Meeting customer expectations is not good enough. It is the goal of every Rice Lake Weighing Systems employee to exceed customer expectations with outstanding service, offering a selection of over 35,000 products and same-day shipping on most standard orders placed.
This is no small undertaking. Rice Lake Weighing Systems ships between 400 to 600 small parcel packages and over 25 pallets every day. Its the job of Rice Lakes Logistics Manager, Chris Olsen, to see that every package from the most delicate balance to the largest extreme-duty truck scale is shipped from Rice Lake with an order accuracy rate of 100%.
Rice Lake Weighing Systems uses a state-of-the-art manifest system that incorporates the latest technological advances and weighing, data collection and communication equipment. Because the company warehouses over two million items, knowing the exact warehouse location and current inventory amount for every product in stock is vital to the success of meeting the goal of 100% shipping accuracy. Rice Lakes customized ERP system, internally known as M2K, makes this possible. The M2K system interfaces directly with the manifest system for optimal efficiency.
From 10:00 AM until 6:30 PM, Olsens department works in teams of three one person receives the shipping order, a second person retrieves the order from the warehouse and a third person packs the order. By using this team approach, every single item that is shipped out of this department is triple checked for accuracy, Olsen says.
An Ideal Testing Environment
Before any product offered by Rice Lake Weighing Systems is sold, stringent quality testing is done. Our Shipping Department is an ideal testing environment, explains Olsen. The equipment used to process and ship the vast amount of daily orders must be able to handle rigorous demands without hesitation. According to Olsen, Any product, whether we manufacture it here or distribute it for another company, must perform to our standards before its sold to our customers.
The extreme Wisconsin weather is another factor that makes Rice Lakes Shipping Department an effective test site. During the harsh Wisconsin winter, temperatures within the shipping dock can fluctuate between 70°F when the dock door is closed, down to sub-zero temperatures when the dock door is opened. In the summer, · high temperatures coupled with humidity in the dock area are the norm. Every piece of equipment used must be able to adjust to these extremes.
From Start to Finish
Once an order is dispatched and picked, if it is a small parcel package, it is taken to one of eight packing stations. Each packing station has been specifically designed to insure that all steps within the shipping process are efficient. All bench scales in the packing stations are installed flush with the counters to eliminate any unnecessary lifting, and the digital weight indicators are mounted directly above the scale at eye level.
All package weights are checked to insure that the recommended 65-pound maximum weight is not exceeded. According to Olsen, Weve found that packages over 65 pounds generally dont transport well. If a package happens to be over 65 pounds, it is either divided into several smaller packages or placed on a pallet.
Packages not in the small parcel package category are shipped on a pallet. To accommodate these packages, a Rice Lake RoughDeck heavy-duty floor scale has been installed in a pit near the shipping doors. Because all carriers charge by shipment weight, every pallet must be weighed and recorded before pickup. The pit design allows a pallet jack or forklift to easily maneuver shipments on and off the scale without damaging the scale or the pallet. These pallets range in weight from 100 to several thousand pounds. Reliability and durability are crucial. Therefore, Rice Lake will only use its RoughDeck heavy-duty floor scale for this busy area.
Rice Lake not only manufactures a wide selection of weighing equipment, it is also an authorized distributor for other vendors, such as Eilon Engineering, a manufacturer of crane scales and dynamometers. A Rice Lake SURVIVOR truck scale is shipped out every day. To accomplish this task, an Eilon Crane Scale is in place to weigh and record each part of the scale as it is loaded on the truck. Daily use of this crane scale is another way to support the different product lines sold. Rice Lake wont sell a product that we wouldnt install in our own plant, states Olsen.
Complete Inventory Control
With RFID technology becoming more prevalent in all industries, Rice Lake Weighing Systems has plans in place to expand its RFID product offerings. As a premier distributor for Datamax, creator of international barcode solutions, Rice Lake distributes a full line of Datamax products. Later this year, Rice Lake will begin testing and distributing the Datamax I-Class RFID printer with smart label capabilities. According to Datamax, Smart labels (labels with embedded RF tags) transform traditional product packaging and shipping parcels into moving databases that enable instant identification, contents and all. The smart label technology is currently being used by the U.S. Department of Defense as well as large-volume discount retailers in both the United States and Europe. The Datamax I-Class industrial printer encodes data onto an RFID tag while printing both text and important graphical information, such as a barcode, onto the label.
Rice Lake expects these new product offerings will give Olsen and his team complete inventory control and take their shipping processes to a new level of efficiency. It will be possible for products to be received and added to inventory instantaneously as well as tracked from the moment an order is shipped from the Rice Lake docks until it reaches the customer.
The Future Is RFID
The implementation of using RFID technology throughout the entire Rice Lake warehouse will not happen overnight. Like all of Rice Lakes processes, it will be tested, measured and qualified. However, different aspects of this technology are already in use. The handheld laser scanners in the Rice Lake product line are used in the daily shipping process. Plans are in place to implement RF docking stations to instantly download the barcode information and inventory information immediately into the M2K system. The scanners currently being used also have the ability to read UCC/EAN Code 128, which the United States Postal Service now requires all parcel shippers to use in order to qualify for the parcel barcode discount.
Plans are also in place to test the smart label technology to track high-ticket inventory from the time that it is put into stock through the time that it is shipped to the customer. The smart label will also be tested on stock with a specific shelf-life, such as batteries.
Says Olsen, This RFID technology can give us instant access to every piece of inventory in stock as well as give us a tool to improve product forecasting, save labor costs and totally stream-line our inventory.
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.