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Specialist magazine part work finisher Pakfin has selected Empirica warehouse management software from Chess Logistics Technology to manage rework projects at its facilities in Earls Colne and Colchester, Essex. The Empirica software will be used to manage and track returns and rework items in the warehouses and, through real time provision of information, support enhanced services such as web-enabled reporting and stock call-off for customers.

"Our clients want to know what they have in stock," says Frank Owen, Managing Director of Pakfin Logistics Limited, the distribution part of the business. "With Empirica we can generate accurate reports that they can view immediately over the web. We can both see what is in stock including the specific location of any item or pallet."

Since its formation in 1987 Pakfin has become one of the countrys leading magazine finishers. The company has also developed a range of specialist part work services, enabling it to manage large-scale contracts for major publishers.

Part work finishing and rework is more sophisticated than conventional magazine handling and distribution. A typical title will require a number of complex inserts such as samples, model components or promotional items that are often mounted on a backing board. The first few issues in a series may include additional items to help with promotion. The sales profile of a part work is also skewed towards the first few issues that are the most heavily promoted because the success of the series depends on maximising these sales. Some periods of year are busier than others because many part works are launched in January or February.

The overall effect is that retailers require more copies of the early issues that are bulkier and potentially more fragile than those later in the series or other types of magazine. For the finish and rework business this means early editions are much more complex and labour intensive than later issues.

Unsold part work magazines are returned to Pakfin where they are checked and sorted for rework or redistribution. Items in good condition may be recirculated as they are but more often the requirement is to disassemble the packs to remove useful items and make up new ones for use in other countries as decided by the publisher.

Because the early issues are heavily promoted and more copies are produced they also lead to the most returns. This means that Pakfin needs to have adequate space in its warehouses to accommodate returning pallets which may each hold up to 30 different titles before they can be sorted. Although Pakfin has established paper-based procedures for managing its operations the company recognised that adopting computerised warehouse management would offer significant benefits in terms of stock control and operational efficiency. In particular the company wanted to increase the efficiency of its operations and utilisation of storage space to help it cope with higher volumes.

"We have done a lot of reworking in the past but it was not mechanised and all the controls for sortation and stock holding were on paper lists," says Frank Owen. "Reworking needs to be well managed because thousands of pallets are involved. We needed a system that tells us what is in the warehouse so we can manage it more easily."

Pakfin also wanted to introduce processes for rework management and stock tracking that would enable it to enhance its customer service. This meant increasing the quality of information it could access and provide to its customers. One of Pakfins customers is a leading part work publisher which was keen to investigate how warehouse management software could lead to business performance improvement. Chess Logistics Technology made presentations to Pakfin and its customer to show how Empirica could be used to introduce more efficient warehouse management procedures. One of the features that impressed both companies was the Webview facility that enables remote users to view Empiricas reports using a web browser. Many of the customers business managers are based away from their head office and the prospect of being able to check stock and the status of rework items remotely and in real time was significant. They would be able to make informed decisions on rework requirements, set priorities for tasks and make product call-offs based on accurate information.

"Our clients want to know what components and finished copies they have in stock," says Frank Owen. "The Webview facility was important to this customer because it generated accurate reports they could get at immediately. Previously it took us a couple of days to do a stock check and produce a report.

"The Chess software is easy to set up and use and there was no need for special staff to run it. We operate storage across seven sites and can now see what is in all of them including the specific location of any item or pallet."

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