Brady, a leading supplier of workplace safety identification solutions that improve safety, security and performance for tens of thousands of customers throughout Australia, has recently relocated to a new national distribution centre (DC) at Greystanes in Sydney's western suburbs.
Previously operating from two outdated warehouses in Regents Park, Brady worked pretty much around the clock during the Christmas and New Year holiday period, relocating more than 14,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) to its newly completed 13,000sqm DC from December 20, 2012 to January 2, 2013.
Brady's Operations Manager, Simon Harris, said the relocation involved a team of 120 personnel and required the transport of more than 20,000 pallets between the two sites.
"For the best part of two weeks we had three trucks carrying stock from Regents Park arriving at the new DC every hour over two shifts," Harris said.
"And, of course, once the stock arrived, it had to be put-away to its correct location."
Key partners in the relocation were Dematic Real Time Logistics and SAP specialist Icon Integration.
Dematic was responsible for setting up the new DC's wireless infrastructure and commissioning its RF terminals and voice-directed picking system, while Icon's role included integrating the paperless picking technologies to Brady's warehouse management system SAP WM.
Australia's first direct interface of voice picking to SAP WM
An innovative feature of the integrated systems solution for the new DC was the first application in Australia of Voice Direct ERP for SAP (VDERP) from Vocollect, the manufacturer of the DC's voice picking system.
"We have been using voice picking technology for over seven years, however, it has required the use of middleware to enable SAP WM to communicate with the Vocollect system," Harris explained.
"While there was nothing wrong with this set-up from a functional perspective, the middleware had not been upgraded for several years and was beginning to impact the reliability of our integrated IT systems.
"When it came time to relocate to our new DC we faced the dilemma of significantly upgrading the middleware, or finding an alternative way of making our voice picking system communicate directly with SAP WM," Harris said.
"Dematic's Real Time Logistics division and our SAP partner Icon researched the options available and recommended Vocollect's recently developed VDERP interface, which facilitates the direct integration of voice picking to SAP WM.
"While only a small number of SAP WM users around the world had implemented VDERP to create a direct interface to their Vocollect voice picking system, with Dematic's and Icon's reassurances, we felt confident to proceed, " Harris explained.
"The seamless integration of our SAP WM and voice picking systems has greatly streamlined and simplified a critical interface, and has significantly improved the robustness and reliability of our paperless picking operations."
Partners deliver integrated IT systems solution
Working closely, Dematic and Icon configured VDERP to optimise operational layouts, systems and order fulfilment processes at the new distribution centre.
Icon's Director of SAP Logistics Solutions and Project Manager for the Brady implementation, Jason Nalewabau, said: "As soon as the layout of the was confirmed and all of the storage systems installed, we began mapping all of the new locations and started work immediately on configuring SAP WM, defining the voice work flows, and deploying the VDERP solution."
"Together, Icon and Dematic have the techniques, SAP add-ons and pre-built work flows, foundational technology and experience to optimise a customer's investment in SAP, and increase their accuracy, productivity, order processing capacity and IT systems performance," added Nalewabau.
Dematic Real Time Logistics Project Engineer, Seth van Dijk, said: "In addition to helping Brady find the optimum systems integration solution for voice picking, we also designed and implemented the new DC's wireless network, which includes a CISCO backbone providing sub-second response for the facility's RF and voice terminals."
Dematic also assisted during the physical relocation by providing Brady with a range of loan equipment including additional RF and voice picking terminals so that work could proceed at both locations until the relocation and massive put-away operation was completed.
Managing the relocation and keeping track of stock
"Accuracy was the key driver for the relocation operation and we put in place very stringent business process procedures to control the movement of SKUs from Regents Park to Greystanes," Harris said.
"Every single item was scanned out of its existing location, scanned to the pallet on which it would be transported to the new DC, and the pallet scanned to the delivery vehicle, each of which had their own unique ID.
"On arrival at the new DC, the pallet would be scanned to confirm receipt, and the various SKUs on the pallet scanned to their new put-away location.
"This specific SAP solution provided a seamless process, which helped make sure every single item could be traced at every stage of the relocation, and ensured our inventory data was as close to 100% as possible.
"The commitment of Dematic and Icon to providing us with the optimum solution made what could have been a very disruptive process, one that has not only enhanced our IT systems performance and reliability, but which also ensures we have a future-proof IT systems solution that will continue to drive our distribution performance for many years to come."
Supporting multiple business units with one integrated solution
Brady's new DC, designed in conjunction with consultants Peter J Ellis and Associates, supports the operation of multiple business units including Seton, Accidental First Aid, Trafalgar, Carroll and ID Warehouse.
"Across our different businesses we have some products that are common to all," Harris explained
"A feature of our new order fulfilment system is we are able to service all of the different businesses' needs for a common SKU from a single location, optimising space efficiency and stockholdings."
Another initiative that has improved distribution performance for Brady is its ability to receive Advanced Shipping Notices (ASNs) electronically. Knowing what is arriving every day enables Brady to prioritise inbound goods receipt and improve customer service by scheduling the fulfilment of back orders.
Voice-directed picking trolleys enable up to 15 orders to be picked concurrently across various zones within the warehouse and optimises the picking route for order assembly, reducing travel distance and the time taken to pick orders, maximising productivity and throughput.
Orders requiring goods from different parts of the DC are consolidated prior to packing and despatch.
With a product range totaling more than 40,000 SKUs, much of the DC's workflow is cross-docking SKUs. Where appropriate, some SKUs are also delivered direct to customers by Brady's suppliers.