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Aug. 8 2006 05:12 PM

Ask anyone who manages a warehouse or a distribution center and they�ll surely tell you, �If it can�t be measured, it can�t be managed.� With accurate dimensional and weight information available, warehouse and distribution centers can better plan storage, orderpicking, pack/re-pack and shipping operations.
 
Dollar General Corporation is a customer-driven distributor of consumable basics. With over 7,000 retail stores in 30 states, Dollar General offers customers everyday low prices on paper products, cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, foods and snacks, housewares, toys and basic apparel. Seven distribution centers located throughout the southeastern United States make up over seven million square feet of warehouse space where nationally branded and privately labeled products are distributed to all Dollar General stores.
 
A State-of-the-Art Implementation
Dollar General began an initiative to implement a comprehensive computerized Warehouse Management System (WMS) to improve distribution and logistical functions. A system was needed that could consolidate and improve quality of supply chain decision-making information, optimize the space of each distribution facility, increase product turnover rates, reduce inventory levels and decrease fulfillment levels. In order to accomplish these objectives, accurate and timely dimensional data as well as weight data was needed. This data would allow each distribution center to make immediate decisions involving directed put-away, pick, re-pack and load planning.
 
Dollar General needed to profile the spatial characteristics of its seven distribution centers and collect dimensional and weight data on the specific product lines stored in each distribution facility. A manual process involving tape measures and clipboards was initially considered. Manually capturing accurate dimensional and weight information for thousands of products was a monumental undertaking that would be extremely time-consuming, error prone as well as expensive. In short, Dollar General needed to cube, weigh and upload its entire product database quickly.
 
The Perfect Solution
To automate and economize the process, Dollar General implemented a CubiScan 100 developed by Quantronix. CubiScan is a dimension scanning and weighing system for static freight that captures data and electronically transfers the data to a host system quickly and accurately. The CubiScan facilitates storage location planning, order picking, re-pack, shipment planning and freight manifesting activities. It is capable of gathering dimensions on products as small as 0.5 inches and as large as 24 inches wide x 24 inches long x 36 inches high.
 
Once a CubiScan was acquired, the company had less than a month to gather data on all product lines. This was accomplished by using the CubiScan on a mobility pack (a mobile workstation, PC, 12-volt battery and battery charger). This allowed distribution center employees to bring the CubiScan to the freight, rather than the freight to it, and enabled them to work anywhere in the warehouse for up to 10 hours at a time without restriction.
 
The End Results
A common saying in data processing applications is �garbage-in, garbage-out.� Dollar General�s use of cube and weight information is a prime example of this axiom. If accurate data isn�t provided to the WMS, it cannot function properly. Consequently, many critical storage and logistics decisions are compromised.
 
With valid product size and weight data, Dollar General�s WMS now makes decisions which lead to better utilization of warehouse space, increased pick and re-pack efficiency and improved shipment planning. According to Allen Bullard, senior manager of Performance Improvement, �When product is received into the building, it is weighed and measured using the CubiScan 100. If the measurements are logical, the results are uploaded to our WMS. We have been able to interface the CubiScan with other software packages, enabling us to determine the optimal pallet configuration and also upload the data to other software systems. This technology has been very helpful in helping us plan storage, replenishment, shipping and even facility configuration.�
 
Joe Grell, vice president of Emerging Technology and Laura Strapon, marketing specialist, can be reached at Rice Lake Weighing Systems at 715-234-9171. For further information about product offerings, please visit www.rlws.com.
 

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