Double the pick rate for world’s oldest publisher

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Cambridge University Press has doubled the pick rate at itsUKwarehouse since upgrading to a RedPrairie WMS.

Ian Farnell, warehouse operations consultant, CUP, says: “Productivity has been improved, capacity is far greater, and we are enjoying a 99.99 per cent accuracy rate. We now have high levels of management control and information, and our objective of becoming a paperless operation has been achieved.”

Previously Cambridge used Vista ERP, which had been customised in-house to support its operations, but could not support its growth plans. The company had operated a manual, paper-based system which had reached a point of diminishing returns, with books passing through a lengthy pick, check, and pack process.

Cambridge wanted a more sophisticated WMS which could help it improve productivity, provide better management information and control, support growth, and make use of new technology available, via a paperless system.

It also wanted to retrench the warehouse; adding a 3,000 sq ft mezzanine floor as a result. “We wanted to link the two projects of rationalising the layout of the warehouse and implementing a WMS, to ensure that both complemented each other,” says Farnell.

The Vista host system still controls the billing, but through the interfaces between RedPrairie and Vista, invoicing is activated after the order is picked and is available to the operator at the finishing stage, updating the ledger as the order is dispatched. This process is called “clean invoicing” and reduces ledger transactions and customer queries.

Previously, the operator used the invoice to pick the goods, which meant that if a customer didn’t receive the goods because it was out of stock, theywere still invoiced. Now they are only invoiced forwhat has been sent.

By integrating theWMS into an innovative trolley designed by Loopthinking at Cambridge, productivity has increased.Order instructions are processed by the WMS, which sends the picking order via radio frequency to the RDT on the trolley. The RDT messages the trolley’s system,which controls the pick-to-light sequences for the operator to follow.

The trolley is loaded with up to 16 empty cartons, whose barcodes are then scanned and assigned a position. The WMS absorbs this data and sends order/picking instructions to the RDT, calculating the shortestwalk pattern for the picker to take.

“Previously there were too many people trying to get up and down the same aisles – they used to have 78 trolleys staged throughout the process – this has gone down to 13. With the old system, the line rate (orders picked per person per hour) was 70. With the new system and layout, this has been increased to an average of 138, and this figure includes peaks of 180. Our minimum tolerance is 110 – if a picker drops to this figure,we can act quickly to find outwhat the problemis.We are delightedwith the boost in productivity,” says Farnell.

“Using theWMS system, we can go to any pallet, and by scanning itwe knowwhat order is being processed.We use fixed and dynamic bins for books. If the system calculates an expected demand in stock, it allocates a dynamic bin for this peak.

“We now have a clear floor policy – whatever gets released for the day gets completed, invoiced and dispatched. The levels of control are astounding.”

The system has helped reduce the number of cartons used, as packers previously used their judgment to decide how many books to pack per carton. Now the WMS calculates this, which has led to reduced carriage and postage.

With the old system Cambridge fulfilled 4,000 to 5,000 order lines with 26 pickers and checkers. This has been pushed up to 6,500 orders lines, using half the number of staff, and it has plans to reach 8,000 lines a shift.

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