Tampa, Florida-based M&B Products (M&B) is a premier supplier of juice- and milk-related products to the foodservice industry, with customers such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and prisons. Founded in 1987 with one customer and one truck, it has grown into a successful business with a distribution network covering 33 states.
M&B’s warehouse operations used a paper-driven system that could not offer real-time information; consequently, forecasting decisions were based on best guesses and hoping that product would be available. The lack of real-time knowledge did not allow efficient use of space and required the company to use additional outside storage with limited knowledge of what was actually there. Physical inventory was performed monthly, a time-consuming process that still did not yield real-time or accurate numbers. As the business expanded, the paper system could not guarantee that the oldest product shipped first.
The company determined to implement a WMS to comprehensively address the situation. After an initial investigation to determine where improvements were needed and how to achieve them, M&B explored a number of WMS vendors before selecting Interlink Technologies and its Warehouse-LINK® solution. Warehouse-LINK® ensured that:
- M&B customers were getting properly dated product.
- M&B shipped the oldest product first.
- Information used to manage inventory levels was real time and accurate.
Because M&B’s production process is in a cold storage, freezer environment, the selection of mobile computer terminals used to run Warehouse-LINK® was critical. They had to withstand a wide range of temperature changes ranging from the blast freezer to Florida’s ambient hot and humid temperatures. The hardware solution soon became clear: Zebra’s OMNII™ XT15f.
Perfect for workers who moved between cold and warm environments, the Arctic model of the XT15f is ideal for use in -22°F/-30°C freezers such as M&B’s blast freezers. They provide frost-free scanning technology: a heated scan window prevents internal fogging to ensure successful scanning in condensing environments. It also offers a specialized keyboard that has been proven to overcome ice buildup and prevent keys from freezing. Moreover, the Arctic model includes two additional features that maintain display performance in extreme cold: optical bonding averts internal fogging on the display, while an automatic display heater prevents the deterioration of screen refresh rates common in lower temperatures. The unit’s rugged design is highly reliable: dual IP65 and IP67 sealing protects it from moisture, and even a two-meter drop to concrete won’t impact operation. Additionally, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi provides compatibility with virtually any wireless LAN; support for “N” provides more than adequate bandwidth to support any application, from terminal emulation to graphics-intensive, Web-based systems.
M&B’s CEO Dale McClelland cites a host of benefits the Interlink/Zebra solution has delivered to his company:
- The ability to have accurate, live inventory enables M&B to know what it might be short tomorrow, adjust production runs to fulfill customer orders as needed, and therefore reduce inventory overhead costs.
- The company no longer automatically issues credits because a customer says they received old product. They can now trace the product back, find lot numbers, expiration dates, and shipping details, which has virtually eliminated customer requests for credits.
- Space utilization is much more efficient. The solution has reduced the need for extra storage space — they have all but eliminated outside storage — and allowed M&B to move to the just-in-time inventory process.
- Complete visibility of product location and configurable business rules allow flexibility for space management. This means more efficient use of space has improved productivity by 15 percent to 25 percent.
- The system’s cycle count feature allows M&B to confirm physical inventory counts, which speeds and streamlines the process.
The initial implementation has encompassed all warehouse management functions for finished goods, and results have been so positive that the company plans to extend the solution’s use to both material and replacement machine parts inventory tracking.
By Marty Weil (For more information about Marty, visit: http://martyweil.net/)