School Specialty Learning a New WMS

Say you’re a nearly $800 million multititle mailer that has acquired 38 companies in 10 years. You have eight distribution centers nationwide and rely on more than 500 vendors to drop-ship much of your product. You want one platform for managing and monitoring orders across all divisions, channels, and suppliers. What do you do?

If you’re Appleton, WI-based School Specialty, you begin implementing a multi-enterprise commerce software suite. To make matters even more challenging, you do so just months before your busiest season.

The business-to-business school supplies cataloger in January started licensing order, inventory, catalog, delivery, and warehouse management applications from Tewksbury, MA-based Yantra Corp. For now, School Specialty is implementing the software only in its Fresno, CA, warehouse because that facility, which fulfills for the Sax Arts and Crafts catalog, is not as intertwined with the company’s other distribution centers, says chief information officer Jim Stefoff.

“We have a very short window to implement this system,” says Brent Pulsipher, School Specialty’s executive vice president of logistics and technology. “Sixty-three percent of our business comes within a 16-week window during the summer as part of the back-to-school period.”

Pulsipher would not reveal what School Specialty paid for Yantra’s system, though the program is said to cost several million dollars. But he says the system will help to cut costs and improve margins by automating order capture and management across its catalog and Web channels while allocating and shipping from the most cost-effective point in the mailer’s distribution network.

Written in XML, the Java-based system can communicate across channels and with other software because of its application programming interfaces (APIs). “This is a highly modularized system that can run across multiple distribution centers and supplier systems,” says Southampton, PA-based catalog operations systems expert Ernie Schell. “It’s designed as much to control the flow of information as it is for the flow of merchandise through the distribution center.”

School Specialty is also deploying DCS, Yantra’s warehouse management system in three of its distribution centers; Stefoff says the full conversion to DCS will take about a year to implement. DCS enables School Specialty to allocate product to customer orders based on inbound as well as in-stock inventory. The system also includes the capability to build-to-order products and provides outbound shipment management capabilities.

Don’t forget to register for the 19th Annual Catalog Conference, June 10-13 in Chicago. For details, visit www.catalogconference.com

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