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Packaging & Distribution Facility Implements Tradewinds Software to streamline Shipping Logistics and Increase Revenue Cap.

 

About The Client
Industry: Rice Mill & Packaging Facility
Location: Arkansas
Size: 75 employees
Focus: Shipping Services

 

The Challenge
The client, a prominent rice mill and packaging facility based in Arkansas, encountered significant challenges in inventory control throughout their packaging and shipping operations. The sheer volume of SKUs and the concurrent loading of trailers created logistical hurdles. Specifically, two major issues emerged:

  1. Inventory stored on the floor in long-term bays was prone to being misplaced and obscured among other pallets.
  2. Incorrect pallets were mistakenly loaded onto trucks, resulting in operational inefficiencies, financial losses, and diminished customer satisfaction.

 

 

In an attempt to address these issues, the client implemented manual pallet inspections before loading, carried out by designated personnel. However, this approach proved cumbersome, time-consuming, and resulted in delays, particularly during the loading of multiple trucks. Seeking alternative solutions, the client, a longstanding customer of Tradewinds Software for five years, reached out to us for assistance in devising more effective strategies.

 

The Solution
In collaboration with the client, Tradewinds devised a comprehensive strategy aimed at addressing the inventory control challenges. This involved the development of a multifaceted plan incorporating:

  • Newly designed integrated applications tailored to the client’s specific needs.
  • Assistance in crafting a revamped Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for packaging, storing, and loading pallets.

Under the leadership of Jeremy Tidmore & Randy Rich, the process entailed seamless integration of existing technology with the new SOP to minimize shipment inaccuracies and virtually eliminate misplaced inventory. Key components of the solution included:

  • Conducting a thorough Packaging and Logistics Overview.
  • Identifying and addressing the most significant inefficiencies and human error failure points.
  • Developing and implementing new systems and SOPs.
  • Providing on-site integration and monitoring support.
  • Continuous post-integration monitoring for fine-tuning and adjustments.

 

 

The Outcome:

  • 90% Reduction in misplaced inventory, significantly enhancing operational efficiency and accuracy.
  • 55% Reduction in direct labor costs per truck for loading shipments, leading to substantial cost savings.
  • 40% Reduction in load time, streamlining operations and improving overall throughput.
  • 33% Increase in the maximum number of loads per day, optimizing resource utilization and boosting productivity across the board.

Process Breakdown

The Initial Client Process
     Initially, upon completion of packaging, pallets were directed to designated storage bays before shipment. While some pallets were prepared for specific orders, the majority were packaged based on projected usage. These pallets were subsequently stored, occasionally shuffled around, until required for loading onto a shipment.

     When it came time to fulfill an order, forklift operators received a load list and proceeded to retrieve pallets to a designated spot within the loading area. A load inspector then conducted an inspection to ensure alignment with the order specifications, cross-referencing the printed load list with the generic placard affixed to the pallet. Following inspection, an additional forklift operator would proceed to load the pallet into the trailer positioned at one of the multiple loading docks

 

Identifying the problem(s)
     Upon conducting a thorough review of the process and ongoing monitoring for persisting issues, Tradewinds successfully identified the primary challenges:

  • Pallets were frequently stored in locations other than their designated storage bays on the warehouse floor.
  • Inventory transfers occurred without proper documentation, leading to discrepancies in tracking.
  • Human error during inspection and final load-in exacerbated operational inefficiencies, including misreading orders and loading pallets into incorrect bays

 

 

Tradewinds Creates a multi-faceted Solution
    
Addressing these issues required a comprehensive approach that went beyond simple fixes or application modifications. Instead, it necessitated a fundamental change in the process, spanning from the packaging station to the moment the pallet was loaded onto the truck. The goal was to minimize opportunities for human error and input throughout the entire process while ensuring that the system did not impede packaging and shipment processing. The solution, therefore, was rooted in redesigning operations starting from the packaging stations themselves.

 

Changing the Packaging & Storage SOP
    
To address the shortcomings of the existing packaging and storage procedures, Tradewinds proposed a significant overhaul. Previously, the client relied on generic placards pre-printed onto each pallet after shrink-wrapping. These placards identified the item and quantity on the pallet and were affixed after inspection but before storage by forklift operators.

     In the revised approach, Tradewinds introduced a more efficient solution. Utilizing tablets connected to nearby printers, packaging inspectors would now generate pallet tags with unique identifiers (pallet IDs) during inspection. These unique pallet tags were then attached to the pallets. This innovation offered several advantages. Firstly, it provided real-time visibility to the package manager regarding the contents of each pallet without the need for delayed reports thanks to the integration into the Grainlink360 Ecosystem.  Additionally, the pallet tags were equipped with barcodes referencing the pallet identification, enabling quick scanning to access pertinent information. This streamlined process enhanced accuracy and efficiency in packaging and storage operations.

Introduction of Tablet Based Inventory System
    In addition to the pallet tagging system, Tradewinds developed a user-friendly application designed to run on tablets, which could be conveniently attached to forklifts. These tablets were equipped with Bluetooth scan guns, enabling forklift operators to scan pallet tags directly from their seats when picking up pallets. The application was configured to operate in storage mode, allowing operators to scan a pallet upon pickup from the packaging station and scan a barcode at the designated bay when storing the pallet.

 

This innovative solution not only addressed the inventory location problem but also offered an array of additional benefits. By enabling real-time scanning of pallets and bays during storage, it provided instant visibility into the whereabouts of inventory on the warehouse floor, eliminating the need for time-consuming searches for misplaced items. Moreover, the system automated the data entry process, eliminating the need for manual transfer reports when moving inventory between bays.

 

This streamlined approach empowered managers to closely monitor floor deliveries, ensuring inventory allocation aligned with their preferences. With access to real-time data, managers could make informed decisions about inventory adjustments and plan effectively for subsequent steps in the process.

 

Changing the loading process
    
The loading process underwent a significant transformation. Initially, when an order needed to be fulfilled, a forklift operator would receive a load-in sheet containing a list of palletized inventory to retrieve. The operator would then visually inspect each pallet before transporting it to the loading bay. Upon reaching the loading bay, the pallet would undergo another round of inspection before being loaded onto the truck. Throughout this process, the forklift driver was tasked with manually tracking the number of pallets pulled for each truck, which often comprised multiple items and typically totaled around 20 pallets per shipment.

Expanding on the new forklift focused application

     Building upon the new forklift-focused application marked a significant departure from traditional methods. Rather than relying on printed load-in sheets, forklift operators now received digital alerts specifying the order details, including the order number, pallet quantities, items already loaded, and the assigned door bay. Equipped with this information, the forklift operator could efficiently proceed with the order fulfillment process.

     Upon reaching the designated storage location, the forklift operator would scan the pallet tag to ensure accuracy. Subsequently, upon reaching the bay door for loading, another scan of a separate tag would confirm the pallet’s placement on the truck. Should the forklift operator inadvertently select the wrong pallet, the system would promptly alert them, preventing errors. Similarly, if the pallet was destined for the wrong truck, the system would intervene, enabling the forklift driver to make the necessary adjustments seamlessly. This streamlined approach reduced the need for multiple personnel involvement, enhancing efficiency and accuracy throughout the loading process.

The Results
The outcomes of implementing these innovative solutions were remarkable:

  • 90% Reduction in misplaced inventory, significantly enhancing operational efficiency and accuracy.
  • 55% Reduction in direct labor costs per truck for loading shipments, leading to substantial cost savings.
  • 40% Reduction in load time, streamlining operations and improving overall throughput.
  • 33% Increase in the maximum number of loads per day, optimizing resource utilization and boosting productivity across the board.

Final Review
Following the full implementation of the new systems, our client experienced immediate and substantial benefits. With forklift operators seamlessly utilizing the system to store inventory and locate it within the warehouse, significant time was saved in locating inventory for orders. The ability of forklift operators to verify loaded pallets facilitated quicker loading times per truck, eliminating the need for a dedicated post-inspection forklift driver.

 

Moreover, with real-time visibility into pulled orders, forklift drivers could now efficiently:

  • Pull and load multiple orders simultaneously,
  • Work on orders in tandem, maximizing productivity,
  • Easily “tag out,” allowing for seamless transition of order loading between forklift drivers as needed.

 

This reduction in load time enabled our client to schedule more trucks per day, thereby increasing throughput and operational efficiency. Additionally, the elimination of the post-inspection forklift operator allowed for reassignment to order pulling, further enhancing efficiency across operations. Currently, our client averages shipping approximately 600 tons of packaged inventory per day, a testament to the success and impact of these transformative measures.