A family-owned wholesale distributor, CJR Wholesale Grocers has served greater Toronto for more 25 years. From its new 160,000 square-foot state-of-the-art refrigerated distribution center, the broad line distributor is a one-stop shop for grocery and dairy needs for operators in addition to its own Toronto grocery stores.
Although CJR Wholesale Grocers enjoyed its new distribution center, warehouse management challenges consisted. Pick errors, a slow receiving process, food safety management, product expiration management, replenishment timing, and count back functionality persisted as key issues, presenting ideal investments for business expansion.
When CJR Wholesale Grocers compared pre-and-post-install inventory statistics, it reported time and money gains in variance reduction, inventory value, close to code items, expired product, short picks, and other key performance indicators.
Prior to the solution implementation, the wholesalers had a pick error problem due to paper and label based picking combined with gravity flow rollers and mesh locations that allow bins to contain up to five levels of product.
“Before the install, we had pick and expired product issues, not to mention problems finding product,” recalls CJR Wholesale Grocers I.T. Project Manager, Tony Priaulx.
Today with the AFS WMS solution, workflow is directed. Rather than visual confirmation, the solution requires pickers to scan UPCs which continues to reduce pick errors significantly. In addition, before working with AFS, product was placed randomly, however, the new system employs a structured approach.
“With WMS product is received and good to go in minutes as it’s unloaded off the truck,” according to Priaulx.
Food safety management was another issue prior to the install as it was difficult for CJR Wholesale Grocers to manage dock life and expiration dates. Its manual process created room for error and unnecessary, extra steps.
“We now use WMS to set up a dock life for a minimum number of days required to receive a product. Once we updated that data, we’d be able to catch everything,” Priaulx reports.
If there was a problem, the distributor would call the buyer, which was a stop-gap because buyers aren’t available before business hours. As a result, product would sit on the dock for an hour or more and the vendor would be required to make another trip for a return pick up.
“Now, all that has gone away,” Priaulx adds. “The AFS WMS tell us when it’s below date and we can refuse product right on the spot, along with a record of the expiry dates at the time of receiving. Being that we are in the retail business, dates are critical given shelf life limitations.”
CJR Wholesale Grocers also uses the AFS WMS Date Control technology to flag inventory close to code date so it can alert buyers. This function adds the rotation of product by date as a business opportunity.
“In the past, we gave buyers a list of expired items,” Priaulx said. “Now it’s a list of items getting close to expiration, giving buyers real-time insight to ensure it ships before expiring.”
Approximately five percent of vendors have Julian production dates, and for those products, the wholesaler now uses the AFS WMS Mask to generate an expiration based on production date.
Efficient replenishment timing needed to be addressed because night replenishers would manually look for product pallets, which was time-prohibitive in its massive warehouse.
“In the past, they did the old visual,” Priaulx remembers. “Let’s fill that slot because it’s empty.”
Now with AFS WMS, replenishments are system-directed and close to the pick location. At first, the operators were skeptical about the new technology, so Priaulx ran a test.
“We sent a replenisher into an aisle and asked what should be replenished,” he recounts. “The replenisher showed ten locations needing to be replenished based on eyesight. This would have taken 45 minutes to fill all ten locations. We then showed the replenisher that only one location had orders for it. That hit home for their replenishers – the time wasted filling locations not needed at the risk of not filling ones that were needed before pickers got there.”
When it came to fast and accurate countbacks, CJR Wholesale Grocers used to process Three and Under Reports that would require morning clerks to walk around to locations with a quantity of three or less and correct the inventory. In the case of a discrepancy, the picker was stopped and the manager would troubleshoot. This cumbersome time-delay would occur often.
Today, the AFS WMS Count Back function automatically raises a red flag when pick locations have three and under remaining and alert warehouse managers to issues sooner and faster.
“We have already seen our investment with this solution pay off in terms of operational time saved, revenue earned, and increased customer satisfaction,” Priaulx advocates. “Working with the team was seamless, and the solution is easy to use. We highly recommend the AFS Supply Chain Management Suite.”