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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.