COOP Vejen: From manual warehouse to advanced wireless dispatch in a weekend

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A new warehouse management system provides COOPs dry-goods warehouse in Vejen real-time updating, automatic restocking of goods in the warehouse and wireless dispatch. The new SattStore WMS (Warehouse Management System) from Consafe Logistics also provides an organised view of operations and a very quick tracing function. The start phase indicates a clear tendency to increased pick and dispatch productivity, and the plan is to implement the new system in all COOP warehouses in Denmark. Read the following nine recommendations from the warehouse manager on how to implement a new warehouse management system.

COOPs dry-goods warehouse in Vejen had a problem. The Warehouse Management System it had was implemented in 1994, and it was no longer possible to get support for either hardware or software. It was an unsustainable situation. This is why COOP Vejen, in close cooperative with COOP Logistik, initiated a project aimed at researching the market for suitable WMSs. After a thorough analysis SattStore from Consafe Logistics was chosen; who was also the supplier of the older WMS.

Standard system and close cooperation
We looked for a standard system that would meet our needs for operational stability, quality and productivity without having to make too many modifications. We wanted a standard system so that development cost could be shared with other Consafe Logistics clients. We chose SattStore, because it met our criteria, and because we have previously had close cooperation with Consafe Logistics technicians and project people, explains Distribution manager Knud Kirkedal of COOP Vejen.

COOP Vejen is the first step in the COOP Denmark group that will implement SattStore, but the plan is to implement the system gradually in all of the groups warehouses in Denmark, with the Aalborg warehouse being the next step in the implementation process in September 2005.

Wireless benefits
SattStore provides us with wireless dispatch in Vejen and essential features such as security, automatic information regarding the restocking of good in the warehouse, online updating of the warehouse status and a fast trace function. We also expect an increase in productivity thanks to the new system. The period leading up to the start phase in Vejen has been characterised by making necessary modifications, so that the system matches COOPs warehouse work methods and our exact needs. When we implement the system in our warehouse in Aalborg we expect that the system will lead to both better quality and productivity within a short time, explains Logistics Manager Lis Jensen of COOP Logistik.

Better basis for efficient warehouse operation
The new system makes it possible to always have a precise overview of the number of goods in the warehouse. Earlier, determination of the warehouse status was a separate process that required a good deal of time. Now, it is integrated into daily operations and getting an updates status report in principle only requires the push of a button. It is a tremendous advantage because it saves time, but mostly because it provides us with a much better overview of the warehouse. We are better prepared to deliver right goods in the correct amount to our stores in a timely manner while at the same time holding down costs and stock levels, says Knud Kirkedal.

If the level of an item in stock such as of a certain type of rice or pasta is getting low, the new system registers it automatically and takes care of sending an order for restocking. It provides us with a much better work flow and more secure restocking than earlier; when the individual employee who took the last goods was responsible for the reordering. When people are involved there is always a greater risk of mishaps occurring, explains Knud Kirkedal.

Easier access to data
The warehouse in Vejen employs 125 employees that primarily work day shifts. The dry goods warehouse contains 4000 articles, has an area of 30,000 square meters and delivers to 300 COOP stores in Midtjylland and Sydjylland as well as Fyn including neighbouring islands. It is not possible to get an overview of a warehouse of this size by just walking down the aisles. Getting a proper overview requires a very precise and properly managed advanced data system.

With the new system we have much better access to data than previously, and that means that we have a much better foundation upon which to base improved warehouse operation. It is much easier for us to see when something is amiss and where improvements can be made. We can already see a clear tendency towards improved productivity, and we expect that this will become even clearer when employees have become fully acquainted with the new work methods, clarifies Knud Kirkdal.

As generally known it is regulated by law that producers and suppliers of food products must be able to trace a particular product if needed. The SattStore system makes it possible to very quickly and effectively trace pallets.

Great changes
Knud Kirkedal explains that the changeover from the old to the new system has been a big change for many employees and especially the pickers who have gone from picking based on a paper list to using a computer screen. There have been a number of smaller technical problems, for example a security system that disturbed the signals in the radio network; but all of these technical problems have one after the other been resolved by COOPs own people in cooperation with Consafes technicians.

Implementation over a weekend
The actual system implementation was carried out during a weekend during February.Thursday, 10 Feb. we closed down our old system and checked the status of the stock. Friday, we converted the data from the old system to the new system and Monday we had complete and normal production. It led to two to three hours of overtime the first two days and then the system began to function very smoothly, explains Knud Kirkedal. The first three weeks COOP Vejen had the support of Consafes technicians.

For the implementation, Consafe trained 10-12 chosen employees as system super-users, and these super-users have been responsible for the training of all the other employees. The super-users were employees that have a special interest and flair for the new system.

COOP Vejen now has a new server, new PCs for the forklifts and pick wagons, a radio network and SattStore Software version 9.3. All in all, it is a powerful IT update of COOPs warehouse in Vejen and it has transformed one of Denmarks largest manual warehouses into an advanced IT managed warehouse with wireless dispatch, explains sales manager Michael Barding of Consafe Logistics, who also says that the implementation has not meant any changes at all in COOP Vejens ERP-system.

A warehouse managers recommendations
Knud Kirkedal has learned a lot through his experiences with this implementation and what is important to take into consideration when implementing a WMS. His valuable advice to other warehouse managers who plan to implement new systems includes:

- Prepare a thorough and detailed requirement specification.
- Inform employees thoroughly and early; this makes possible a quick changeover.
- Create a realistic timetable that takes into account seasonal changes in business activities.
- Train enough super-users so that knowledge and training are thoroughly understood throughout the organization.
- Train early.
- Work out written instructions for all functions.
- Tell your business partners: suppliers, customers etc.
- Keep employees informed about changes and corrections continuously even after implementation.
- Be determined

Article written by Poul Breil-Hansen

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