Warehouse Systems


We are working with our vendor to install a cubing-based box selection module in our new quick-pick area. Should we use standardized packaging rather than having the cubing module suggest the package size?

[Q] Our biggest problem is finding software that integrates our Web site, warehouse, and accounting functions and can be accessed remotely. I have researched many systems, but they did not even make the first cut. Do you know of something affordable out there that I don’t?

[A] Not knowing how many systems you have researched puts us at a disadvantage, as does the requirement that the solution be affordable, since that is a relative term. In general terms, however, I suggest that you look into the ASP (remote-hosted) version of Sigma-Micro’s Controller+ (www.sigma-micro.com), NetSuite (www.netsuite.com), and I3C from Web-Ideals (www.web-ideals.com). None of these are ultra-cheap, but they may be affordable.
Ernie Schell, president, Marketing Systems Analysis Inc.

[Q]I am looking for a software system that can handle apparel manufacturing (calculating raw material, screen-printing, and embroidery costs) as well as inventory control of finished goods. Any recommendations?

[A] The system that comes the closest is Prelude (www.prelude.com) — it’s really a distribution system that handles some light manufacturing and offers very good inventory control. It’s the only system in the distribution class that I know of that also covers at least basic direct marketing requirements (e.g., source analysis, list management, customer service, order entry). The base price would be in the range of $250,000. I don’t know if it’s what you need in terms of the production/manufacturing combination, but it’s the best starting point I can think of. You could also try Page Digital’s synaro (www.synaro.com — recently acquired by Island Pacific), which did something similar on a custom basis for Hallmark and a few others. I’m sure there are many manufacturing and “enterprise” systems that could cover the manufacturing part, but the trick will be to find adequate direct-commerce functionality.
Bill Spaide, principal, Spaide, Kuipers & Co.


Principal, Spaide, Kuipers & Co.

I am definitely a fan of system box selection, but I would hold off on it for a while. Wait until you have a better feel for (1) the product mix, (2) how the quick-pick area works, and (3) the amount of maintenance required to support cubing. Cubing is definitely not a slam-dunk — between the maintenance and logic, it takes a while (and a strong stomach) to get it right. It may never work well for some product lines.

I have several clients who are very successfully doing pick-to-box without having cubing available. Several more do a manual pick-to-box just for their quick-pick area, and have a conventional packing area for regular orders. The most common practice is to have an experienced picker or packer serve as a “line starter” who looks at the order and makes a judgment call as to what size box to use. Sounds primitive, but it works. This can be simplified if the orders are sorted by product or location in the quick pick, so items that need a larger box can all come out together.

One client, with a very wide range of product sizes, does not have cubing and is very successful in running a quick pick — 40% of orders in peak season. The line starter just looks at the item and makes the right size box, and attaches the pick ticket to the box.

One compromise you might work on with your system vendor would be a field for a less specific “packaging type” or “size class.” You could maintain this general code for something like an oversized item or items that can be bagged. It may help sort the quick-pick orders by box size. Other systems recommend a box size based on the number of items on the order, and a flag for general product size — again, primitive but often very effective. You should definitely keep cubing on the radar, but this isn’t the time to install it.

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