Taking stock!

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Controlling and maintaining accurate records about the 12,000 items stored in its warehouse was a major requirement when IT services company Anlisco invested in Scala Business Solution’s iScala ERP solution, a system enabling SMEs to automate and manage their standard business processes and which provides a complete e-business infrastructure as well.

However, while the Scala solution had met many of Anlisco’s requirements and streamlined a lot of office, desk-based processes the system had little impact on the warehouse where it was only accessible via static, networked PCs which proved to be very restrictive to warehouse staff.

With such a large stockholding, a key requirement was to improve the standard daily processes in the warehouse, including put-away and picking, as well as the bigger challenge of trying to decrease the time taken to conduct stock takes.

Anlisco initially approached Scala to find out if it could supply additional functionality that would use barcode and mobile computer technology. The only solution that Scala could recommend involved placing a large mobile workstation into the warehouse. Although this would have offered small time reductions it was not ergonomically suited to the environment, and would not have delivered the larger savings that Anlisco knew could be achieved. The company felt that the most effective way to improve these processes was to make the Scala system more accessible and interactive for mobile warehouse staff.

Flexible communication

The solution was close to hand. Mnetics, a division of Anlisco, specialises in mobile data network solutions and provided its parent group with a powerful and flexible communication platform. Called Meteor, the solution has been specifically developed to extend the reach and functionality of any ERP implementation and is proven in the warehouse environment.

Acting as the middleware, Meteor uses a radio frequency (RF) terminal server to connect the mobile computers used to collect data in the warehouse with the Scala ERP system. Anlisco is using Symbol Technologies’ mobile hand-held terminals so that the Scala system can be used throughout the warehouse and not restricted to traditional desktop-based terminals which require paper recording methods and subsequent key entry. Meteor offers full control over all of the mobile hardware’s features, and is more robust than standard terminal server applications – it uses a thin client to ensure that data is not lost from the mobile computer if the session terminates unexpectedly.

Stock and locations can be scanned quickly and easily, irrespective of height or distance away from a PC, dramatically improving Anlisco’s put-away and picking processes and enabling warehouse staff to make optimum use of the storage space available as items can be put away in the closest free space and then located again via the ERP system.

But the greatest saving to be realised is the reduction in time taken to conduct a full stock take. Anlisco’s finance director, Tony Doyle, explains: “Since implementing the Meteor solution from Mnetics our stock takes have become massively more efficient. We can now conduct a full stock take in less than half a day – previously this would have taken two full days, causing a huge interruption to production.”

Doyle continues: “In addition, stock-taking accuracy is guaranteed as the Meteor software automatically validates the data and displays any errors enabling the operator to rectify the discrepancy immediately.”

He says that Anlisco realised a full return on investment within two to three months. “The results are so impressive that we are now planning to further develop the solution to help us improve the tracking of customer repairs in our repair department,” concludes Doyle. n

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