The interior of the new Veritas distribution centre in Tisselt, halfway between Antwerp and Brussels, is brightened up by hundreds of lime green plastic bins. Between two and four thousand of these bins packed with supplies and fashion accessories such as pantyhose, jewellery and lingerie are shipped out each day to the stores. And this number is set to increase rapidly. Veritas wants to quickly increase the number of its stores; not only in Belgium and Luxembourg, the markets that it serves at present, but also over the border in Germany, France and the Netherlands.
The new distribution centre must support this planned growth in combination with a new WMS. But Veritas did not yet have a WMS. “Up to now we have made do with an ERP system with very little support in the area of warehouse management. There was no support for planning and management of work in the DC. In a small, manageable warehouse with a lot of visual contact between workers this was not a big problem. Now the operations has grown so rapidly this doesn’t work anymore and a professional WMS is essential,” observes Sann Koninckx, supply chain manager at Veritas.
Previously Veritas managed its logistics operations with an ERP system that offered very limited support in the area of warehouse management. Only order picking could be managed with barcode scanning. For all other processes such as the goods receiving, replenishment and order consolidation, Veritas was dependent on pen & paper; meaning that a lot of time was consumed in simple administrative tasks. “Moreover, we were only able to partially define process details in the ERP system with the result that all kinds of workarounds in Excel were required,” as Koninckx puts it.
During the search for a new WMS, Veritas decided to opt for a WMS provider that was a good match with its own organisation in terms of culture and scale. The reference visits finally made up the company’s mind to opt for Astro WMS. “This system is the best fit with our business, is the most configurable and the most user-friendly,” says Koninckx.
Put- and pick-to-light
Veritas makes a distinction in its DC between push- and pull-flows. The push flow relates to the variable part of the range, seventy percent of which is directly distributed from incoming goods to the stores with the aid of a put-to-light system. The remaining thirty percent is transferred
to stock for later delivery to the stores.
The pull flow covers articles that form part of the fixed range, for which Veritas employs a zone picking system. In each zone, the orders are collected by pick-to-light carts, which carry four lime green bins for four different orders. When an order picker scans the pick location with his ring scanner, the pick-to-light displays on the carts indicate how many items should be placed in which bin. When the order picker is ready, he puts the bins on a conveyor which transports them to the consolidation floor.
Both the put-to-light system and the zone picking system with the pick-to-light carts are supplied by Inther and integrated with Astro WMS. The WMS combines, for example, the orders into batches for the zone picking system on the basis of the fixed circulation plan before feeding them into the Inther warehouse control system. Koninckx: “With one fully loaded truck, we can supply an average of ten stores. By picking the ten orders simultaneously, the bins arrive at the consolidation floor at roughly the same time. This is increases the efficiency of the consolidation process.”
The consolidation process is also managed by Astro WMS. Operators take down the bins from the conveyor, put them on one or more pallets for the respective store and confirm by means of bar code scanning. The articles that are held in stock by suppliers also delivered here and are transferred via crossdocking. These articles along with the articles that do not fit in the green bins – display window material, for example – are consolidated for each store in ‘pigeon holes’. “The goods that we ship via crossdocking are received by us sorted according to supplier. At present, it is still more efficient to handle this flow outside Astro WMS, but we certainly intend to look into how we can integrate it,” says Koninckx.
The processing of web orders is different story altogether and is completely controlled by Astro WMS. Every morning, the system aggregates all web orders, after which the total number of items ordered from the regular stock is picked. These articles are distributed via shelf racks in corner of a mezzanine floor, after which the actual order picking takes place. To this end, Veritas uses bar code scanners and order picking carts enabling operators to collect up to twelve orders simultaneously.
Veritas is very satisfied with Astro WMS, especially with the reports that are automatically generated for operations at Tisselt. “These reports give insight into the work progress in the various divisions. If necessary, we can re-deploy personnel from one area to another and thus improve management of daily operations,” says Koninckx, who has set herself the goal of getting 15 percent increased productivity with the same workforce. “
This productivity increase is to be achieved on the basis of our revamped order picking processes. Because all other activities are also managed through bar code scanning the error rate is likewise reduced.”
Another advantage is that thanks to Astro WMS, Veritas has access to much more process data. “This not only puts us in a position to identify bottlenecks in the operation, but also to measure the individual performance of the employees. With Astro WMS we can see that performance may vary considerably from one individual to another and are now able to react accordingly.”