Lamps Plus is the largest specialty lighting retail chain in the U.S., with 45 stores located in the Western and Southwestern states, as well as catalog and Internet sales.
As its inventory continued to grow, Lamps Plus added auxiliary buildings near its distribution center and shifted product positions to maximize storage capacity. But constantly changing SKU locations and a legacy tracking system that required extensive manual processing hampered its operational efficiency.
When Lamps Plus moved to a new facility in Redlands, CA, three years ago, it was time for a warehouse management system that would take it to the next level. Bill Gratke, vice president of planning and supply chain management for Lamps Plus, discussed the company’s new WMS from Manhattan Associates with Multichannel Merchant senior writer Jim Tierney.
Q: What prompted Lamps Plus to pursue a new WMS?
A: We moved into a nearly 800,000-sq.-ft. facility and knew that we couldn’t run a warehouse on paper–we needed real-time inventory. We started the move in January 2007 and were up and running on our old system in the new distribution center in late March of 2007; we signed our contract with Manhattan Associates in September of 2007
Q: What does this new WMS do specifically to improve operations and when did it launch?
A: We launched the warehouse management system in two phases. The inbound side of the warehouse was launched in May 2008 and the outbound side of the warehouse was launched in August of 2009.
We are now able to receive product into the facility using ASN (advance shipping notices) labels, put away product using directed RF put away, pick product using RF guided routes (RF guns guide the user through the pick locations in the most economical manner) throughout the facility, and ship product using rate-shopping rules embedded into the system. Our fill rates have moved to over 99% and our bin accuracy hovers around 99%.
Q: Do you have any estimates on how much money and/or time this new WMS can save the company?
A: We have seen significant benefits throughout the distribution center. Labor savings have been substantial, and the overall efficiency of the processes put into the facility has allowed us to run the facility on one shift.
Q: What are the biggest areas of operational improvements from the WMS?
A: Labor efficiency, inventory accuracy, and fill rate percentages are three of the significant measures where we have seen large improvements. The utilization of the employees has improved, and our ability to cross-train employees quickly has allowed us to shift labor where needed on any given day.
The system is simple to use and the employees–who were skeptical of the system at first–have remarked how the WMS has made their jobs easier.
Q: How would you characterize the system as far as a percentage improvement efficiency-wise?
A: I would gauge the efficiency improvement from the implementation of the system to be at least 40%. This would be taking into account labor savings, process efficiencies, accuracy of the inventory, and overall ease of use.