition through the entire QA/QC process to be made merchandisable to its final location for shipment
  • Secondary inspection screen with different inspection criteria for cell phones
  • Integration SQL database of WMS with Channel Advisor/ShipWorks for importing sales orders
  • Automated inventory upload
  • Label design with two barcodes, one with internal SKU, the other identifying supplier, product description and warehouse location
  • Custom line numbered receiving orders for varying costs
  • Profitability reports; ability to track performance of individual items/SKUs
  • Recycling function to ensure adherence to TradePort’s “commitment to green” guarantee
  • Integration SQL database of WMS with Channel Advisor/ShipWorks to create dynamic sales reporting based on vendor requirements

The initial installation of WMS included six workstations and four mobile computing devices, each with a license for inventory control and reporting. The QA stations also collect information about inspected inventory. Additional hardware included tethered scanners at each QA workstation and at the shipping station, barcode printers, mobile computers for operators receiving and picking order and a centralized server.

Typically, an IntelliTrack consultation, assessment, project development and implementation would take six to eight weeks. Testing and employee training are part of the package. However, in this case, the installation became part of the company’s warehouse expansion with the implementation of Lean principles, so the project at TradePort took approximately six months.

Outcomes

Even after 18 months, Dave Marino still sounds enthusiastic as he enumerates the positive outcomes from the implementation of WMS at TradePort. The new physical and information infrastructures have allowed the company to strengthen its operations.

  • Increased efficiency.

Overall, the company is more efficient and better organized as seen in:

o   Smooth, consistent workflow

o   Workforce and other resources redeployed as necessary to maintain workflow and increase productivity

o   Streamlined pick, pack, ship process

o   Integrated mobile computing devices and scanners so not running back and forth in warehouse

o   Elimination of manual input of email files from vendors; now imported directly into WMS

  • Cost effectiveness.

WMS has proven its worth financially through its:

o   Ability to access information to help prioritize inventory of high volume and high dollar value

o   Ability to take advantage of new opportunities in the cell phone market

o   Time saved in front line operations equals money saved

  • Improved relationship with customers.

TradePort is more confident in its relationship with its customers and its commitment to:

o   24 hour turnaround

o   Accuracy and completeness of shipments

o   Maintain its Top Seller rating on eBay with 99+% positive feedback

  • Improved information for inventory management.

Information is now readily available to produce accurate, complete, real time customized reports on:

o   Customer orders

o   Daily sales

o   Receiving

o   Daily productivity by each task

With the SQL database connected to the shipping database, it is easy to run reports for use internally and for vendors. Such flexible capacity is important at TradePort as each vendor requires a different report. Fortunately, there is a TradePort employee who is able to produce whatever reports are requested by management by using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

Ongoing

IntelliTrack is still working with TradePort on the value stream for reporting, particularly in the inspection process. There is information being added to fields so even more reports can be produced.

There are ongoing challenges, particularly in paying attention to detail. For example, an item is not actually stored in its barcoded location. It has been suggested that bigger, brighter barcode might take care of the tendency to human error.

Installing WMS RF Professional for inventory management appears to have been a good strategic decision for TradePort. The system is robust enough to support expanded operations. If needed, more features can be added and the software further customized to accommodate growth.

Summing up TradePort’s perspective, Dave Marino says, “IntelliTrack has given us the ability to scale our business using managed growth, allowing us to take on additional partners and vendors while maintaining the A+ standards we are known for and our customers have come to expect.”

To find out more about how IntelliTrack can help your company in better managing its inventory, call 888-583-3008, or visit the website at www.IntelliTrack.net.

IntelliTrack, a well-known Inventory, Barcode and RFID expert developed a cost-effective and efficient inventory management solution for the agriculture industry. This is the case of one of IntelliTrack’s clients: a seeds company.

The Problem

Between January and June, the seeds company could ship approximately 600,000 packets of seeds. These small packets are filled with specific seed from large containers, then packed in thousand boxes to be shipped to agricultural sites in all regions of the country. The information about the location as well as the planting instructions is crucial for the integrity of the test results.

The Seeds Company’s management knew that inefficiencies were costing the company time and money. Their concerns centered on three areas:

  • Preparing the packages.

Each box has to be completely and accurately filled with the specific seeds for each test site. The seeds have to arrive at each location within the planting date for that part of the country. Real time, detailed information on the actual seed, how full each box is, and where it is positioned in the shipping sequence is crucial for the success of the tests.

The workers are hired temporary and come from diverse backgrounds. They find difficult to maintain the necessary kind of attention to detail to properly fill the boxes and accurately record the data. At the end of a season, a number of boxes of product are misfiled.

  • Shipping the product.

Freight is the most cost effective way to ship. Any delays in filling the boxes and preparing the shipments generate very expensive overnight delivery costs.

  • Planting.

The ideal time for planting is different across the country. Therefore, it is important to have the seeds shipped and available on location at these critical times. If seeds packets for a specific location are misplaced and new packets have to be substituted, it takes extra time and labor, especially because the appropriate instructions have to be stapled to each packet. These instruction sheets themselves can cause problems during planting. If they fall into the chute along with the seed, they end up plugging the chutes of hundred thousand dollar planters while in the field. Lost time and expensive repairs have a major impact on the bottom line.

The IntelliTrack Solution

IntelliTrack was able to implement a cost-effective and efficient inventory management solution for the seeds companies in the agriculture industry.

  • A unique barcode describing the details of the packet is printed on each envelope.
  • A unique barcode identifying the box is printed and attached to each box.
  • When workers prepare the packages for shipping, they use handheld wireless computers to scan both the packet and the box.
  • IntelliTrack’s inventory software captures all the packet and box data in real time and validates if the packet belongs with the box.
  • The consolidated inventory makes it easy to search, locate, and pack exactly the right product in the box destined for a particular agricultural site.

The inventory software from IntelliTrack has proven itself to be the ideal solution for the seeds companies’ operational and financial concerns.

Outcomes

Even after the first season of operation, the IntelliTrack inventory management system provided impressive results:

  • Preparing the product.

Workers operating scanners on the floor were impressed with the ease of operation and the accuracy they were now able to achieve. Labor and other efficiencies resulted in a monthly saving of nearly $60,000, off setting implementation costs of scanners. By the end of season, the number of boxes that were misfiled or otherwise mismanaged was drastically reduced.

  • Shipping the product.

A more efficient and accurate packing process eliminated the need for expedited delivery, significantly reducing transportation costs.

  • Planting.

The end user customers who actually planted the seed were pleased to have the correct product shipped in the right quantity, at the right time.

The Seeds Company and IntelliTrack continue to work together to implement even more efficiencies in this tracking system. IntelliTrack has once again provided a solution which allows the client to be confident in managing its inventory in a complex environment.

To find out more about how IntelliTrack can help your company in better managing its inventory, call us at 888-583-3008, or visit us at www.IntelliTrack.net.

Organization Background:

Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center San Diego (SSC San Diego) is responsible for development of technology to collect, transmit, process, display and, most critically, manage information essential to successful military operations. The Center develops the capabilities that allow decision-makers of the Navy, and increasingly of the joint services, to carry out their operational missions and protect their forces. SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego, Extremely High Frequency Satellite Communications (EHF SATCOM) branch, Code 2622, provides fleet engineering services to the warfighter.

Business Challenge:

SPAWAR EHF SATCOM branch needs to track high value government owned equipment and manage a very large configuration management database. One database contains over 10,000 stock parts. Their current configuration management software does not allow for efficient inventory and is quite time consuming. SPAWAR needed to reduce error, shrinkage, and tedious physical inventory processes.

The Solution:

IntelliTrack worked with Serco, Inc., a designer of innovative service solutions for the government, to bridge SPAWAR’s current configuration management software to work with Intellitrack’s Fixed Assets RFID for better inventory control. High value military parts and materials are tagged with a passive RFID tag and stored by location in the RFID system. As they are transferred to new locations or move through assemblies, inventories are updated using a handheld reader then imported through the existing software databases. Fixed Assets RFID allows for quick item location checks and allows the operator to change asset locations, reducing inventory time and human error. With the increased accuracy of SPAWAR’s parts database, fewer spare parts are purchased.

The Bottom Line:

IntelliTrack’s Fixed Assets application allows SPAWAR to use the machine readable portion of an RFID tag to complete their inventory processes, eliminating time consuming manual inventory.  SPAWAR is able to integrate IntelliTrack Fixed Assets RFID to its existing operational software and directly import data. By using RFID technology to inventory parts, error is reduced and inventory processes are made more efficient. “This, in the long run, will be a money saver throughout the years.” – Barry Jones, Serco, Inc.

Company Background:

The St. Louis County Fire Academy is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit educational organization that provides firefighter training for St. Louis County departments and districts.

Business Challenge:

The school was looking for a method of keeping track of not only its training devices and equipment, but also its extensive educational film library.

The Solution:

Betty Stoecklin found IntelliTrack, Inc. via the internet. She recalls looking at a few other software options, but IntelliTrack Check In-Out software was recommended. She chose IntelliTrack because the software is easy to set up and use.

The Bottom Line:

With IntelliTrack Check In-Out software, the academy easily knows the location of it’s assets, from self contained breathing apparatus used by recruits to the computers they use for instruction. The academy also uses IntelliTrack software to track a very large educational film library. Stoeklin said, “The academy is extremely happy with IntelliTrack software because it is easy to use and the information is available at the push of a button.”

Company Background:

Cook Incorporated is the largest privately held medical device company in the world. Established in 1963, it is a leading developer and manufacturer of catheters, wire guides, introducer sheaths, stents, embolization coils, vena cava filters, aortic endovascular grafts, airway management devices, central venous catheter devices, drainage products and other technologies in the area of minimally invasive therapy. Cook Incorporated is also on the forefront of developing next generation technologies that advance combination drug/device and biologic/device design concepts.

Business Challenge:

Cook was looking for an effective way to keep track of the components needed to manufacture medical devices. With so many different pieces required to make so many different things, it was obvious that some sort of data management software was needed.

The Solution:

The company seriously considered buying custom software. They were concerned that existing software was too antiquated or cumbersome to meet their needs. IntelliTrack Stockroom, an off-the-shelf solution, was easily adapted to their specific needs, saving many dollars versus custom software development. The fact that it is significantly cheaper than having custom code written was a real selling point for the people who approve purchases that the company makes.

The Bottom Line:

IntelliTrack Stockroom software has helped Cook to increase productivity by eliminating manual processes, and by improving morale. Employees no longer dread the tedium of inventory time.

Company Background:

One of America’s top 500 printing companies according to Printing Impressions magazine, the Fisher Group is one of the most flexible and friendly direct print providers in the country. The company was founded in 1958 by Richard Fisher and owned the first commercial web press in the state of Iowa. In 1989, Martin Fisher started a letter shop, giving customers a single source for both printing and mailing. In 1996, the company moved to an 110,000 square foot facility. They began operating four-and five-color heatset web presses with in-line finishing equipment, as well as non-heatset web equipment. The Fisher Group now has fifteen years experience offering “turn-key” printing and mailing services.

Business Challenge:

The Lettershop was a new venture for the company, and it was imperative that a detailed inventory be kept of all the materials going in and the finished products going out.

The Solution:

The Fisher Group uses IntelliTrack Stockroom to track Lettershop’s customer inventory which includes direct mail pieces such as envelopes, brochures, order cards, lift notes, letters etc. and also postal equipment. They started using Stockroom around 1994 with a tag and file system. They started using barcodes and added batch scanners around 1997. A couple of years later they upgraded to RF version 4.3 and bought new PSC Falcon scanners and a Datamax E class barcode label printer. A wireless network was installed so the company could have real time inventory info for internal and customer use.

The Bottom Line:

The company has gained a great deal of efficiency by using IntelliTrack Stockroom, including “real time” information availability, decreased receiving and picking times, and company wide inventory visibility. They have gone as far as requesting barcode label compliance from their vendors, so all they have to do is scan incoming materials. Traffic/Warehouse manager Tim Jack says, “I know by using Stockroom we are one step ahead of our competitors and have gained and won over customers because we are able to provide accurate and timely inventory.”

Company Background:

In April 2000, the Government of Ontario created the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLGC) through the merger of the Ontario Casino Corporation (OCC), established in 1994, and the Ontario Lottery Corporation (OLC), established in 1975. OCC owned and managed the commercial casinos in Windsor, Niagara Falls and Mnjikaning First Nation land. OLC offered 12 lottery games and over 7,900 lottery terminals to more than 10,500 retailers.

Business Challenge:

OLGC was receiving 40-60 packages a day and each one was being cataloged by hand upon receipt and then manually entered into a database at a later time. Not only was it time consuming, the manual process left too much room for error.

The Solution:

Once IntelliTrack Package Track was installed, the time required to log incoming packages was cut by more than half. There was no longer any chance for error, either in the data entry, or with regard to a package’s whereabouts. IntelliTrack Package Track’s signature capture feature proves that the package was indeed received, and by whom.

The Bottom Line:

Support Assistant Karen Gabora says, “My co-worker and I are very satisfied with the speed and accuracy of this new software and scanner. It is very easy to use, which was a selling feature for us. You really can’t mess things up because all you can do is scan a package as incoming or delivered. That made training my co-worker much easier. I think overall we are happy that we made the move from manually entering data to the electronic version.”

Company Background:

The McClatchy Company is a publicly traded newspaper corporation headquartered in Sacramento, California. Currently, it owns twenty-three daily and community newspapers, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In the very near future, the acquisition of the Knight-Ridder newspaper group will be finalized, nearly tripling the company’s size. The Minneapolis Star Tribune will remain the largest newspaper and the Miami Herald will be the second largest in the group.

Business Challenge:

Upon acquiring Knight-Ridder, McClatchy’s fixed assets value will increase to nearly $2.5 billion. Vital to the company’s success is the ability to account for all that property at so many sites. Fixed assets accountant Ted Norris is in charge of the three year inventory cycle, making four onsite visits annually. With so much money invested in assets, McClatchy needed an enterprise fixed assets system.

The Solution:

Ten years ago, Ted Norris did an extensive search for tracking software. He remembers choosing IntelliTrack because of its flexible database engine, as well as its reasonable price.

Before using a barcode system, the company was using aluminum asset tags and cataloging everything manually. Now, every fixed asset is tracked by IntelliTrack Fixed Assets. Even items like land, buildings, and software are given tags that are kept in a binder so they too can be tracked.

The Bottom Line:

IntelliTrack Fixed Assets saves a great deal of time. Ted said, “Under the manual system I would have to spend an additional week or more reconciling unrecorded asset transfers and another large amount of time creating asset retirement transactions. But now, before finishing an onsite inventory visit, I am able to provide a listing of assets not found and an estimated NBV or loss on disposal. IntelliTrack reconciliations are part of the scanning process and asset retirements are created by a query using a specially created report based on IntelliTrack’s asset not found list.”

Company Background:

ORT SA is a Jewish-led, non-profit, Public Benefit Organization (PBO), specializing in education, vocational and job skills training, and community development for South Africa’s impoverished communities. The qualifications earned by ORT SA graduates enable them to build productive and self-sufficient lives.

Business Challenge:

ORT SA has many projects in South Africa, including a technical institute in Cape Town. They have many different properties and needed to keep track of fixed assets such as vehicles, computers, office equipment, and furniture. Before obtaining data tracking software, a large portion of the company’s assets were not accounted for in any way, and the possibility for loss was very high.

The Solution:

Honorary Treasurer Irwin Lipworth was told through a business contact at Kemtek Imaging Systems about the tracking possibilities available through the use of IntelliTrack software. By using IntelliTrack Fixed Assets software in tandem with a PSC® handheld scanner, all company property can be tracked with ease. IntelliTrack software makes inventory management a breeze, and the immediate appearance of data in the fixed asset register/report provides instant information about an asset’s location and maintenance status.

The Bottom Line:

ORTA SA provides a vital service for South African communities. The last thing they want to worry about is the status of their fixed assets. With IntelliTrack software, ORTA SA keeps their valuable assets working for the community, while keeping their management time and costs under control.

Organization Information:

The first Laramie County School District is located in the furthest southeast corner of the state of Wyoming. The district has 24 elementary schools, six secondary schools, and five administrative locations.

The Challenge:

To modernize its facilities, the Laramie County School District purchased a significant quantity of technology in a short period of time. They were previously using individual spreadsheets for each building to track, as best they could, various devices throughout the buildings. These spreadsheets were not connected to each other, nor to any central database. The district was about to receive a shipment of 4000 computers and monitors, and they wanted to avoid having to manually enter all that data into spreadsheets at the destination buildings.

The Solution:

Instead of manual processing, the District installed IntelliTrack Fixed Assets before receiving the huge computer shipment. The people doing the inventory were able to create a few items in the database and print out barcodes for all the machines. It only took a few weeks to tag all the computers. Dennis Pacheco, a LAN/WAN technician for the district, said that the people in the warehouse responsible for the actual relocating of the equipment were unable to keep up with the speed that the items were tagged and tracked. The district uses a pair of Symbol PPT8800 handheld scanners.

The Bottom Line:

Without IntelliTrack Fixed Asset, the District would have had to manually enter the data for each machine in the spreadsheet for the destination building. With a manual system, if something was moved between buildings, it had to be removed from one spreadsheet, and entered into another at the destination. Such a system leaves room for error or loss, not to mention inefficiency and inconvenience. IntelliTrack software eliminated these problems, so the district can track its million dollar plus computer inventory with ease.